8th Amendment Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan is designed for teachers who are exploring the Eighth Amendment with their students. Students will learn about this amendment and related court cases, and will cover one of the cases as a news reporter.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson students will be able to:

  • Explain the Eight Amendment to the Constitution
  • Discuss court cases related to the Eight Amendment and their outcomes


This lesson will take approximately 45-90 minutes.

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Lesson Instructions

Materials needed: slideshow of news headlines related to the Eighth Amendment

Read the Eighth Amendment to students (Wording is provided in the lesson). Activate prior knowledge by asking if they have heard of any cases in which the Eighth Amendment may have been violated. Show students the slideshow of Eighth Amendment-related cases. Briefly discuss each one and ask students their opinions.

Begin watching the lesson What is the 8th Amendment? - Definition, Summary & Cases as a class. Pause at 1:22. Ask students:

  • Do you think Denis McGuire's execution was a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights? Why?
  • Why might it be difficult for courts to determine whether or not rights have been violated?

Continue the video. Pause at 2:18. Ask:

  • Why did George Mason and Patrick Henry think it was important to add the Eighth Amendment to the Bill of Rights?

Continue watching the video. Pause at 3:10. Ask:

  • How did Stack v. Boyle affect how bail is set?

Watch the video lesson until 4:27. Ask the following:

  • Do you think the courts should use the same system to set fines as they do to set bail? Why?
  • What criteria does the court use to determine whether or not a fine is excessive?

Watch the 'Cases Related to the Eight Amendment' portion of the video. Pause at 7:17. Have students create a chart that contains the name of each case, the purpose of each case, and the outcome for all of the cases related to the Eight Amendment that are listed in this lesson, including:

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