Teachers Network
Translate Translate English to Chinese Translate English to French
  Translate English to German Translate English to Italian Translate English to Japan
  Translate English to Korean Russian Translate English to Spanish
Lesson Plan Search
Our Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Popular Teacher Designed Activities
TeachNet NYC Directory of Lesson Plans TeachNet NYC Dirctory of Lesson Plans

Teachers Network Leadership Institute
How-To Articles
Videos About Teaching
Effective Teachers Website
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Curriculum Units
Classroom Specials
Teacher Research
For NYC Teachers
For New Teachers

TeachNet Grant:
Lesson Plans
TeachNet Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
TeachNet Grant Winners
Adaptor Grant Winners
Other Grant Winners
Math and Science Learning
Impact II
Grant Resources
Grant How-To's
Free Resources for Teachers
Our Mission
   Press Releases
   Silver Reel
   2002 Educational Publishers Award


Not Teaching to the Test: Creative Approaches to Student Achievment

Order in the Supreme Court

Subject: Preparing for Regents Essays though Supreme Court Reenactments

Grade Level: 9-12

How it Works: I prepare students for the DBQ (document-based question) essay on the Regents by focusing on three different skills students need in order to write a successful essay: interpreting primary documents and political cartoons; remembering and analyzing outside information; and organizing essays. Students practice these skills in activities that prepare them to reenact a historically significant Supreme Court case.

Final Project/Product: I work with students who were previously truant from high school ranging in age from 16-21. Many of them have been unsuccessful in passing the Regents exam and their US history classes before taking my course. Many of them have little background in US history and a limited amount of time to prepare for the US history regents exam. As a culminating project, students reenact a Supreme Court case and then write a DBQ essay related to that court case.

Overall Value: The Supreme Court reenactment helps students to remember the information about the period in great detail, to think critically about the debate over segregation, and at same time, practice the skills they need for the DBQ essay part of the test.

Tips for the Teacher: If you can get real lawyers to help with the Supreme Court reenactment it really helps make the activity a more authentic learning experience.

Link to Grant Project:


