TITLE: Supreme Court Decisions and Their Effect On Us AUTHOR: Glen Bradshaw, La Junta, CO GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT: 11-12, government OVERVIEW: Students don't always understand that laws come from decisions handed down by the courts based on the constitution, most importantly the Supreme Court. These decisions have a direct effect on all of us and play a major part in protecting, or in some cases, limiting or restricting our individual rights. PURPOSE: This activity is used in a required secondary American Government class in the middle of a unit on the federal court system and civil rights. The purpose of this activity is to help students understand how Supreme Court decisions affect all of us and what the Supreme Court bases its decisions on. OBJECTIVES: Due to this activity the student will: 1. Identify their constitutional rights based on Supreme Court decisions. 2. List ten Supreme Court decisions and tell what constitutional right was effected by its decision. 3. Choose a more recent State Supreme Court or Federal Supreme Court decision and write their own opinion on the decision had they been one of the Supreme Court Justices. RESOURCES/MATERIALS: A copy of the U.S. Constitution, a list of 25 - 30 Supreme Court decisions, newspapers, a district or county court library, Magruder's American Government book ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: 1. From the list of ten Supreme Court decisions the students researched and studied, have the students choose five decisions by the Supreme Court and tell why they feel they are important. This may be done individually or in small groups of three to five. 2. Have students compare their lists the next day to see if any decisions are the same. This should also show the students that there are many decisions that other students feel are just as important. 3. Collect the lists of decisions and share them with the class. Have the students identify which constitutional rights were affected by the Supreme Court's decisions and why they are important. 4. Students should be able to freely state their ideas and opinions concerning the decisions without being criticized. 5. The teacher should provide background information on many of the Supreme Court decisions and also on what part of the Constitution (Article, Sections, Amendments) the students should refer to for help. TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: 1. Return students lists of Supreme Court decisions. 2. Have students write a 1-2 page paper from the viewpoint of an inanimate object in the Supreme Court decision. Examples: a license plate (Wooley vs. Maynard), a school drinking fountain or bathroom (Brown vs. Topeka), a black arm band (Tinker vs., Des Moines). 3. Watch the movie (VCR), Gideon's Trumpet or The Gideon Case - Equal Justice Under the Law (8mm film). 4. Have a district or county court judge talk to the class as a guest speaker or take a field trip to the district or county court to watch a local trial dealing with a Supreme Court decision or a constitutional right.
Click here to return to OFCN's Academy Curricular Exchange
Click here to return to OFCN's Academy
Click here to return to OFCN's Main Menu