Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers
Freedom of Religion — Workshop Session
Key Constructivist Methodologies:
- Questioning strategies
- Mock trials
Teacher: Kristen Borges
School: Southwest High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Grade Level: Ninth Grade
Course: Team 9 Arts and Humanities Civics
- To explore the structure and process used by the United States Supreme Court in interpreting and applying the Constitution; and
- To apply those operational principles to a case previously decided by the Supreme Court.
In this program, you will see Kristen Borges and her ninth-grade students involved in a simulation of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on a First Amendment case. The case concerns a Texas school district that appealed a lower court decision directing them to discontinue having a student deliver a prayer over the intercom before football games. The case was originally brought against the school district by a group of parents.
Kristen Borges’s students–who do not know the actual outcome of the case at the start of the lesson–assume the roles of justices, attorneys for the families, or attorneys for the school district. Over a three-day period, they first work in groups to prepare for the hearing, then participate in the hearing, and finally, debrief their experiences and write a paper stating their position on the case, including the benefits and potential problems to society of their recommended decision.
The downloadable Support Materials listed under Sessions will lead you through the viewing of the workshop video and the related activities and discussions for “Freedom of Religion.” These materials can be used by individuals and by facilitators of workshop sessions.
The materials described below—Lesson Plan, Teacher Perspectives, Student Perspectives, Essential Readings and Other Lessons— provide background and context for the lesson seen in the workshop video. They also supply the tools you need to adapt this lesson and its teaching strategies for your classroom.
Provides information on Kristen Borges’s method of teaching the lesson on freedom of religion, the national standards this lesson addresses, and additional resources and her teaching materials, including:
Assessment Rubrics (PDF)
- Supreme Court Scoring Sheet: Attorney’s Performance
- Supreme Court Scoring Sheet: Justice’s Performance
- Scoring Sheet for Final Essay
- Student Instructions (PDF)
- Instructions for Attorneys
- Instructions for Supreme Court Justices
- Supreme Court Conference Instructions
- After-Hearing Discussion Instructions
- Instructions for Supreme Court Opinion Essay
Background Information Packet (PDF)
- The First Amendment
- First Amendment Freedoms
- Discussion Questions
- Background: The Church, the State, and the Public Schools
- Should Students Have the Right to Lead Prayers at Public School Events?
- Background of the Case
- Arguments Presented by the Santa Fe Independent School District
- Arguments Presented by Catholic and Mormon Families
Supreme Court Cases
- Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (PDF)
- Lemon v. Kurtzman (PDF)
- Tinker v. DesMoines (PDF)
See Lesson Plan
Provides Kristen Borges’s reflections on the following topics:
- Students as citizens
- The lesson’s teaching challenges
- What makes cooperative learning successful
- The value of constructivist learning
- How to get started
- How you know when you’ve done a good job
- Her background
Provides Kristen Borges’s ninth-grade students’ reflections on the following topics:
- The case
- Group work
- Kristen Borges’s class
- Being a citizen
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Socratic Questioning
This guide, prepared by the National Education Laboratory, discusses the role of Socratic questioning in problem-based learning, drawing substantially on the work of Richard Paul on critical thinking, and then presents a taxonomy of Socratic questions developed by Paul.
Teaching About the United States Supreme Court
by Sarah E. Drake and Thomas S. Vontz
This ERIC Digest highlights the origin and foundations of the Supreme Court, discusses the changing role of the Supreme Court in the United States, and recommends World Wide Web resources helpful in teaching and learning about the Supreme Court. Sarah E. Drake is a doctoral student in the School of Education and project assistant at the Social Studies Development Center of Indiana University. Thomas S. Vontz is assistant professor of education at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.
Study About Religions in the Social Studies Curriculum
This National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) policy paper was prepared by the Religion in the Schools Committee and approved by the NCSS Board of Directors in1984, and revised by the Curriculum Committee and approved by the NCSS Board of Directors in 1998. It is included here because classroom discussions of the First Amendment often bring up issues relating to specific religions.
Controversial Issues in Practice
By Maria Gallo
In this article, Maria Gallo, director of legal studies and a teacher at Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, New York, presents three lessons on the First Amendment: The Establishment of Religion, The Free Exercise of Religion, and Putting It All Together: A Round Table Discussion. The lessons include extensive documentation on Supreme Court cases that are relevant to the lessons.
