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. 


Landmark Library Teacher's Guide

Use this document as a Step-by-Step for all of the mini-lessons found in the Landmark Library.  It provides overall learning objectives, how to use the mini-lessons in your classroom, and a list of the mini-lessons available.


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.


Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that interpreted the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and affirmed the federal government’s superiority with regard to its enumerated powers. Students learn about the dispute between Gibbons and Ogden, the meaning of the Commerce and Supremacy clauses, and who wins when state and federal powers collide.


Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that it was constitutional to keep black and white people segregated as long as the accommodations for each race were “equal.”  Students learn about the concept of “separate but equal,” the reasons the Court found the doctrine acceptable, and the fact that the doctrine was not abolished until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Students compare arguments from the Plessy case and the later case Brown v. Board of Education, and they consider whether the Brown court would have decided in Plessy’s favor.


Korematsu v. United States (1944)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that determined the government acted constitutionally when it detained people of Japanese ancestry inside internment camps during World War II. Students learn what internment camps were, the background behind the government’s decision to detain those of Japanese ancestry, and the reasons the government upheld that decision. They also learn how the issue has re-emerged with regard to those of Middle Eastern descent during the ongoing fight against terrorism.


Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned “separate but equal” in public schools. Students learn about segregation and “equality under the law,” and they use what they learned to craft compound sentences following a structured format.


Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that gave defendants in state criminal courts the right to a lawyer. Students learn about the 6th Amendment right to a lawyer, why the right is important, and how the right led to the existence of public defenders. Students then identify other cases in which the Supreme Court extended important rights of the accused to the state level.


Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that prohibited a suspect’s statements from being used as evidence unless the suspect has been advised of his or her rights to remain silent. Students learn about the 5th Amendment right against coerced confessions and the 6th Amendment right to a lawyer, and how the right to a lawyer is essential to guarantee the right to silence. They analyze the “Miranda warning” and consider the principle that justice must not be obtained improperly.


In re Gault (1967)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that said juvenile offenders have a right to due process. Students learn about 14th Amendment due process, fairness, and the specific rights afforded juveniles in the justice system.


U.S. v. Nixon (1974)

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that then-sitting President Nixon had to turn over some recordings of his presidential communications to a court of law. Students learn about the Watergate break-in, the president’s privilege of confidentiality, and the supremacy of the Constitution even over the President of the United States.

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