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Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers

Rights and Responsibilities of Students — Workshop Session

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Key Constructivist Methodology:

  • Using Case Studies for Synthesis and Analysis

Teacher: Matt Johnson

School: Benjamin Banneker Senior High School, Washington, D.C.

Grade Level: 12th Grade

Course: Constitutional Law

Lesson Objectives:

  • To have students brief Supreme Court cases that they have studied over the past year and apply them to a contemporary situation
  • To help students review for a final exam


The Lesson
In this lesson, students in Matt Johnson’s 12th-grade, two-semester, honors-level Constitutional Law course at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Washington, D.C. engage in a culminating activity that helps them review what they have learned over the year and gives them an opportunity to apply the concepts to new circumstances. To begin the lesson, each student takes responsibility for writing and distributing a one-page brief of a Supreme Court case that they have previously studied, and for presenting a summary of the case to the class. All cases involve the constitutional rights and responsibilities of students. Next, students are assigned to groups of three and given a hypothetical case. The hypothetical cases, developed by Matt Johnson, incorporate a variety of fact situations that are similar to previous cases the class has studied. These hypotheticals also relate to student rights cases that were to be decided by the Supreme Court during its 2001-2002 term. Each team represents either the petitioner or the respondent, or is part of the Supreme Court. Students prepare their cases by examining precedents and determining which arguments are most likely to prevail. After a period of preparation, the lawyers present their cases to the Justices, who then retire to deliberate. Justices then present their majority and dissenting opinions, after which the class discusses both the process and the disposition of the case.

Support Materials
The support materials found under “Sections” will lead you through the viewing of the workshop video and the related activities and discussions for “Rights and Responsibilities of Students.” These materials can be used by individuals and by facilitators of workshop sessions.

The support materials identify key concepts, provide discussion ideas for each video segment, and recommend follow-up activities for after the workshop session.

Additional Materials
The following materials—Lesson Plan, Teacher and 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.


Lesson Plan

Information on Matt Johnson’s method of teaching the lesson on the rights and responsibilities of students, the national standards this lesson addresses, additional resources, and his teaching materials, including:


  • Case Briefing Rubric
  • Lawyer’s Worksheet
  • Judge’s Worksheet
  • Mock Trial Scoring Rubric

Lesson Materials

  • Case Study Activity Sheet
  • Hypotheticals
  • Appellate Argument Checklist
  • Supreme Court Decision


See Lesson Plan

Teacher Perspectives

Matt Johnson’s reflections on the following topics:

  • Lesson value
  • Curriculum context
  • Using various methodologies
  • Teaching challenges
  • Worksheets
  • Questioning
  • Learning challenges
  • Signs of success for the lesson
  • Cooperative learning
  • Groups
  • Lessons learned
  • Hands-on learning and civic engagement
  • His response to the lesson
  • Salient legal issues
  • Teaching about controversial topics
  • His background
  • Using textbooks
  • Professional development
  • Modeling democratic principles
  • Challenges to civics education
  • Signs of success for civics


See Teacher Perspectives

Student Perspectives

Matt Johnson’s 12th-grade students’ reflections on the following topics:

  • Otis Bewear v. the Banneker Student Government Association (SGA)
  • Sloan v. District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)
  • Working in a group
  • Role-playing the Justices
  • Participating in the simulation
  • Matt Johnson’s teaching style
  • Lessons learned
  • Course value

See Student Perspectives

Essential Readings

About the National High School Mock Trial Championship

Matt Johnson’s students have participated in a variety of mock trials. This article sets out the history, purpose, and rules of the National High School Mock Trial Championship for those teachers considering participation.


See Essential Readings

Other Lessons

Legal Thriller Alternative: Trial Research
By the Constitutional Rights Foundation

In this lesson created by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, students are given the option of selecting one of 21 trials from the period 1865 to 1993, writing a report about it based on a defined list of questions and a set of research tips, and making an interesting presentation about the case to the class.


Legal Thriller Book Review
By JoEllen Ambrose

This lesson provides students with a list of 28 novels that are courtroom thrillers, or that feature a famous lawyer, judge, or particular aspect of the legal system. With the teacher’s permission, students may also choose books that are not on the list. Students are expected to write a report using a defined format and participate in a Book Club discussion group.


See Other Lessons

Series Directory

Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers


Produced by State of the Art, Inc., in collaboration with the National Council for the Social Studies and the Center for Civic Education. 2003.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-679-0