Advice from Teachers

Street Law’s Legal Life Skills (LLS) program typically focuses on training and support community volunteers to deliver LLS lessons in community-based programs and some schools. This past school year, Street Law embarked upon a pilot program to introduce LLS lessons to classroom teachers. Two dozen teachers from across the U.S. received access to all 20 LLS lessons, participated in a brief collaborative planning workshop, and participated in a Q&A with former LLS participant Brittney Booze, who offered teachers insight and advice about integrating the lessons into instruction. They were then asked to teach at least four lessons in their classrooms, then provide Street Law with feedback on the lessons and the ways that they modified the lessons to suit their class’s needs. Lessons reached more than 1,000 students in a variety of different high school courses.

Overall, teachers said:

  • The lessons are valuable additions to their courses
  • The lessons fill content and/or skills gaps not otherwise found in their courses
  • They would use the lessons again

The most used lessons of the 20-lesson set were:

  • Introduction to the Juvenile Justice System
  • Introduction to Criminal Law: Should It Be a Crime?
  • Use of Force or Deadly Force
  • Guns Laws: What Are They? What Should They Be?

Many of the teachers in the pilot program taught law and government courses, so frequently used lessons skew in that direction. A few teachers from the pilot program taught college and career seminar courses, peer mediation, U.S. history, career technical education (CTE) courses, business law, and economics. Popular lessons from these teachers include:

  • Dating and Sexual Assault
  • Negotiating and Signing a Residential Lease
  • Interviewing for a Job: Know Your Strengths and Your Rights
  • What Does a Good Citizen Know, Believe, and Do?

What did teachers say about these lessons?

Introduction to the Juvenile Justice System:

  • “[This lesson] helped the students see that the law changes over time. That the criminal justice system is a system that includes the legislative body, court system, law enforcement and corrections.  how court cases can help move the other parts along.” – Criminal Law teacher
Introduction to Criminal Law: Should It Be a Crime?
  • “I really liked that it made the students think about why something is a crime. It was really interesting to understand their reasoning…students developed a better understanding of how laws are created in society…” - Civics teacher
Use of Force or Deadly Force
  • “The students enjoy looking and talking about real-world situations.” – Law teacher
Guns Laws: What Are They? What Should They Be?
  • “It was an interesting topic that not only informed the students about gun laws, but showed how the Federal and State laws can work together or against a purpose.” – Criminal Law teacher
  • “It fills a current event gap. When an event happens, you can use this lesson to process the students thoughts and feelings, as well help explain the current (local) climate.” – Legal Studies Practicum teacher\
Dating and Sexual Assault
  • “This is a timely lesson that is relevant to the adolescent experience and the nuances of the law which is something students can struggle with. However, this lesson helps” – Administration of Justice teacher
  • “This information was very valuable as it helps students understand their rights as it relates to intimate relationships.” – Administration of Justice teacher
Negotiating and Signing a Residential Lease
  • “Most of the students enrolled in this course are current 11th graders. Some, if not all of the students will be preparing next year to leave their parents’ homes for the first time. This information was very valuable as they may have interest in leasing a place to live once they become legal at age 18.” – Administration of Justice teacher
  • “One student had already signed a lease for next year, but had not read it (just trusted her sister). The next day (after the lesson), she said that she had asked her sister for the lease, so she could read it. The lesson made an impact on that student.” – Senior Economics teacher
Interviewing for a Job: Know Your Strengths and Your Rights
  • “The lesson was topical and relevant to the course helping to support students with the interview process.” – Career and College Seminar teacher
  • “This lesson gave me the opportunity to teach Employment Discrimination Law while teaching my students about their rights as an applicant and employee. I specifically like the part of the lesson where students decide if an interview question is about a legitimate qualification or could lead to illegal discrimination. This part of the lesson allowed me to introduce protected groups (race, sex, religion, etc.) and the level of their legal protection proportionate to the traditional discrimination they have endured. When the students reviewed a question, I would have them think about the information it is trying to elicit and if it could be used to discriminate against one of the protected groups. This gives them context about themselves and the law itself.” – Legal Studies Practicum teacher
What Does a Good Citizen Know, Believe, and Do?
  • “I started my second semester classes last week and this was a fantastic way to introduce the course and a citizen's relationship to government.”  – Government teacher

What suggestions do teachers have for bringing these lessons into the classroom?

  • For some topics, include ground rules or norms for difficult conversations and let students know that they can opt out or take space as needed.
  • Teachers may wish to co-teach a challenging lesson (like Dating & Sexual Assault or Use of Force and Deadly Force) with a school counselor
  • Incorporate expert resource people, including judges, community activists, school resource officers, social workers, attorneys, etc.
  • Adapt scenarios in lessons based on current events in the country and the community.
  • Identify applicable local laws and local resources for each lesson. For example, in the Introduction to Juvenile Justice lesson, what are the juvenile transfer laws in your state? What community organizations support youth transitioning out of the juvenile justice system?
  • In virtual instruction, adapt lessons using NearPod, Jamboard, and Google Slides.
  • Identify videos and images that could be used as hooks for lessons.

Contact Jen Wheeler to learn more about using Street Law's Legal Life Skills lessons in your classroom.