The Power of One Decision: Brown v. Board of Education

When minority students decided to take their challenge of the “separate but equal” doctrine to the Supreme Court, the 1954 decision handed down by the court in Brown v. Board of Education and enforced by the executive branch, changed their lives and America forever. In this lesson plan, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education,” students gain insight into decision-making at the Supreme Court, learn about the people behind the case, construct a persuasive argument, and evaluate the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown v. Board of Education

May 17, 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This landmark Supreme Court decision declared that laws establishing separate public schools for black and white children were unconstitutional. To support teachers as they commemorate this important anniversary in their classes, the Share My Lesson team has selected a variety of free lesson plans, educational resources and classroom materials about equity, particularly in schools.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Conversation on Brown v. Board of Education

Supreme Court Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy discuss with high school students this landmark case that ended racial segregation in schools. They explore the background of the case, the role of Thurgood Marshall, how Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and the events following the unanimous ruling that said that “separate education facilities are inherently unequal.” A PDF lesson plan accompanies this video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Special Needs/Language Focus, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Equity in Public Education Funding

This lesson will explore the question of equity in funding public education for K-12 students. It will provide a historical context for public education in America: how equality of education has been understood and the ways in which states have been permitted to fund it. In addition, it will introduce the idea of public policy—what it is and how to assess its costs and benefits.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Brown v. Board of Education (1954). It contains background information in the form of summaries and important vocabulary at three different reading levels, as well a review of relevant legal concepts, diagram of how the case moved through the court system, and summary of the decision. This resource also includes nine classroom-ready activities that teach about the case using interactive methods.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Special Needs/Language Focus
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

Under what conditions does the state’s interest in promoting compulsory education override parents’ First Amendment right to free exercise of religion? This resource is a case summary of Wisconsin v. Yoder, which tested the right of parents to withdraw their child from school for religious reasons.

  • Resource Type: ESL Appropriate, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

American Reformers (CKHG Unit)

This unit (the second part of Early Presidents and Social Reformers) focuses on the efforts to improve American society in the early 1800s. Across 6 lessons, students learn about the temperance movement, free public education, the abolitionists’ crusade to abolish slavery, and the early women’s rights movement. The unit explores early reformers’ legacy in ongoing modern-day struggles for equality and civil rights.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Books, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Timelines
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Locke v. Davey (2004)

Does the Free Exercise Clause require states to fund religious instruction if providing merit-based college scholarships for secular instruction? This case summary shows how the Supreme Court answered that question in 2004.

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Separation of Powers: Letter from President Eisenhower Document Analysis

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that segregated schools were “inherently unequal.” In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., was ordered to desegregate. However, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students from entering the school on Sept. 3. A U.S. District Court ruled against the use of the National Guard at the school. When the students returned to the school, they were met by a mob of 1,000 segregationists, and, police removed them for their own protection. President Dwight Eisenhower then ordered federal troops to Central High to protect the students. This conversation starter uses a letter from Eisenhower to Sen. John Stennis (D, Mississippi) on Oct. 7, 1957, in which the president explains the role of the executive branch. Find this lesson in the Separation of Powers module.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Comprehensive Sex Education

This lesson discusses whether Illinois should pass a law that requires all public schools to provide comprehensive sex education in grades 6-12. In other words, should schools be required to teach students about both abstinence and contraceptives as possible prevention strategies for unintended teen pregnancy and STIs? Students will consider arguments supporting and opposing a comprehensive sex education law by deliberating the question using Structured Academic Controversy (SAC).

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12