See Other Lessons
Lesson Materials: Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe
Supplemental document for educators and students
Workshop 1 Freedom of Religion
Ninth-grade civics teacher Kristen Borges involves her students at Southwest High School in Minnesota in a simulation of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on a First Amendment case. Students assume the roles of Supreme Court justices, attorneys for the school district, and attorneys for the families. They first work in groups to prepare for the hearing, then participate in the hearing, and finally, debrief their experiences and write short papers stating their positions on the case. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include questioning strategies and mock trials.
Workshop 2 Electoral Politics
This program shows the conclusion of a 12-week civic engagement unit developed by the national Student Voices program. José Velazquez's 12th-grade students at University High School in New Jersey divide into small groups to brainstorm and research community issues, prioritize the issues on the basis of what they have learned, present their findings to the class both orally and through a visual presentation, and develop a whole-class consensus on a youth agenda that they present to the mayoral candidates in a televised question-and-answer forum. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include issue identification and consensus building.
Workshop 3 Public Policy and the Federal Budget
Leslie Martin's ninth-graders at West Forsyth High School in North Carolina create, present, revise, and defend a federal budget, and then reflect on what they have learned. After assuming the roles of the President and his or her advisors to create a federal budget, students are introduced to the actual 2001 federal budget, and in a whole-class discussion, discuss some key concepts involved in creating it. Next, students return to cooperative learning groups, revise their budgets based on what they learned, present their revised budgets, and simulate a Congressional hearing. This lesson highlights the integration of teacher-directed instruction with small-group work.
Workshop 4 Constitutional Convention
Matt Johnson teaches an AP Comparative Government class to seniors at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, DC. In this lesson, his 12th-grade students create a constitution for a hypothetical country called Permistan. Matt Johnson uses this lesson to help students review for their final exam and the AP exam by having them draw on what they have learned during the semester about international governments. Students work in cooperative learning groups to discuss and debate issues relating to the executive and legislative branches of government. The lesson closes with a simulation of a constitutional convention. Simulation is the primary methodology highlighted in this lesson.
Workshop 5 Patriotism and Foreign Policy
The students in this program are seniors at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a public magnet school in Washington, DC. In this lesson, U.S. government teacher Alice Chandler has her students create a Museum of Patriotism and Foreign Policy. The lesson alternates between whole-class discussion and small-group committee work as students create a gallery for the museum using their respective arts concentration as the medium. The lesson concludes with students presenting their gallery contributions in dance, music, theatrical performances, and visual presentations, along with rationales for their selections. This lesson highlights small-group work as a constructivist methodology.
Workshop 6 Civic Engagement
This program shows a group of 11th- and 12th-grade students at Anoka High School in Minnesota engaging in service learning — a requirement for graduation. In this human geography class taught by Bill Mittlefehldt, students work in teams to define a project, choose and meet with a community partner who can help educate them about the issue and its current status, conduct further research, and present the problem and a proposed solution first to their peers, and then to a special session of the Anoka City Council. The primary methodology presented in this lesson is service learning.
Workshop 7 Controversial Public Policy Issues
In this 12th-grade law class at Champlin Park High School in Minnesota, JoEllen Ambrose engages students in a structured discussion of a highly controversial issue — racial profiling — and connects student learning both to their study of due process in constitutional law and police procedure in criminal law. Students begin by completing an opinion poll, which they discuss as a group. Students are then put into pairs in which they conduct research on the topic. Next, students participate in a debate in which each partnership argues both sides of the issue. A debriefing discussion completes the lesson. The methodologies highlighted in this lesson include role playing and structured academic controversy.
Workshop 8 Rights and Responsibilities of Students
Students in Matt Johnson's 12th-grade law course at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, DC, engage in a culminating activity to help them review and apply what they have learned. Students write and distribute one-page briefs of Supreme Court cases they have studied. Next, students are assigned to small groups and given hypothetical cases related to student rights cases from the Supreme Court's 2001-2002 term. Students prepare their cases and present them to the Justices. Justices deliberate and present majority and dissenting opinions, after which the class discusses both the process and the disposition of the cases. This lesson highlights the use of case studies for synthesis and analysis.
Supporting Materials Introduction: Making Civics Real
Supplemental material for educators/facilitators