2012 K-College Law Day Lesson Plan Guide
Celebrate Law Day this May
May 1 is Law Day throughout the United States. In Pennsylvania, we celebrate Law Day for an entire month, making each May, "Law Month." Law Month gives us an opportunity to remind Americans, and the entire world, of our respect for the rule of law as a key to individual freedom and justice - the very foundation of our country. To learn more about the history and purpose of Law Day read this article.
Join with the PBA this May as we talk with students in classrooms across the Commonwealth to educate them about the important role of the law in our daily lives. Below we've highlighted some resources you may use to talk about this year's "I Have a Dream" theme or feel free to use one of the general lessons that are sure to engage students and generate lots of opportunities for discussion.
Inspiring student videos related to the "I Have a Dream …" theme
Watch this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day video from elementary students in Texas. In the first part of this video, students portray famous figures in black history speaking quotes from their lives. The second part has those characters reciting part of the Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. This portrayal gave the students unique insight into the lives of these people and of the importance of Dr. King's speech in history.
Watch this 30-second video example of freedom of speech created by high school students in Tennessee titled "It took the voice of one to promote change. ... It took the voices of all to make it happen. Express your right to freedom of speech. You never know what you can accomplish."
Show students the "A Dream" rap written and performed by Common which samples Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech and was produced by Will.i.am for the inspirational film "Freedom Writers." Common's music video "A Dream" can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBa55sDTIiA.
For a more recent perspective on Dr. King's dream, have students read "Reflections on a Dream Deferred" by U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Follow up with "Lessons We Can Learn" for grades 6-8 and 9-12 covering reading, language arts and social studies.
Lessons on "The Power of Nonviolence"
Developed by the Center for Civic Education, these multi-media lessons from the School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program present educators with lesson plans that explore the use of nonviolence in history, paying particular attention to the civil rights movement and African American history.
"Dr. King and the Movement" includes lessons for all grade levels and is developed by Teaching Tolerance.
A great way to talk to student about rights and freedoms is to show the 2011 winning class video project submitted by fifth graders at Pickering Valley Elementary for last year's Freedom Rocks! PBA Celebrate the Constitution and Law Day contests. Then follow-up with …
Talking with young students about conflicts and justice
Watch this three and a half minute video featuring Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as she visits with her friend Maria on Sesame Street and talks about her job as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. While visiting she helps Baby Bear and Goldilocks peacefully resolve a dispute over Baby Bear's broken chair. This could be a great opening for a lesson with young students in grades K-3.
Applicable for Any Grade Level
Kindergarten through Second Grades (youth ages 5-7)
It's never too soon to start teaching about the law, however, with this age group the best advice is to keep the message simple and short. You should only try to "teach" or talk about one or two big concepts - like why are rules important, what does it mean to be responsible, etc. One of the best ways to do this is by reading a story and then asking questions to help students apply the information to their own lives. Young people this age will have lots of questions, energy and stories to tell you.
- Orb and Effy - Print this fun story developed by the Center for Civic Education and read it to the students. Sample questions are included - you don't have to cover everything in the lesson plan, the lesson was developed for classroom teachers to use for Constitution Day, but the story is a great start to engage students in a dialog about authority, leaders and rules any day of the year!
- Reading List - Visit your local library or bookstore to select a favorite book from the list provided. Read it to the students and then talk about the theme. The books selected on the list all have themes related to the law and responsible citizenship.
Upper Elementary (Grades 3-6 or youth ages 8-11)
- Case of the Missing Puppy - This scripted mock trial that teaches students about the civil trial process. The case takes about 50 minutes including an introduction and follow-up. It is recommended for third through sixth grades, due to the reading that is involved. This is a fun, interactive, positive learning experience. The case engages students and gives each student a role to play. Examples of things you might say to introduce the lesson are included. You serve as the judge - wear your robe and bring your gavel!
Laws and Decision-making
- No Animals in the Library - This is a fun exercise that requires students to think about making decisions based on an unclear rule and then consider the consequences of their decisions. A sample introductory script is provided to give you some ideas on how you might talk with students about your job and tie in the "No Animals" lesson.
Middle to High School
Laws and Decision-making
No Vehicles in the Park - This lesson engages students and adults by asking them to think and decide on various hypotheticals. By doing this they begin to understand what goes into making a law, why laws are needed, the difficulty in making decisions based on an unclear law and then considering the consequences of their decisions on individual citizens and the community.
I Can't Wear What?
In this lesson from the iCivics web site, students meet Ben Brewer and find out what happened the day he decided to wear his favorite band T-shirt to school in violation of a new dress code rule. Students read a summary of a Supreme Court case to figure out the "rule" that applies to Ben's problem.
Everything you need to deliver this lesson, including step-by-step instructions, is provided by the iCivics team.
Many other great lessons are provided on the iCivics website.
Why We Have/Need Rules and Laws - This exercise asks students to think about the need for laws using a hypothetical situation where there has been a natural disaster.
High School Seniors
Rights and Responsibilities
- Stepping Out - The PBA "Stepping Out" program is designed to help graduating seniors make the often intimidating first step into adulthood by providing them with valuable information on such legal matters as renting an apartment, buying a car, driving under the influence, marriage and divorce. Judges can use the information in this booklet as a guide to talk with teens and young adults about the legal issues and responsibilities that will impact their lives.
Word Searches are a fun activity for students and something you can leave with them to complete and take home to share with their parents after your visit. You can go over the words with the students and ask them if they know what the words mean. The benefits are that this involves the students in the lesson instead of you lecturing to them about legal terms, and their responses create discussion opportunities where you can clarify any misperceptions they have and ask questions to help them and their classmates think a bit more about their responses.