 Standards Addressed
Students interpret and analyze documents and artifacts related to significant developments and events in world history
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: US History and Government
Students analyze how the values of a nation affect the guarantee of human rights and make provisions for human needs.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: US History and Government
Students understand significant influences on the civil rights movement (e.g., the social and constitutional issues involved in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) court cases; the connection between legislative acts, Supreme Court decisions, and the civil rights movement.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: US History and Government
Students organize and write a document based question (DBQ) Essay
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: US History and Government
Day 1: Introducing Brown v Board of Education
Introduce vocabulary and key concepts: American History, Supreme Court, DBQ Essays, Regents Exam, Primary Documents, Political Cartoons, Brown v Board of Education, Plessy v Ferguson,
Description of Brown v Board of Education Handout 1
Vocabulary Matching Activity Handout 1
Procedure 1
Read description of Brown v Board of Education and answer questions.
a. Distribute and review Handout: 1 Brown v BOE
b. Have students read the text and discuss the significance of this landmark court case.
Procedure 2
Vocabulary matching activity-Students match vocabulary words with correct definitions and then write sentences describing the court case with the new vocabulary words.
a. Distribute Handout: 1 Vocabulary Matching Activity. Discuss each word in the context of Brown v Board of Education.
b. Students complete vocabulary matching activity.
Procedure 3
Students present their sentences to the class.
a. Engage in class discussion using the words in context so that students become familiar with them as preparation for future lessons.
Students engage in small group discussions incorporating the vocabulary words introduced during the lesson.
Day 2: The Civil Rights Movement
Understand and interpret the symbolism of political cartoons, and the story that each political cartoon tries to tell.
Use a timeline to understand historical events and their chronology.
Understand obstacles caused by segregation.
Understand strategies used during the civil rights movement.
Handout: 2 Political Cartoons & Protest Strategies
Political Cartoons from the website,http://loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/animal.html
Procedure 1
How were the obstacles faced by African Americans shown in political cartoons?
a. Review Political Cartoon Handout 2.
b. In small groups, choose one of the political cartoons presented from the website, http://loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/animal.html
c. Students analyze each cartoon according to the worksheet. Groups share their interpretations of the cartoons.
d. Answer the question: Do you think life has improved for African Americans and Latinos since the Civil Rights Movement? Engage in discussion with your neighbor. Write a paragraph explaining your opinion.
Herblock's History: Political Cartoons http://loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/animal.html
Procedure 2
Analyze additional Political Cartoons using worksheet from Handout 2.
a. Students choose another cartoon and use the handout to discern the meaning.
b. Read about the work of the political cartoonist at: http://loc.gov/rr/print/swann/herblock/cartoon.html
Procedure 3
Learn about strategies people used to fight segregation during the civil rights movement.
a. Identify the Supreme Court cases that led up to Brown v Board of Education.
b. Identify three major strategies used during the civil Rights Movement: Direct Action, Politics, Persuading the Public.
c. How would you have fought against Segregation during the Civil Rights movement?
d. Hand out readings about the three major strategies of the civil rights movement (Direct action, Politics, Persuading Public)
Teachers Domain: Civil Rights Movement http://teachersdomain.org/exhibits/civil/index.html
Procedure 4
Students complete worksheet from Handout 2 using primary evidence documents about the different strategies of the civil rights movement
a. Student debate what they think is the most effective strategy of the civil rights movement.
b. Do you think the average citizen can get the government to do what we want? Explain your answer.
c. Use the model from Handout 2 to interpret an additional primary evidence document.
Teachers Domain (Note free registration required) http://teachersdomain.org/resources/iml04/soc/ush/civil/tl_crmvmt/index.html
Procedure 5
View the timeline for the Civil Rights Movement
a. What are the key dates for major events?
b. What other world and national events were taking place at this time?
Teacher Domain: The Civil Rights Movement (note free registration required) http://teachersdomain.org/resources/iml04/soc/ush/civil/tl_crmvmt/index.html
Debate: What was the most effective strategy of the Civil Rights Movement?
a) Create your own political cartoon. Include the symbols used and the event it is describing. b) Create a timeline of the major events in your life.
Day 3: Constitutional Issues: Plessy v Ferguson (1896)
Identify main constitutional issues in Brown v Board of Education.
Compare these issues with those in Plessy v Ferguson.
Handout: 3 Plessy v Ferguson & Doll Test
Procedure 1
Discuss: Is it ever okay to treat people differently because of something they are born with (for example, race, sex, age, handicap)?
a. Read "Psychological Doll Test" in Handout 3
b. Students react to their personal feelings about this reading.
c. Write or share with a neighbor their feelings.
Doll Test http://varenne.tc.columbia.edu/class/common/dolls_in_brown_vs_board.html
Procedure 2
Jigsaw constitutional issues for the court case.
a. Students pick the most important constitutional arguments that will help each side of the case.
b. Organize notes on constitutional issues representing both sides.
Segregated Schools http://library.vcu.edu/jbc/speccoll/pec02.html
Procedure 3
Read Justice Harlan's Dissenting Opinion in Handout 3.
a. Use a timeline to locate Brown v Board of Education and Plessy v Ferguson. What events took place between these two cases that might have changed opinions?
Dissent and Precedent http://oyez.org/
Procedure 4
Brown v Board of Education http://loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-brown.html
Using resources on the website, begin to gather information that will support arguments on both sides of the debate.
Day 4: Preparing for a Court Case
Research additional information about Brown v Board of Education
Classify arguments in the case of Brown v Board of Education.
Prepare for reenactment of court case.
Handout 4: Supreme Court Hearing
Video: Aligning Standards, Curriculum and Assessment Using Supreme Court Cases
Procedure 1
Research additional information about Brown v Board of Education.
a. Working in groups, prepare a list of arguments on both sides.
b. Students pick three best arguments for each side.
Brown v Board of Education http://landmarkcases.org/brown/background3.html
Procedure 2
Prepare for court case reenactment by following the directions for your role.
a. Roles are assigned: Petitioner, Respondent, Justices, Journalists.
b. Working in groups, complete script according to Handout 4.Students can take 20 minutes to prepare.
c. Class views sections of the video, "Aligning Standards, Curriculum and Assessment Using Supreme Court Cases" on CD ROM, Not Teaching to the Test. Teacher should select those parts that show students presenting their cases.
Brown v Board of Education Arguments http://landmarkcases.org/brown/arguments.html
Procedure 3
Presenting Arguments before the Court (Note: preparation and presentation of arguments can occur over two days.) Reenact court case according to the following format:
a. Petitioner: 7 minute introduction, gives argument and answers questions from justices.
b. Respondent: 7 minute introduction, gives argument and answers questions from the justices.
c. Petitioner: 7 minute closing argument and answers questions from the justices.
d. Respondent: 7 minute closing argument and answers questions from the justices.
Procedure 4
Judges confer, give their ruling, and provide support for their opinions.
Who do you think won the real Brown v Board of Education case in US History? Share the real decision with the class.
Students debrief about the experience, what they have learned about debating, what they have learned about how to present their cases.
Day 5: Preparing for Document Based Questions (DBQ)
Review skills presented in document based questions, including using primary documents, timelines, political cartoons, and readings.
Complete an outline for a DBQ essay based on the information learned from Brown v Board of Education.
Handout 5: DBQ Outline and Essay
Procedure 1
Students review the skills they have practiced in this unit.
a. How can a timeline help us understand history?
b. How can political cartoons use symbols to tell a story?
c. How can primary documents help us know what people were thinking during the times they were written?
Procedure 2
Using the information from the Supreme Court case, complete the outline from Handout 5.
a. Students make notes on the outline form.
b. Students use the outline to compose an essay using proper paragraph structure and supporting details.
c. Students review and edit each others work.
d. Essays are shared with the class and critiqued.
Procedure 3
Combining all skills used in this unit, compose an essay using information from the court cases and the documents presented in Handout 5.
a. Students identify the main idea of each of the presented documents.
b. Using the outline format, students compose an essay supporting their points of view.
The procedure can be repeated with other Supreme Court Cases from other periods in history.
Essays are assessed according to how they will be graded on an actual DBQ exam.

Patrick McGillicuddy


South Brooklyn Community High School

Brooklyn, NY

Patrick has been teaching US History and Government for 5 years at a school for students who were truant before coming to the school. In 2006 he was selected as Teacher of Year by Street Law for his work developing a Supreme Court curriculum which significantly increased his students' passing rate on the Regents exam.

Important documents for this lesson plan.

1 Brown v BOE.rtf
2 Political Cartoons & Protest Strategies.doc
3 Plessy & Doll Test.doc
4 Supreme Court Hearing.doc
5 DBQ outline and essay.doc


Come across an outdated link?
Please visit The Wayback Machine to find what you are looking for.


Journey Back to the Great Before