Considering the Constitution

From Scholastic

This one-page handout, suitable for middle and high school school students, reproduces an article about a fictional civil court case and a defendant's right to jury and then asks students to answer questions about what they’ve read. A sidebar section highlights key Constitutional facts.  

How do you use it?

This document is geared to teachers as well as students, but could be mined for information for judges or other presenters to use in a lecture or talk.  

Teachers and judges could pass the one-pager out to students either prior to a judge coming into talk or after a judge has left.  It would work either as a good introduction or a strong follow up for the teacher to use and the children to keep.

Alternatively, the simple four questions on the handout could be used by a presenter as core discussion questions for an alternative case study also on Seventh Amendment issues.

1. What kind of case was brought against Russell Dunmore?

2. Who determined the ruling in the case?

3. What right does the Seventh Amendment ensure?

4. Do you think the Supreme Court should have upheld or overturned the previous ruling? Why or why not?

Caution:  The one-pager is less a stand-alone resource than as an adjunct to a lecture, discussion or other kind of narrative presentation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

Who is the audience?

This resource is informative and educational, and tailored toward the strengths of children in middle school.  Even relatively young students could learn from the basic facts in the sidebar and analyze the "news" story with some direction, while older students could use the simple question rubric to assess other Seventh Amendment cases that a judge or teacher might assign.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. A Conversation on the Constitution: Jury Service  Videos and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H, A)
  2. Civil Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  3. Court Shorts: Jury Service  Video from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (M, H, A)
  4. Criminal Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  5. Deciding by Group: You Are the Jury  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H)  
  6. Juror Selection  Document from Scholastic (M, H) 
  7. Pathways to the Bench  Videos from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  8. Quiz #3: Civil Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  9. Quiz #4: Criminal Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  10. Texting While Driving  Case study/mock trial from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)
  11. Trial Court 'Go Fish'  Game from iCivics (P, M)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts