The Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights
- How has the Supreme Court decided cases in controversies related to the Bill of Rights?
- Students will examine how the Supreme Court has decided landmark cases related to the Bill of Rights.
Facilitation Notes: Background Essay has more complex language and might be challenging for English language learners. For more advanced ELLs, it could be used as an extension activity. All students will need their completed Breaking Down the Bill of Rights Organizer from Lesson 8: The Creation of the Bill of Rights to use as a reference in this activity. Students will also consult Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer and Appendix B: Being an American Unit Graphic Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum.
Have students review the Founding Principles rule of law, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, press, and assembly in Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer. Ask students to predict how the work of the Supreme Court relates to these principles.
- Distribute Supreme Court Case Scenarios: How Would You Decide? Tell students to work individually, with partners or in small groups, or in a jigsaw to complete the organizer. They should also use Appendix…to help guide their answers.
- Debrief the class by reviewing the outcome of the real Supreme Court cases or watching the Bill of Rights Institute’s Homework Help YouTube videos on the Supreme Court cases, if there is time.
Assess & Reflect
- Have students return to Appendix A: Founding Principles and Civic Virtues Organizer from the first lesson in this curriculum. Would they adjust any of their definitions based on what they learned in this activity?
- Have students return to Appendix B: Being an American Unit Graphic Organizer from the first lesson in this resource and complete the applicable row as an exit ticket.
- Have students watch one or more of the Bill of Rights Institute’s videos in Supreme Court Case Scenarios: How Would You Decide? Note that there is no video for Scenario 5: Engel v. Vitale (1962).
- Have students develop a storyboard about the Supreme Court cases used in this lesson. A storyboard contains pictures and captions of actual scenes that take place in a story. Students’ storyboards should depict the story of a landmark Supreme Court case. Each storyboard should include:
- A title that includes the name of the court case
- At least six scenes, including an introduction and setting to the case (two or more scenes):
- What year did this happen? What was going on?
- Who was involved? What were their arguments?
- Were other court cases involved in this? How were they decided?
- Why did this case go to the Supreme Court?
- What did the Supreme Court decide?
- Why is this case important?
- Each scene should include a picture as well as a caption to explain what is going on in the picture.
American Heroes, Past and Present
Landmark Supreme Court Cases
Read summaries of the majority ruling in landmark Supreme Court cases that have had an impact on our rights as citizens.
The Highest Court in the Land: How Has the Supreme Court Evolved Through History?
It’s uncommon to look at the front page of any newspaper and not see an article about impending Supreme Court nominations and debates. But was this always the case? Were proceedings of the Supreme Court as publicized throughout American history as they are now? In this week’s episode of Fabric of History, Mary, Kirk, and Haley explore what the Constitution actually says about the Supreme Court and how history has interpreted and evolved its role ever since.
Supreme Court Document-Based Questions
Supreme Court DBQs: Exploring the Cases that Changed History helps your students develop the critical thinking skills they need to evaluate the Court's rulings and the impact of these rulings on American society. Your students will analyze primary sources spanning five centuries--colonial codes of law, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, contemporary photographs, case law, oral arguments, the Court's majority and dissenting opinions, and others. Key tasks for each DBQ will lead them towards an understanding of the role played by the Court and an assessment of its decisions. Each DBQ also contains a section called "The Issue Endures," which highlights current applications of the case issue.