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Supreme Court Cases Unit
Ken Campbell
EDU 510 - Fall, 1999


 


Overview
The new New York state standards for U.S. History and Government include a section where the learner will have an understanding of the 32 most important Supreme Court decisions. While in the past we have covered many cases as they arose in historical context (Marbury v. Madison, 1803, etc.), I felt that with the number of cases that the state was holding the students responsible for, the we should also have an intense unit coverage. While presentations will probably take the better part of two to three days, the majority of the research and the writing of the paper, and production of the presentations, will take place at home; therefore, not taking substantial class time away from the historic narrative which must be covered.

Also, the importance and relevancy of supreme court decisions is demonstrated in the media everyday. For example, the current court will hear a case involving the rights of grandparents, and whether or not they have a constitutional right to see their grandchildren. They will also likely hear a case which began with a stalker, and ended in a dispute over federalism: where a stateís rights ends, and the federal governmentís begins. While it is never easy to establish relevancy of material to high school juniors, I believe that a combination of listening, writing, assessing, and production, will introduce the critical data of the 32 most important cases from U.S. history, and allow students to see connections to our history, our society, and to themselves.

Goals
1. Use myriad research and writing skills and strategies to thoroughly investigate the important facts and issues of their case.
2. Demonstrate thorough knowledge of events leading to their case, and to the case itself.
3. Understand the courtís decision within historical\social context.
4. Describe the relationship between the courtís decision and: a. social/political reaction of the time; b. to other cases; c. and to themselves.
5. Produce an adequate lesson plan/demonstration/video, which will at once demonstrate thorough knowledge of the case, and pass on important information about the case to fellow students.

Objectives (Campbell, 2)
TLW (Bloomís Taxonomy),
1. Identify the major facts of their case, including dates, themes, major people, major issues, etc., (knowledge).
2. Describe the critical information from the other court cases presented (knowledge).
3. Explain the social/historic importance of their case in both their paper and their production (comprehension).
4. Relates their court cases to others presented and/or to other situations (application).
5. Analyze events leading up to their case decision, and be able to point out important issues or turning points - - were the events primarily social, political, balance of power, etc.,(analysis).
6. Summarize important case findings and events in a three page paper (synthesis).
7. Research their case, using their text, handouts, Internet, school and/or public library, and other sources, and be able to adequately cite their paper using a standard citation (APA, MLA, footnotes) format (synthesis).
8. Explain the importance of their case by creating a visual/oral presentation for the class (evaluation).
9. Identify important information from other cases by listening, reading handouts, taking Cornell notes, mnemonics, etc., (knowledge).
10. Illustrate understanding of important cases by taking a final supreme court exam, including selected response and essay questions (analysis).
11. Examine previous years NYS regentís exams, and work on successfully answering selected essay questions which have dealt with issues regarding supreme court decisions (synthesis).
 

Instructional Overview (Campbell, 3)
The Supreme Court unit will be assigned (see attached) to eleventh grade U.S. History and Government students (homogeneous Regentís grouping) during the first week of November, and will be completed approximately six weeks later, with virtually all of the work (research, writing, creating, filming, etc.), done outside of school hours (I may build in some library time, if possible). Given the amount of content which must be covered for the Regentís exam, this is the only way that I can see to cover 32 cases effectively, and still cover the one chapter per week of regular content, plus it should allow some measure of creativity, and help to introduce or refine research paper writing.

The unit will have three major components:
1. A three page research paper;
2. A visual/oral presentation; 3. A final written (regentís type) test. The research paper will consist of the background of their case, the ruling on the case, and the impact of the case, on either society/culture and/or government. This may be the first research paper that some of them have written, so I will spend some class-time going over what it is that I want in the paper, including proper form, English, Works Cited page, and proper citations. These classes will include mini-citation workshops, with MLA/APA handouts, proper essay form lectures, and review and re-examine the necessity for using facts/evidence to help make an effective argument (essay). Also, I have researched several school library sources, Internet sources, community sources, and personal sources, in an effort to help those students who are having difficulty finding materials, but I will try to point them in the right direction, rather than simply give them the needed research material. Finally, in class I will review the various types of resources and ask that all papers include at least one primary and one secondary source.

