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Suggested Procedures - Supreme Court Activity

Total Time: 50 minutes

Introduction (5 minutes)

Introduce yourself. Be sure to talk about what you were like in eighth grade. Explain why you decided to become a judge, lawyer, or court administrator. Tell about the obstacles you overcame. Many young people say they want to go into law to make money. Tell them about the real rewards of working in the justice system.

Warm-Up Questions and Courtroom Walk-Around (25 minutes)

  1. Ask students: "What is a right?"
    List responses on the board.
  2. Walk around the room and ask students to show you their magazine picture of a right that is important to them and ask why they, personally, care about it. In between pictures:
  3. Ask students where we find our rights. (U.S. Constitution)
  4. Ask students what the first Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called. (Bill of Rights)
  5. Then, hand out the list from the Our Rights handout.

Group Activity (20 minutes for group work; 5 minutes for journalists' reports.)

  1. Have the students get into their previous Supreme Court groups of nine. The student journalists stay with their Supreme Court and take notes to report their court's opinion to the entire class.
  2. Fictitious Situation: A series of cases has come before you at the Supreme Court asking you, in essence, to decide five rights that the entire country must give up in order to protect the security of the country. If you don't decide, public fear and apathy will endanger all individual rights.
  3. Using the Our Rights handout, each student first works individually and checks off the rights he/she are willing to give up for the public safety of the country.
  4. Working together on the Our Rights handout, each Supreme Court comes to a consensus on which five rights the country will give up. They use their pictures to categorize which five rights they will keep and which five they will discard.
  5. At the end of the 20-minute timed period, the journalists report on the decision of their court and present the pictures of which rights the country will retain and which ones will be omitted.
  6. The teacher tallies which rights the country keeps and loses. The groups display the pictures of the rights that are maintained and the rights that have been surrendered.

Debriefing (10 minutes)

  1. Ask the students what they learned during the experience.
  2. What was difficult about it?
  3. Take one Amendment that was discarded and ask the students what the ramifications and unintended consequences would be of losing it.
  4. Discuss/explain how the Supreme Court protects their rights. Use examples from Supreme Court Landmarks. Keep in mind that Mary Beth Tinker was 13 years old when the Supreme Court heard Tinker v. Des Moines.
  5. Open the floor to any questions the students may have.