The Judicial Branch

Students will learn about the federal and state courts and what they do. They will explore the courts’ role in fairly settling disputes and administering justice, and the unique role of the U.S. Supreme Court in interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

View our Constitution Explained video series for short-form videos to share with students about the judicial and other branches of government.

Choose Grade Level:

  • Lesson Plan

    Judicial Branch in a Flash!

    Need to teach the judicial branch in a hurry? In this lesson, students learn the basics of our judicial system, including the functions of the trial court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. Students learn how a case moves up through these levels and discover that these courts exist on both the state and federal levels.iCivics en español! Student and class materials for this lesson are available in Spanish.
  • WebQuest

    The Courts in a Nutshell

    In this WebQuest, students look at all levels of both the state and federal court systems. They learn about jurisdiction, look up the courts in their own state, find out what federal appellate circuit they live in, and investigate the current U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  • Lesson Plan

    Marbury v. Madison (1803)

    This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that affirmed the Court’s power of judicial review. Students learn how Congress tried to add to the Supreme Court’s Constitutional power, how the Supreme Court rejected the idea that it has any power beyond what’s listed in the Constitution, and how the Court’s exercise of judicial review in this case made the judicial branch equal to the other two branches. Students then learn that even when the Supreme Court declares a law unconstitutional, Congress has options for moving the law forward. 
  • Lesson Plan

    Trial and Appeal (Infographic)

    Most cases start and end in trial court, but what if there's an error? Show students how a case works its way up in this printable poster for your classroom!iCivics en español! A version of this infographic is available in Spanish along with a Spanish Teacher’s Guide.
  • WebQuest

    In the Courts

    Our Judicial Branch has a big job! Do you think you have what it takes to be a judge and get the job done? 
  • Game

    Branches of Power

    Learn to control all three branches of the U.S. government!
  • Lesson Plan

    Judges: Playing Fair

    This mini-lesson takes a look at the role of fair and impartial courts in American life. Students learn about how judges are selected and held accountable. It also looks at how judges focus on the facts in order to keep things fair. This resource is accompanied by a short video from the Informed Voters Project.  
  • WebQuest

    Supreme Interpreters

    What does it mean to interpret the Constitution? Why is interpretation necessary? Who gets to do it? In this WebQuest, students explore the answers to these questions and more. Using examples from the First and Eighth Amendments, students try their own hand at interpreting sticky situations—and compare their findings to actual Supreme Court opinions.** This WebQuest was formerly called “You Be the Judge.” It has been updated to offer students a deeper look at the Supreme Court's role interpreting the Constitution and to better complement our lesson “Interpreting the Constitution.” You do not…
  • Lesson Plan

    Argument Wars Extension Pack

    Make your students’ game play more meaningful by using our activity and assessment set designed specifically for Argument Wars. This easy-to-use Extension Pack helps you give context and purpose to the game, as well as reinforce and assess the game concepts. That means deeper learning for students, and best practices around game-centered learning for you!  
  • Lesson Plan

    Appellate Courts: Let's Take It Up

    Students learn the purpose of appellate-level courts and how those courts operate differently from the trial courts most people are familiar with from watching television. By following the case of a real middle school girl who was strip searched at school, students find out what happens when someone takes a case all the way to the Supreme Court. Through this case, students learn about the structure of the federal court system and the way appellate courts decide cases.