Landmark Library

This library of mini-lessons targets a variety of landmark cases from the United States Supreme Court. Each mini-lesson includes a one-page reading and a one-page activity, and is appropriate for a variety of uses. Unlike the iCivics lesson plans, these mini-lessons are designed for students to complete independently without the need for teacher direction. However, they also make great teacher-directed lessons or even class conversation-starters, and multiple mini-lessons can be combined to make a longer lesson. 


Texas v. Johnson (1989)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that burning the American flag is a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment. Students learn about the First Amendment freedom of speech and the principle that “the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” They then learn about the dissenting view by distinguishing between arguments from the Court’s majority opinion and the dissent.

 

Partner Resources for this Lesson Plan include:


Bethel School District v. Fraser (1986)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court's decision that established a school's ability to prohibit inappropriate student language on campus. Students learn about the First Amendment right of free speech, and explore the many different ways the Supreme Court has interpreted it.


West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that it was unconstitutional for a state to force students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Students learn how the interests of national unity and the protection of individual rights can sometimes clash. They also explore “Freedom of Religion” as outlined in the First Amendment as well as the Supreme Court’s interpretation of that right over time.


Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court's decision that extended First Amendment protections to students in the classroom. Students learn about the concept of symbolic speech and how students gained the right to engage in political protests at school. They also learn how this Supreme Court decision continues to affect their everyday lives.


Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court decision that determined that Dred Scott, having lived in a free territory, was not entitled to his freedom. Students learn about the impact of the Court’s decision, and how it was a stepping-stone to the Civil War. Students also examine the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments which overturned the decision, and the black codes that were passed in some states to weaken them.


Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)

This mini-lesson covers the Supreme Court’s decision about limiting government restrictions on campaign contributions. Students learn about campaign finance, Super PACs, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold Act), and the First Amendment. Students compare campaign tactics, and evaluate the cost and effectiveness of reaching a large audience.  


The Research Roadmap

Use this graphic organizer to guide independent student research on a Supreme Court case, or for analyzing one of the mini-lessons in the Landmark Library. It includes critical thinking and discussion questions for work in small groups or as an entire class. Also available as a fillable PDF!


Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that established a school principal’s right to censor student articles in the school newspaper. Students learn about the limits on student free speech in a school environment. Then they examine the issue of censorship and the reasons for imposing it.


Minersville v. Gobitas (1940)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court's decision that allowed schools to require students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Students learn about the First Amendment and how the interests of national security can supersede individual rights of free speech and exercise of religion.


Clapper v. Amnesty International (2013)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that determined the government’s ability to conduct electronic surveillance of its citizens. Students learn about the First Amendment right to free speech, the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches, national security, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Students evaluate different forms of government monitoring, and provide their perspective on whether government surveillance is a necessity for national security, or a violation of people’s privacy and individual rights. 

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