Judicial Branch Activities for High School

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The judicial branch encompasses not only the court systems and officials, but also the laws that govern them. The following lesson provides a variety of activities to help students learn more about this branch of government.

Introducing the Judicial Branch

The judicial branch is just one of three branches of the government. It contains the courts systems, judges, and interpretations of law. This subject can be challenging for students, and it can be difficult to get high school kids engaged in the topic, especially if you're just reading from a text. But with the following activities, you can create more excitement about the judicial system and reinforce student learning.

Individual Activities

The following activities are ideal for individual high school students, and you can assign them as in-class or take-home activities.

Interpret a Law

The judicial branch was created, in part, to help interpret all the laws we have in place. This means that supreme court judges interpret the extent of laws in cases all the time. In this activity, have the students pick an amendment and interpret the law based on a real case. For example, take the infamous case of Dred Scott. A student may interpret how the amendments were used for or against the plaintiff in this case. This will take some analysis of the case and the amendments involved.

Create A New Amendment

The judicial branch deals with the Constitution regularly. Have the students create an amendment they believe is missing from the Constitution. The twist here is that the amendment's main purpose must be to help the judicial system do its job. This activity helps students really get to know the judicial system's responsibilities and how the Constitution can affect those responsibilities.

Be Your Own Judge

Find a variety of lesser-known court cases that will be distributed to the students. For each case, provide a summary of the case that also explains the main points of both the defendant and prosecution. Then, have the student play the judge. The student needs to analyze each case (without researching it online) and come to a determination as though they are a supreme court justice. The student should lay out the determination in written form, including a summary that explains why they came to that conclusion and how the amendments may have come into play. You may want to include cases where the plaintiff should not have even be tried so that students also have to spot this issue.

Group Activities

These activities are generally for groups, though they can be adapted for individual high school students or the whole class to engage in.

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