With our hundreds of free case summaries, create the following online-friendly case studies activities or use the links provided for existing activities:
Anatomy of a Case
Students are given: Facts + Issue + Precedents + Arguments + Decision (all unmarked)
About: This is an ideal strategy for introducing a Supreme Court case to most students. (Note that AP students might start off at a higher level of complexity.) Using this strategy, students will learn about the vocabulary that is used when talking about Supreme Court cases, including majority and dissenting opinions.
Preparation: Download pages 5 & 6 of the document below or any of the hundreds of cases in our free resource library. Delete the subheadings from the case summary sections.
How it’s done online: Post the case summary with the subheadings deleted. Students should label elements of the case by either editing the file or printing and labeling: facts, issue, constitutional provision/precedent cases, arguments, and decisions. There are various ways to instruct students to do this: underline the facts, put a star next to the issue, draw a box around the constitutional provision or precedent, etc.
Texas v. Johnson example (p. 5)
Students are given: Facts + Issue + Select Unmarked Arguments from Each Party
About: Students will analyze arguments from both sides of the legal issue to determine which side each would support.
Preparation: If you use the cases below, post or email the document. If you choose to use one of our hundreds of other cases, in advance you will download the Word document from our resource library, copy arguments, mix them up, and paste unmarked arguments in list form and save as a separate document. Post or send a handout containing the case facts, issue, and the list of unmarked arguments that you created.
How it's done online: Instruct students to identify which party (side of the case) each argument supports by cutting and pasting arguments into lists of arguments for each party to the case. Alternatively, students can print and label the arguments for each party.
After students submit their answers, send or post the full case summary to check answers or complete the following extension activity.
Extension: After students classify the arguments, instruct them to write their opinion in the role of a justice which states which party they would find in favor of and explain their legal reasoning referencing the constitutional provisions, precedents, and arguments they applied in the “Classifying Arguments” activity. (See “Judicial Opinion Writing” in Using Case Studies in the Classroom
Classifying Arguments for:
Choosing Unmarked Decisions
Students are given: Facts + Issue + Precedents + Arguments + 2 Unmarked Decisions
About: Students apply precedents and constitutional provisions and weigh arguments to decide which opinion was the majority opinion of the Court (winner) and which was the dissenting.
Preparation: Download the case as a Word document. The majority and dissenting opinions subheads in the decision section should be deleted and should instead be randomly labeled “Opinion A” and “Opinion B.”
How it’s done online: Post or send a document containing the case facts, issue, constitutional provisions/precedents, arguments, and decisions. Instruct students that their task is to identify the majority and dissenting opinion and give their reasons.
Citizens United v. FEC Choosing Unmarked Opinions
Commonly used cases:
Cases before the Supreme Court this term (not yet decided):
Materials are available for:
Landmark Cases for At-Home Learning
LandmarkCases.org features materials and activities for 17 landmark Supreme Court cases. Each case has materials written at 3 reading levels, teaching activities (many of which are adaptable to online learning), student questions, and links to other resources. This site is an excellent resource for student research.
Note: Some of these materials are currently being updated so there may be some broken links. Please check links before assigning work to students.
Middle School Case Studies with Library of Congress Sources for At-Home Learning
Note: These materials are still being piloted in several classrooms and are not yet “published” on Street Law’s website. This means that we are currently collecting feedback from teachers about these materials. To access materials, please fill out this form (less than 1 minute), which will provide you with an emailed link to the materials. To give feedback on the materials, please go here.
Suggestions for at-home learning:
- Anatomy of a Case Study: Delete the subheadings of the case summary and fill in with a blank line instead. Write up a word bank of the subheading and ask students to fill in the blank lines with the appropriate subheading.
- Classifying Arguments: Delete the subheadings for the arguments, then mix the arguments up so that students can’t tell which side the arguments are for. Ask students to read the rest of the case summary, then classify the arguments for either side. To extend this activity, ask students to think about which arguments are strongest on either side and why.
- Respond to Historical Thinking Questions on Sources: Each case summary pack has three sources related to the case. After reading the case summary, ask students to read/examine the source and answer the historical thinking questions that are on each source.
- Essential Question Essay: After reading the case summary and sources, ask students to respond to the Essential Question essay. Students can also respond to the essay prompt without reading the sources.
- Suggested Resources: Many of the case packs have suggested resources that can be used at home, including short videos. Review the Suggested Resources page of each case pack for links.
Judicial Opinion Writing
Students are given: Facts + Issue + Precedents + Arguments
About: This strategy encourages students to evaluate and weigh all the facts, precedents, and arguments of a case and decide which party should prevail. Once they determine which side they support, they will be guided through the process of writing a judicial opinion.
You can access hundreds of free case summaries in the Street Law store
. Download the case summary as a Word file. Prepare a student handout containing the case facts, issue, precedents, and arguments of the selected case. Delete the decision and opinion(s). Assign half of the class, divided into small groups of 3–5 students, the task of writing the Court’s opinion with the petitioner winning (i.e., the party that is listed first and that lost in the court of appeals). Instruct the other half of the class to write the Court’s opinion with the respondent winning (i.e., the side that won in the court of appeals). Students should use the “You are the Justice: Judicial Opinion Writing” handout to help construct opinions that apply the constitutional provisions, statutes, and/or precedents and provide a reasoned basis for the opinion. Have groups “hand down” their decisions by reading their opinion to the class.
How it’s done online:
Post a case summary with decisions and opinions deleted. Provide students with the handout “You are the Justice: Judiciarl Opinion Writing by posting, emailing, or including in a mailed packet. Students should write their opinion individually or in small groups using breakout rooms or Google Docs. Instruct students to post their opinions in a discussion board and concur or dissent with other students’ opinions in the comments. You might also use FlipGrid
or a similar app to have students record their decision announcements and post. After students have submitted or posted their opinions, if the case is recent play the recording or send students the link to the real opinion announcement at Oyez.org
. Instruct students to compare and contrast their opinions with those of the Supreme Court.