Next, students are to prepare a three minute visual/oral presentation to the class. Presentations must include important factual information, including names, dates, places, issues, obstacles, outcomes, etc., and must include some form of visual aid(s). I will encourage students to be creative, including a film recreation of the case, a one-act play of the case, a puppet show of the case, and so on.

The final component of the unit will be a written assessment, a final, if you will, where students will demonstrate a broad base of case knowledge and synthesis. There are two instructional reasons for this final: 1. students will tend to stay focused during students presentations because they must have this information for their exam; 2. since the Regentís board has put these 32 cases on their outline for the course, students will see questions about them on their test in June, so it is important that they practice answering questions about specific cases now. Prior to the presentation phase, I will review with students, Cornell note format, the "magic" of mnemonics, and simply making personal connections with the cases, as techniques for retaining the material.

I will, from time to time, touch on a particular case, or review one which we already covered, but for the most part, I will simply add or correct information about specific cases, as presented by the students. We will be covering six chapters of narrative material while this project is going on; so, to repeat, most of the work for this unit will take place outside of the class room. Normal reinforcement procedures, for which I have become (in)famous (candy for correct answers, candy for incorrect answers - i.e., good guesses, game shows, read alouds, etc.), will take place mostly in the review phase of the project. I do believe that this information is important, pertinent, and relevant to students, and warrants the additional work. I will, however, attempt to make homework assignments minimal for narrative material during the six weeks time, in order for the student to have more time to work on his/her project.

Assessment Overview (Campbell, 4)

The narrow focus of the Supreme Court Unit allows me to focus formal assessment as well. The formal assessment will reflect all levels of Bloomís taxonomy, relative to content, and form (language/writing), while other portions will allow for many of Gardnerís learning styles to surface and excel, including intra-interpersonal skills. Informally, I am always available to my students for additional questions or help. Those students whom I have already identified as having trouble (for myriad reasons) with this type of project, will be under constant informal scrutiny for assurances that they understand and are on target. This can be as simple as "hey, howís it going?", or as complex as listening in on group work as they wrestle with the correct citation for a secondary source.

The formal unit assessment will be broken into three segments: the paper; the presentation; the exam. Students need to understand the importance of the information that is being presented relative to the NY Regentís Exam, and that simply doing a good job on their part of the project (at the expense of ignoring the other cases) is not likely to secure a passing mark (65%). Both the paper and the presentation will have a separate formal rubric, based on a 0-5 scale, with each point representing 20% of the grade for that segment.

The paper assessment will focus on depth of content, understanding (or what I call, connections) correct use of essay form, language syntax and grammar, appearance according to guideline, citations, Works Cited page and correctness of sources, and logical argument/evidence and conclusions. The hope here is that students will use logical structure to present their cases, and thereby reinforce the logical structure needed for a Regentís exam essay.

The presentation of their cases must include clear logical conclusions in a way which reflects understanding of the case and communicates that understanding to their fellow students. This should not simply be a venue for dressing up and acting out in front of the familyís camcorder, rather it should be a sincere attempt to creatively display important material. Students have any number of choices for their presentations (videos, one-act plays, overheads, computer generated presentations, posters with graphs, etc.), and they are told that they should get approval from me for presentations which are out of the ordinary (bringing a live lion in, or something like that). I chose to be somewhat less specific on the type of presentation in part to avoid the "I donít have it" syndrome. For example, if I was to assign a movie recreation, and someone doesnít have a camcorder, I would have to find a way to supply one. Letting students chose their "voice" should also allow them to involve themselves in the material, and foster creativity.

Finally, the final exam will be a variety of selected response questions, with much focus on the Regentís type essay questions. The exam will focus entirely on the cases covered by myself or presentations, and the connections with American history. The exam will be timed to take one class period, allowing a full 20 minutes for the essay portion. It is likely that I will used that attached exam, as is, assuming that we cover everycase mentioned in the exam, in the time allotted. This test should allow various testing strengths to surface, and adequately test content knowledge and synthesis.

I am confident that a student who does well on this project will succeed on any Regentís exam questions related to Supreme Court cases, and carry a citizenís understanding of our third branch of government.

