Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers
Rights and Responsibilities of Students — Workshop Session
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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
- Case Study Activity Sheet
- Appellate Argument Checklist
- Supreme Court Decision
See Lesson Plan
Matt Johnson’s reflections on the following topics:
- Lesson value
- Curriculum context
- Using various methodologies
- Teaching challenges
- Learning challenges
- Signs of success for the lesson
- Cooperative learning
- 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
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
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.
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
Support Materials: Workshop 8: Rights and Responsibilities of Students
Supplemental document for educators
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