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Collaborative Activities: Jigsaw and Comparisons - Three Cases That Define Student Rights

Time: 90 Minutes

Lesson Outcome

Students will be able to compare the impact of three landmark Supreme Court cases on students’ free expression at school today.  Students will use civil discourse skills to explore the tensions between students’ interests in free speech and expression on campus and their schools’ interests in maintaining an orderly learning environment.

Essential Question

To what extent should schools be able to restrict students’ freedom of expression on campus?

Instructions for Collaborative Learning/Jigsaw Activity

Read this how-to information on jigsaw activities, then follow the instructions (that have some slight variations) here. Participants work with three cases on students’ rights to free expression in school.

  1. Case Handouts. Distribute to each student a copy of the facts and case summary for each of the following cases. 
    1. Tinker v. Des Moines
    2. Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier
    3. Morse v. Frederick
  2. Set the Stage. Explain that students will look at these three cases to identify the Supreme Court’s position on permissible and/or impermissible expression at school.

Lesson Plan Part 1/Class Period 1 – Jigsaw Activity (45 minutes)

  1. Expert Groups. (5 minutes) Organize the students into three expert groups. Assign one case to each group. Option:  If the groups are too large, create even smaller groups to increase the level of engagement.
  2. Group Analysis. (10 minutes) Instruct the expert groups to use the Case Briefs: Worksheet to analyze the facts and the Supreme Court’s decision and reasoning in their assigned case.
  3. Teaching Groups. (20 minutes) Upon completing their small-group analysis, the expert groups break apart and become teaching groups. Students form their own, new teaching groups with one representative from each case.
  4. Group Teaching.  (10 minutes) Students, in their newly formed groups, take turns teaching their respective cases until all three have been explained.  Working together, they use the Case Briefs: Worksheet to record similarities and differences among the three cases.

Lesson Plan Part 2/Class Period 2 – Precedents, Comparisons, Perspectives (45 minutes)

Precedents. (10 minutes) Upon completion of the worksheets, the students stay in their teaching groups. They receive and take turns reading out loud the fictional scenario. Working together, they identify and match the appropriate case precedent(s) – (Supreme Court decisions) – to the school walkout scenario.

Comparisons. (15 minutes) Designate each of three corners of the room for one case. Assign about the same number of students to each case/corner. Ask the listed questions. After each question, direct students to move to the corner whose case best answers the question. Select one or two students from each case/corner to explain their reasons.

  • Which decision gives the broadest free expression rights to students at school? Explain.
  • Which decision is most restrictive of students’ free expression rights at school? Explain.
  • Which case precedent(s) are most relevant to the fictional scenario? Explain.
  • What points in that case is most relevant to the fictional scenario? Explain.

Perspectives. (20 minutes) In this activity, students apply the appropriate precedent(s) to the fictional scenario. Organize students into groups of three. In each group is a student attorney for the school, a student attorney for the students, and a student judge. Students take turns in each role during three rounds of civil discourse.  In each round, students deal with a different question.

  • During each round, each student attorney has two minutes to make an argument for his/her client – the school or the students. Arguments must be based on precedent(s) (Supreme Court decisions) from any of the three cases. After both attorneys present, the judge rules which student used the case precedent(s) most effectively to make the argument.  After each round, the students rotate to a new role for the next question.
  • Questions for each round: 
    • Round 1: Do school officials violate students’ free speech rights when they restrict speech and expression on campus based on a concern that it might disrupt an orderly learning environment?
    • Round 2: Do school officials violate students’ free speech rights when they stop or punish student expression they deem inappropriate and do not want to appear to endorse?
    • Round 3: Do school officials violate students’ free speech rights when they prohibit non-political speech that has a message they consider disruptive and/or in violation of school policy?
    • Wrap Up: Ask students what they learned from playing each role.