Scopes Trial Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

With this lesson plan and materials from, you'll have everything that you need to help your students fully understand the impact of the Scopes Trial and the Scottsboro Trials.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • explain the significance of the Scopes Trial and of the Scottsboro Trials
  • analyze the issue of evolution vs creationism


40 minutes, plus 40 minutes for activity

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Terms

  • Butler Act
  • Clarence Darrow
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Scopes 'Monkey' Trials
  • Scottsboro Trials


  • Before starting this lesson, ask your class how they felt the new discoveries of the Progressive Era were managing when imposed on a society like the American South, where antebellum values still reigned supreme. Write thoughts on the board.
  • Watch the lesson The Scopes Trial and Scottsboro Trials: Summaries & Significance, pause the video for the key terms. Have students write down the key terms in notebooks or write them on the board.
  • Pause at 4:43. Briefly summarize the Scopes Trial. Discuss:
    • How do you think all this attention affected Dayton, Tennessee? Can you relate this to any other legal fights?
    • In what way was the Scopes trial a trial of progressive vs. traditional values?
    • Would the circumstances that motivated the Scopes trial still exist today? Why or why not?
  • Pause at 8:25. Discuss:
    • How did the Scottsboro trials show that segregation was still alive and well in the American South?
    • What would have happened had the Communists not gotten involved? How do you think this changed some people's views on them? Why was this dangerous for other Americans?

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