Discussing the judicial branch of the government with middle schoolers is not an easy task. It can be very challenging to get middle school students engaged and interested in this branch of government and federal law.
However, there are ways in which you can make this topic engaging by getting your students involved in various activities. It can help them further understand this branch and the laws that encompass the district courts, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.
1. Putting Your Favorite Character on Trial
Get your students excited about the judicial process by putting a character they can all relate to on trial. For example, put together a murder case against Voldemort for killing Harry Potter’s parents. Half of the class will defend Voldemort while others will find ways to convict him, and other students will be part of the jury.
Learn More: Read Write Think
2. A Tour to the Federal Courts
Coordinate a field trip with your local or nearby federal courthouse. It will enable the school students can to experience the actual building where justice is served. Depending on your location, it can be arranged for free. Sometimes, transportation grants are also available.
Learn More: US Courts
3. Mock Trials
Divide your class in two and provide them with a case they will need to present via a mock trial. It’s similar to putting literary characters on trial but offers a more structured format. It may help show the difference in how each team approaches the subject and how they understand the law.
Learn More: Classroom Law
4. Talk To A Pro
Work with people who have worked in or have experience with the US government’s judiciary. You can approach a parent or a friend that works as a judge or lawyer or has been part of a jury. Listening to real-life experiences can help the students understand the process better.
Learn More: Hupy
5. Play the Character
All students get to pick one of the various players on the court, such as the prosecutor, jury, or even court reporter, and then take actions that best suit that particular role. The other students guess the players on the US court.
Learn More: Judicial Learning Center
6. Bill of Rights Rap Battle
This is one of the best interactive resources that the entire faculty can use to engage their students in the curriculum. Students can reword pop songs, nursery rhymes, or call-response songs to include the US constitution amendments and perform them in class.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
7. Use Civic flashcards
Download the Civics Flash Cards from the Citizenship Resource Center. Separate your class into two or four groups and have every team quiz one another based on the card the other team picks.
Learn More: USCIS.gov
8. Movie Day
You can use a movie to introduce or get your students’ interest in the judicial branch by having a movie day. You have a wide selection of possible movies such as the classic 12 Angry Men or even an age-appropriate episode from Law and Order.
Learn More: IMDB
9. Understanding Laws
Have your students share the rules they have at home, how they feel about them, and if given a chance, what rules they will implement in place of their parents’ current rules. This activity can draw parallels between rules and laws and help them understand the purpose of having laws.
Learn More: Very Well Family
10. Learning Landmark Cases
Prepare five landmark cases, divide the class into five groups, and let them each draw lots to get their landmark cases. Each group would have to present this particular case to the class in the most simplified but creative way possible.
Learn More: Constitution Facts
11. Correct Jurisdiction
Distribute slips of paper among teams, with each paper detailing a case scenario. Then, have the students identify the correct jurisdiction of their case and “defend” their answers by providing evidence.
Learn More: Courts.ca
12. Amendment Scavenger Hunt
Print out a copy of the amendments, cut out some phrases or sentences, and hide them around the class. The team that gathers all the words, phrases, and sentences to complete the text of the Amendment from the Constitution wins. They can then explain how they understand it.
Learn More: Gov Info
13. Which Bill of Rights Amendment Was Violated?
Describe different scenarios and have your students try to identify and explain which US Amendment was violated. This opens up excellent discussions and questions about this government unit.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
14. Go Glossary
This will be a battle of words set Jeopardy-style! Your students have to work in teams to provide as many judicial terms as possible after you give them a definition.
Learn More: IUP.edu
15. Day In a Court
Playing in class is not always a good idea, but this activity can be a great exception to the rule! Have your students play this online game and find out if the student driving crashed into the parked car of another student on purpose.
Learn More: Courts Michigan