Table of Specifications (Campbell, 5)
 
Category Know Reason  Show Total
Social Impact 4sr 3sr, 1e   7sr, 1e
Constitution/

Balance of power

3sr 2sr, 1e 1pa 5sr, 1e
History 2sr 2sr 1pr 4sr, 1pa
Connections 2sr 2sr   4sr. 1pr
Total 11 sr 9sr, 2e 1pa, 1pr 20sr, 2e, 1pa, 1pr

Questions

Multiple Choice
1. The supreme court, in the case Marbury v. Madison, avoided a potential crisis between the branches of government, and also established its right to do this:
a. meet in secret.
b. increase the number of justices and lower federal courts.
c. declare a law unconstitutional.
d. question the day to day duties of the executive branch.

2. The supreme court showed its willingness and ability to make social policy in a case involving a young african-american girlís right to attend a non-segregated school. Was it
a. Baker v. Carr
b. Gibbons v. Ogden
c. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, et. al, v. Casey
d. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas

3. The ability of the supreme court to determine the meaning of the constitution was exemplified in a case involving possible spy activity during WWI, and whether or not all free speech was protected. Was it
a. Northern Securities Co. v. U.S.
b. Schenck v. U.S.
c. Plessy v. Ferguson
d. Engle v. Vitale

4. New York Times v. U.S. dealt with the right to do what?
a. New York stateís right to bar the Times from printing pornography.
b. The Times right to publish sensitive government documents.
c. The Federal governments absolute right of censorship.
d. The right of New York Times executives to say anything they wanted about President Nixon and the so-called plumbers.

5. You have been accused of a crime, and you need to cite the case where the police officer is supposed to tell you your rights. Which case do you cite?
a. Marbury v. Madison
b. Schecter Poultry v. U.S.
c. Roe V. Wade
d. none of these

(Campbell, 6)

True and False

1. Korematsu v. U.S. took place during WWII, and was about the legality of Vietnam internment camps in the United States.

T__ F__

2. Dred Scott v. Sanford and the 1883 Civil Rights Cases, were about the rights of slaves or former slaves.

T__ F__

3. Supreme court Chief Justice, John Marshall, in McCulloch v. Maryland asserted federal dominance in matters of currency and banking by ruling that Maryland could not tax a branch of the Bank of the U.S.

T__ F__

4. Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S. prohibited states from making laws which prohibited a woman from seeking medical attention, including abortion.

T__ F__
 
 

Fill in the blank

1. In Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963, the supreme court established the responsibility of the state to provide a(n) ____________________ for a defendant who could not afford one.

2. The 1896 supreme court decision which upheld the idea of "separate but equal" for African Americans was ______________v. F________________.

3. Louis D. Brandeis, argued in 1908, in the case of Muller v. Oregon, that Oregon had an obligation to protect workers from harmful working conditions, even though that protection might violate the d_____ p_____________ clause of the fourteenth amendment.

4. The case of Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824, established federal congressional supremacy in matters of "commerce," and redefined commerce as almost any type of business. The specific type of business in question was a steamboat run, founded by its inventor, R______ _________.
Campbell, 7)

Matching LIST I - Place the number of the decision in front of the correct case.

__Northern Securities Company Et Al. v. U.S.

__Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S.

__Nixon v. U.S.

__In Re Debs

__Dartmouth College v. Woodward

1. control of trusts and monopolies

2. ability of the Federal government to declare a state law invalid, if it conflicts with federal law (corporate protection, in this case)

3. Congress has the right to regulate interstate commerce, including the right to promote racial equality

4. Judicial process applies to everyone, including the executive branch of government.

Matching LIST 2 - Place the number of the decision in front of the correct case.

__New Jersey v. TLO

__Planned Parenthood v. Casey

__Tinker v. DesMoines

__Veronia School District v. Acton

__Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health

1. The fourth amendment does not prohibit reasonable drug testing of high school students.

2. No one has the right, without clear and convincing evidence, to request the discontinuation of life sustaining treatment, except the person receiving the treatment.

3. This case held that while states canít deny a womanís right to an early-term abortion, they can impose certain restrictions (notifying a parent, waiting 24 hours, etc.), as long as those restrictions do not present an undue burden to the woman.

4. The court modified its usual strict interpretation of "probable cause" for searches, and imposed the less strict standard of "reasonableness" when school officials search school students.
 

(Campbell, 8)

Essays - Choose ONE of the following questions and answer completely, using specific evidence.

