Beacon Lesson Plan Library
Is it Legal? - The Judicial System
Bay District Schools
Our governor suggests laws, and our congress passes the laws, but who makes sure the new laws are legal? Students learn about the judicial branch of government, its structure, function, and basic responsibility, as well as whom their elected officials are for this branch. This lesson focuses on Florida's judicial branch of government.
The student understands the functions of government under the framework of the Florida Constitution.
The student understands the structure, functions, and primary responsibilities of executive, legislative, and judicial branches of Florida government.
The student knows the names of his or her representatives at the local and state level (for example, mayor, governor, city council members, state legislative representatives).
- Giesecke, Ernestine. [National Government, Kids’ Guide]. Chicago. Heinemann Library, 2000.
- Giesecke, Ernestine. [State Government, Kids’ Guide]. Chicago. Heinemann Library, 2000.
- The Florida Constitution
- Any reference books you can locate on the judicial branch of government
- At least one computer with Internet access
- Student copies of the Judicial Branch of Florida Government Checklist from the associated files
- Judicial Information List, one per group, from the associated files
- One copy of the Judicial Information List, teacher key from the associated files
- Names of Elected Officials, Judicial Branch, one per group, from the associated files
- Student copies of the Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizer used yesterday
- One copy of the Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizer, teacher key previously used
- Student copies of the Florida Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer used yesterday
- One copy of the Florida Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer, teacher key previously used
- Student copies of the County Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer used yesterday
- One copy of the County Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer, teacher key previously used
- Formative Assessment Checklist for each student used in previous lessons with this unit
- Overhead projector
- Overhead writing pens
1. Locate and preview [National Government, Kids’ Guide] by Giesecke, Ernestine. Chicago. Heinemann Library, 2000.
2. Locate and preview [State Government, Kids’ Guide] by Giesecke, Ernestine. Chicago. Heinemann Library, 2000.
3. Locate the copy of The Florida Constitution previously used.
4. Locate any reference books you can containing information on the judicial branch of government.
5. Locate at least one computer with Internet access. It would be great if this computer also was capable of displaying the image. Most media centers now have projectors that display computer screens. This will save the teacher from having to print lists of officials ahead of time and also varies the media used to share information. Integrating computer use with the content increases student attentiveness.
6. Download, print and duplicate the Judicial Branch of Florida Government Checklist from the associated files for each student.
7. Download, print and duplicate the Judicial Information List from the associated files for each group.
8. Download and print one copy of the Judicial Information List, teacher key from the associated files.
9. Download, print and duplicate the Names of Elected Officials, Judicial Branch from the associated files for each group.
10. Locate the Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizer that should be in each student’s journal.
11. Locate the Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizer, teacher key that was printed yesterday.
12. Locate the Florida Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer that should be in each student’s journal.
13. Locate the Florida Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer, teacher key used yesterday.
14. Locate the County Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer that should be in each student’s journal.
15. Locate the County Government, Elected Officials graphic organizer, teacher key used yesterday.
16. Locate the Formative Assessment Checklist for each student used in previous lessons with this unit.
17. Locate an overhead projector. Be sure it is in working order.
18. Locate a couple of overhead writing pens.
Note: This is the eighth of nine lesson plans to the unit, We the People, and will be used on day eight of the unit. Only social studies content is addressed in this lesson. Reading, math and writing standards are integrated with this unit and are addressed in the lesson plans Class President (reading), Buying and Budgets (math), and Getting to Know Our Elected Officials (writing). See the Unit Plan Overview from the unit’s associated files for guidance in how to organize the teaching of the lesson plans.
Note: This lesson addresses only the judicial branch of Florida government. The legislative and executive branches have been previously taught in lessons six and seven of the unit.
1. Begin this lesson by reminding students of the class citizenship project and note how it is progressing. Ask if anyone has an act of citizenship that they have seen that they would like to share with the class. Allow for discussion.
2. To gain students’ attention, have this scenario acted out in the classroom. One student gets up and takes a pencil out of another student’s hand while he/she is writing. When the offending student is reprimanded, he/she gives the rebuttal that he/she will get in trouble for not having a pencil, so he/she is trying to stay out of trouble. He/she is insuring domestic tranquility and that is part of our rights according to the Constitution. The student insists that his/her rights will be taken away if he/she must give the pencil back. Of course, the victim insists that the pencil belongs to him/her and his/her rights are not being protected if the pencil is allowed to be taken. See the associated file Misunderstanding the Constitution for specific details and a text to give students.
3. Ask members of the class what should be done. Lead the discussion to determine that the person who took the pencil misunderstood the phrase, insure domestic tranquility. Refer to the explanation of the words to the Preamble from the lesson on citizenship.
4. Wonder aloud whose responsibility it is to decide what is fair and what the tricky words to the constitution mean. Don’t answer your question, but rather leave the students thinking.
5. Write That’s Not Fair on the board. Ask students to tell times when something happened to them that was not fair.
6. Allow for discussion of these various instances of unfairness. In each discussion, ask leading questions such as: Who was it not fair to? What rule was broken? Who decided what was fair?
7. Remind students that the pencil incident was merely a misunderstanding of the constitution. Both people in the dispute thought they were right, but after the words of the constitution were explained, it was obvious which student was mistaken. Tell students that today they will be learning about who decides what is right and fair, the judicial branch of government.
8. Review the Comparing Government bulletin board that is on display in the classroom. Draw students’ attention to the judicial row of the bulletin board. Specifically, discuss the first section of the judicial branch that has a reminder that the judicial branch helps us understand laws.
