Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mock Supreme Court Oral Arguments

Over the past few years, I have developed an activity that I would describe as mock Supreme Court oral arguments. I finish every week with this 40 minute lesson that uses case summaries by www.oyez.org. It is the perfect way to close out the week in AP Government on a fun and challenging note.   

When I have described it at #hsgovchat, teachers have asked for more information. I thought I'd follow the 'Show me, don't tell me' approach and try to film it for other teachers to see/use/modify. I asked my students if they'd be up for that, and they loved the idea! So here is the final product:


If you are interested in doing this with your class, I'd recommend making Morse v. Frederick be your first case for a few reasons: 
  1. The 'Facts of the Case' and 'Question' are relatively straightforward. Just hide the 'Conclusion' until the end. 
  2. Both sides have a good precedent (Morse's attorneys can use Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and Frederick's attorneys can use Tinker v. Des Moines). 
  3. Students love hearing about a case involving high school students. It engages everyone in the room.
  4. Before you start, students can listen to a few minutes of the actual oral arguments at Oyez's case profile for Morse v. Frederick. The audio is an amazing service offered by www.oyez.org! By listening to actual oral arguments, students understand the etiquette they need to use during oral arguments. They cannot engage in a loud and rude debate. Instead, they must win through ideas, logic, precedents, hypotheticals, history, and listening. 
You are welcome to see/use/modify the written lesson below that I share with my students:

Purpose

As we go through the semester, we will do a Supreme Court case at the end of every week...
  • To summarize the facts of case and the question before the court
  • To apply constitutional concepts to real-life situations
  • To compose persuasive opening/closing statements
  • To respond to questions on your feet
  • To evaluate the arguments with a decision 

Routine

We will adopt the following routine for every case...
  • 5 min: Teacher introduces year, facts, and question
  • 2.5 min: Appellant and appellee opening statements
  • 15 min: Oral arguments with questions from judges 
  • 2.5 min: Appellee and appellant closing statements
  • 5 min: Supreme Court conference 
  • 5 min: Justices write opinions on Canvas discussion boards
  • 5 min: Teacher reveals actual outcome and significance

Rubric

We will be graded on...
  • Attorneys will receive "Complete" or "Incomplete" based on: 1) Well-written and well-researched opening/closing statement before oral arguments and 2) Quality responses to questions during oral arguments
  • Justices will receive "Complete" or "Incomplete" based on: 1) Quality questions and active listening during oral arguments and 2) Well-written opinion with evidence from oral arguments

Schedule

We will be prepared to go on your assigned day...

Week
Chapter
Case from www.oyez.org
1
Constitution
2
Federalism
3
Media
4
Political Parties
5
Interest Groups
6
Elections
7
Congress
8
Congress
9
President
10
President
11
Bureaucracy
12
Supreme Court
13
Civil Liberties
14
Civil Liberties
15
Civil Rights



If you try this in your class, please let me know. I'd love to hear how it goes. I'm also always looking for ways to improve it for future classes.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Please contact Justin Christensen at @justinchristen with questions.

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