1. The supreme court has shown its willingness to make and/or interpret social policy, by looking to the constitution for guidance. CHOOSE ANY TWO (2) OF THE FOLLOWING
 


MINORITY RIGHTS

RIGHTS OF THE ACCUSED

WORKERíS RIGHTS

WOMENíS RIGHTS

STUDENTíS RIGHTS

RIGHTS OF THE INFIRM


 


AND FOR EACH ONE CHOSEN,

a. choose a supreme court case which ruled on that issue

b. discuss the background of the case

c. discuss the decision

d. discuss the social impact of the decision

THEN,

a. write a one paragraph comparison of the relative impact of both cases chosen.

2. The supreme court has interpreted the constitutionís intent regarding the balance of power (Federal, state, individual, etc.), from the birth of the republic. CHOOSE ANY TWO (3) OF THE FOLLOWING
 


Marbury v. Madison

McCulloch v. Maryland

Schenck v. U.S.

Korematsu v. U.S.

New York Times v. U.S.

Nixon v.U.S.

Gibbons v. Ogden

Wabash, St.Louis & Pacific R.R. v. Illinois


 


AND FOR EACH ONE CHOSEN

a. give a brief background of the case

b. describe the constitutional issue being decided

c. discuss the decision and its implications for balance of power

THEN,

a. write an one paragraph comparison of the relative impact of the three cases chosen.
 
Assessment Rubric for Presentation (Campbell, 9) 5 of 5 4 of 5 3 of 5 2 of 5 1 of 5 0 of 5 - Made no attempt

Explanation of Scale (Campbell, 10)

Because broad content knowledge is so important to this unit, the final exam will be worth 40% of the total unit grade, with the paper comprising 30%, and the presentation comprising another 30%. My students understand that in any given semester, there are approximately 25 to 30 grading units in my class (a homework assignment is normally one unit, while a chapter quiz may be two), and that the Supreme Court unit will be 5 grading units - - quite substantial.

The presentation rubric allows for a great deal of creativity, with the only major constraints being time, accurate content, and some type of visual medium. The paper is a fairly straight research paper, and is meant to prepare them better for research papers to come, evidentiary writing in general, and perhaps college.

While the paper and the presentation will have rubric(s), the final exam will be based on 20 SR questions (they can leave one blank, since there are 21) at 3 points each. and one essay worth 40 points. This closely approximates the regentís scoring guide and reaffirms the importance of not only content but of synthesis (essay). But there is one factor that separates the final from others: it will be open note.

Due to the number of cases that the students will be hearing in a relatively short amount of time, the amount of information from each case, and the fact that I want them paying close attention to their fellow students, I have decided to allow them to take copious notes (I will monitor all presentations for correctness of content) and then use those notes on the test. I have done this in the past, and while the quality of work generally goes up, the bell curve remains intact (a doctoral thesis someday). All in all, the scale is fair, and I believe valid and reliable.

Plan Integrity

My objectives are quite clear, and center around personal and academic growth, creativity, and preparation for the NYS Regentís Exam in June. If I look simply at the formal assessments for this project, and apply my objectives to them as a template, all of the objectives are met.
 
Paper
Presentation
Exam
Identify the major facts of their case, including dates, themes, major people, major issues, etc., (knowledge). Explain the social/historic importance of their case in both their paper and their production (comprehension).

 

Illustrate understanding of important cases by taking a final supreme court exam, including selected response and essay questions (analysis).
Explain the social/historic importance of their case in both their paper and their production (comprehension).

 

Relates their court cases to others presented and/or to other situations (application Describe the critical information from the other court cases presented (knowledge
Summarize important case findings and events in a three page paper (synthesis). Analyze events leading up to their case decision, and be able to point out important issues or turning points - - were the events primarily social, political, balance of power, etc.,(analysis). Examine previous years NYS regentís exams, and work on successfully answering selected essay questions which have dealt with issues regarding supreme court decisions (synthesis).
. Research their case, using their text, handouts, Internet, school and/or public library, and other sources, and be able to adequately cite their paper using a standard citation (APA, MLA, footnotes) format (synthesis). Explain the importance of their case by creating a visual/oral presentation for the class (evaluation).  
  Identify important information from other cases by listening, reading handouts, taking Cornell notes, mnemonics, etc., (knowledge).  

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