9. Begin the exploration of the judicial branch for government by displaying the resources used yesterday, including the books [National Government, Kids’ Guide], [State Government, Kids’ Guide], a copy of the Florida Constitution, and any other resources that can be located that have information of the judicial branch of government. These resources may include Websites from the Weblinks section of this lesson plan if computers and Internet access are available.
10. Divide the class into the same groups they were in yesterday, but rotate the resources so the same students are not using the same resources they have previously used. All but one of the groups will be completing the Judicial Information List. The final group will be collecting names to complete the Names of Elected Officials, Judicial Branch handout.
11. To be sure all information is gathered, assign different groups different parts of the list to complete.
12. The final group will need a computer or may use a printed copy of the names of your judges that you have previously gathered from the Websites in the Weblinks section of this lesson plan. This group will need the Names of Judges form.
13. Depending on the number of groups researching names, you may want to assign supreme court judges to one group, circuit court judges to another group, and county judges to another group.
14. Allow about twenty minutes for groups to locate and compile the information to complete their forms.
15. Using the Judicial Branch Information Teacher Key as a guide, circulate and assist students in locating appropriate information. Since the names of elected officials will vary depending of the location, each teacher must develop an answer key of this information reflecting the specific location. Formatively assess individuals’ knowledge and mark the Formative Assessment Checklist as appropriate.
16. Review the Jigsaw Instructional Strategy used yesterday and make any necessary changes needed to accommodate your class.
17. Pass out students’ We the People journals. Have students locate their Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizers.
18. Use the transparency for the Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizer as the sharing device. Place the transparency on the overhead. Begin at the top of graphic organizer and ask for information gathered on the judicial branch. As information is shared, discuss the information to aid student understanding. It may be necessary to translate the information into student friendly language. Write the information on the transparency. A teacher key is available from the associated files with suggested answers.
19. Students copy the information from the transparency to their individual Florida Government, Function and Responsibility graphic organizers.
20. Continue this process until the judicial section of the graphic organizer is complete. Students’ organizers should remain in the students’ We the People journals to be completed in a future lesson and used as references and study guides.
21. Have students locate their graphic organizers Florida Government, Elected Officials and County Government, Elected Officials.
22. Repeat the sharing procedure using the transparencies for Florida Government, Elected Officials and County Government, Elected Officials. Be sure to confirm that the students found elected officials for the correct circuit and county. Only the judicial sections of these graphic organizers are to be completed today. Note: The Elected Officials teacher keys available with this lesson were developed for Bay County, Florida, 14th Judicial District Circuit Court.
23. The graphic organizers are to remain in the journals, stapled to the back inside cover or placed in a pocket of the cover, as they will be completed in a future lesson and then used as study guides while preparing for the summative assessment later in the unit.
24. Ask students to turn in their journals to yesterday’s writing about the executive branch of government. Review the requirements of yesterday’s writing and share examples that demonstrate mastery of the standards. Answer any questions.
25. Tell students that now is the time to show what they know about the judicial branch of government.
26. Pass out the Judicial Branch of Florida Government Checklist to each student. Discuss the requirements of today’s journal entry. Point out that students will NOT be writing about what the judicial branch does for their school, community, state, and nation as they have done the last two days. Remind students how to self assess using the checklist. Encourage students to learn from the feedback on yesterday’s writing. Students may use the graphic organizers from today’s lesson while writing in their journals. All criteria listed on the checklist should be included.
27. Remind students that their writing must be focused. Supporting details with sources should be included. Correct capitalization, punctuation, and indentation should be used.
28. Allow students time to write in their journals.
29. As students write, circulate and formatively assess their knowledge of selected standards. Mini conferences may be appropriate to gain an insight into the individuals’ knowledge. Mark the Formative Assessment Checklists as appropriate.
30. Collect the journals. Using the checklist as a guide, formatively assess the writings for the standard related content, both social studies and writing. Feedback should be written in the journal and must address only the criteria for standards being assessed. Mark the Formative Assessment Checklists.
Formative Assessment – Students write a journal entry to describe the judicial branch of the Florida government. Included in the journal entry will be information on the function of the judicial branch under the framework of the Florida government established by the constitution. The student must also include the main office (structure), the main duties (functions), and responsibilities of the judicial branch. Names of state and local elected officials will be included.
A checklist of requirements is provided and explained to students prior to writing.
After reviewing these journal entries, the teacher will evaluate students’ progress and reteach as necessary to insure complete understanding. Formative feedback will be written on the journal pages before they are returned to the students.
Additional informal formative assessments will be administered daily as the students are learning about the judicial branch of Florida’s government. These assessments are addressed when they occur within the procedures of the lesson.
1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: http://www.beaconlearningcenter.com/search/details.asp?item=5197. Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files.
2. Ask students to bring articles from the newspaper that mention the judges or trials. When articles are shared, discuss what rights were being protected by the judge.
3. A computer lab can be used while locating names of elected officials. This then becomes a whole class activity rather than part of the jigsaw.
1. This resource contains a list of all elected officials including national, state, county, and city. Links to individual Web pages and email addresses are available for each official.Elected Officials
2. Links to all branches of the state of Florida’s government are available.Government
3. This resource contains links to each Florida county’s Clerk of the Court site.Clerk’s Web Sites
4. This site has a really nice graphic of the framework of three branches of government emphasizing that the framework is a product of the Constitution. Links to more information about the individual branches are also available.Ben’s Guide to US Government for Kids
5. This student and/or teacher resource gives brief overviews of the structure of the judicial branch of government.The Judicial Branch