Every year, students in 8th grade social studies learn about the creation of the Constitution and the three branches of the federal government in the fall. We are ending our unit with a summative assessment that asks students to become Supreme Court Justices. Students work in groups to read a landmark case, understand the legal issues at play, learn about the Supreme Court’s actual decision and then ultimately decide what they personally believe. Students make an oral presentation to the class exploring the case and their opinions.
I really enjoy this project, because it allows students to practice may of the skills we’ve been building this fall. Students must read and annotate the case to learn about the facts, put on their analytical hats to consider evidence and reasoning, collaborate to reach deeper understanding and ultimately use their individual voice and presence to clearly communicate to their audience. Perhaps most importantly, students seem to really enjoy reading actual cases that the Supreme Court has considered and getting the opportunity to develop their personal opinions on issues that matter.
Some of the topics we discussed included:
- Does the first amendment protect flag burning?
- Should people accused of a crime be verbally informed of their rights?
- Can public schools ban library books?
- Does the first amendment protect student speech or writing at school?
Maybe one of these students is a future Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Sonja Sotomayor!