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June 2009

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Supreme Court Nomination a Perfect Teaching Moment

There are numerous resources for teaching about the Supreme Court and now is a great time to include them in your classroom teaching. Explore History News Network for information on the Supreme Court nominations, past and present, including a helpful Question and Answer section. Quickly access information on all Supreme Court cases past and present at Oyez. Other resources are listed here.

History Content

This Summer, Talk to the Justice

Our Courts: 21st Century Civics, based on the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is an interactive, web-based resource designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. Students can also leave a message or question for Justice O’Connor. The Build a Curriculum section provides six foundational lesson plans. In addition, the website includes a Play Games section that will soon feature a reality game where students will advise fictional kids about their rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Best Practices

How to Teach a Trial: The Scopes Trial on Historical Thinking Matters

The Scopes Trial module on Historical Thinking Matters provides a useful framework to teach students how to place legal history within the appropriate historical context. The activities direct students to consider the political, economic, social, and cultural climate during the trial. In addition, students ask how the event was shaped by the personalities and interests of the people involved. On the teacher page, educators will find lessons, worksheets, samples of student work, and an annotated webography. Read more here

Teaching Materials

Lesson Plan Review: Marbury v. Madison

During the early years of the American republic, the system of checks and balances between the three branches of the federal government was tested and solidified. This lesson examines the history behind the expansion of the Supreme Court's role and the principal of judicial review that came from the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803.
For teachers, this website provides helpful secondary background reading and questions at three different ability levels. It is also flexible in the recommended sequence of activities. Continue reading the review here.


Issues and Research

Research Highlights: Learning From History and Social Studies Textbooks

In one important study, Isabel Beck, Margaret McKeown, and Erika Gromoll from the University of Pittsburgh identified ways that social studies content in textbooks could be improved. The researchers examined four publishers' programs for grades 4-7. They reviewed how 5th-grade textbooks handled the period leading up to the American Revolution and found that the textbooks left out or misordered the causes and consequences of historical events. More


TAH Grants

Connecting Professional Development and Classroom Practice

Four 8th-grade American history teachers joined a doctoral student in U.S. History, a school librarian, and two staff members from the Oakland Unified Teaching American History (TAH) Grant's professional development project to observe a lesson on the Fourth Amendment they planned together. The lesson includes documents such as the Supreme Court case, T.L.O. v. New Jersey (1985). The lesson began when the teacher arranged for a campus security guard to walk into the classroom and search the backpacks of three students. Read more here.

Professional Development

Professional Development: Law Focused Education, Inc.

The Hatton W. Sumners Institute 101, offered by Law Focused Education, Inc., begins with an in-depth study of the Declaration of Independence. Participants also explore the ancient and European origins of the U.S. Constitution, followed by the American origins. The training continues with an in-depth examination of the First Amendment and famous Supreme Court cases on the First Amendment, including the current term cases. Available free of charge. Get more information here.