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With our hundreds of free case summaries, create the following online-friendly case studies activities or use the links provided for existing activities:
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:
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:
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.
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.
Deliberations allow teachers to help students cooperatively discuss contested political issues by carefully considering multiple perspectives and searching for consensus. This highly-structured model for conversation is based on Roger T. Johnson and David W. Johnson's Structured Academic Controversy discussion model.
Though Street Law’s Deliberation materials have been created with in-person classroom discussion in mind, there are a variety of ways in which the materials may be useful in at-home learning settings.
For at-home learning, two sets of resources will be useful:
Deliberation Topic Packs – Each pack includes a lesson guide, a reading about a contested issue, a glossary, a list of quotes related to the topic, a visual related to the topic, and suggested additional resources related to the topic. Topics include:
Deliberation Handout B – Ask students to use the Handout B graphic organizer to identify compelling arguments on either side of the Deliberation topic.
Street Law is currently piloting Deliberations on several new topics, including:
- Should the Electoral College be abolished?
- Is the United States’ democracy healthy?
- Should the U.S. government legalize medical aid in dying?
- Should the U.S. government pass a flag desecration amendment?
To access these materials, please submit your name and email address here. This form will respond with an email that includes a link to the Deliberation pilot materials. Street Law is collecting your name and contact information so we can follow up with you to get feedback on these materials, which will eventually be updated based on teacher feedback, then added to our free resource library this summer.
Pre-read the Deliberation reading and determine whether (and how much) additional background knowledge students will need prior to reading the topic text on their own. Consult the “Lesson Guide” and the “Suggested Resources” to provide students with additional background knowledge reading, videos, and/or activities.
Provide students with the Deliberation topic reading, glossary, and Handout B graphic organizer. Ask students to complete the reading and fill out the most compelling arguments for either side on Handout B. To support your students in their reading, consider these strategies:
- Develop comprehension check-in questions to assess students’ understanding (and misunderstandings) of the reading. Return to misunderstandings and clarify.
- Read the text aloud. Here are some tech strategies to help students access a read-aloud feature on Adobe or on Chrome.
- Chunk the text into smaller bites and move slowly. For example, on Day 1, you could ask students to read just the “Background” information in the text. Then, check in with students about the comprehension of that chunk of the text.
Traditionally, Street Law’s Deliberation materials are used to help students engage in deliberative discussion about contested issues. Doing this at-home can be challenging. Here are some strategies for at-home discussion:
- Synchronous online at-home learning. Ask students to share the most compelling reasons for either side of the topic that they selected to add to Handout B. After several students have shared for either side, ask students to identify where the two sides of the topic might find common ground. For example, do students think that the two sides might agree that there is a problem? What might either side say about the problem? Do students think that the two sides might agree on a solution?
- Asynchronous online at-home learning. Either through online discussion boards and/or through email “pen pals” ask students to share the information listed just above.
- Not online at all at-home learning. Ask students to share their learning with a family member or over the phone with a friend. In their conversation, students should share arguments for either side of the topic, plus their thoughts about where the sides might find common ground.
Many teachers use Street Law’s Deliberations as a jumping off point for writing and research. Here are some strategies for at-home writing and/or research assignments (all of these suggestions involve reading the Deliberation reading first):
- Several extension ideas are listed in the “Lesson Guide” of each Deliberation topic pack. Also consider extending student analysis of the topic by using the “Suggested Resources” that accompany each topic pack.
- Ask students to examine the visual resource and answer the accompanying questions. Then, ask students to find 2-3 additional visuals that they might select to supplement this topic.
- Have students read through the quotes resource and identify whether the quote best belongs on the YES side of the argument, the NO side of the argument, somewhere in between, or in the background information. Ask students to give their reasoning for each.
- Provide students with an argument writing format and ask students to write their own opinion about the topic using evidence from the Deliberation reading, along with additional research, if desired.
- Ask students to consider other contested issue topics that are of interest to them. Using the Deliberation reading format, ask students to research and write a Deliberation reading of their own about a contested issue.
17 Free Mock Trials and basic information about mock trial procedure. Instruct students to read the mock trial materials and:
- Write an opening statement that provides an overview of the case for the prosecution/plaintiff or defense. Use Flipgrid to record. Upload recordings to online course platform. Encourage students to watch other’s opening statements and give feedback. If you are holding synchronous classes, students can present their opening statements during class. Students may also write out opening statements and share using Google Docs.
Assign students, either individually or as a group, a witness in the mock trial (see link above). Instruct them to post direct examination questions and answers in a discussion board or Google Doc for their assigned witness based on the written trial materials.
- Assign students a second witness (preferably on the opposing side of the case). Instruct them to post cross examination questions and answers in a discussion board or Google Doc for their assigned witness.
- After students have posted questions and answers, encourage students to read all questions and answers and reply with objections when appropriate. If using Google Docs, simplified objections can be noted by inserting comments. You can play the role of judge or assign a student who will “sustain” or “overrule” objections by replying on a discussion board or within comments.
- After both direct and cross examination questions have been posted and objections registered, instruct students to record a Flipgrid closing argument which summarizes either the prosecution’s/plaintiff’s case or the defense’s case (see opening statements for other online adaptions).
Using a polling/voting feature during a synchronous class, have students act as a jury and vote for a verdict. Polling of students as the jury can also take place in a discussion board.
Use one of our hundreds of case summaries available in our free store or a current case before the Court. Follow instructions for the “Classifying Arguments” activity or download a case summary and delete the decision and opinion sections.
- After students classify the arguments, instruct them to write their opinion in the role of a justice explaining which party (petitioner or respondent) they would find in favor of and 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. Instruct students to post opinions in a discussion board or Google Doc.
- Encourage students to concur or dissent with other students’ opinions and explain their reasoning.
For case summaries and supporting materials for cases currently before the Supreme Court, visit the SCOTUS in the classroom page. Case summaries are available for current cases and can be use with any of the case studies methods. Online adaptions of case study methods are available at “Using Case Studies."
Cases from the 2019-20 (OT20) Term