What is the Judicial Branch?

This lesson exposes students to the judicial branch and the power of judicial review. They will read about an actual Supreme Court case, Torcaso v. Watkins, to see how the judicial branch used its power of judicial review to strike down an unconstitutional state law.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review—How the Court Became Supreme

If James Madison was the “father” of the Constitution” John Marshall was the “father of the Supreme Court”—almost single-handedly clarifying its powers. This new lesson is designed to help students understand Marshall’s brilliant strategy in issuing his decision on Marbury v. Madison, the significance of the concept of judicial review, and the language of this watershed case.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Just the Facts: The Judicial Branch and the Law

This lesson presents facts about Article III of the Constitution and the federal courts, as well as information about Supreme Court interpretations related to some of the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. The lesson, which can be used to introduce or review information about the judicial branch, allows students to become teachers of their peers. Be sure to give students some time to understand their facts and consider the best way to teach them.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8

Grade 9-12 The Judiciary Act of 1789

The purpose of this lesson is to teach students about the significance of the Judiciary Act of 1789 in establishing a federal judiciary, and the power of judicial review as outlined by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case, Marbury v. Madison (1803). By the conclusion of this lesson, students will understand the key provisions of the Judiciary Act of 1789 and the structure of the federal judiciary, as well as the power of judicial review.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Does Marbury have a right to his commission, and can he sue the federal government for it? Does the Supreme Court have the authority to order the delivery of the commission? The Supreme Court answers this question in 1803.

This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Marbury v. Madison (1803). 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 six 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

An Independent Judiciary: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Cooper v. Aaron

This documentary explores the Supreme Court cases Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Cooper v. Aaron (1958) that defined our understanding of the role of the judiciary. In Cherokee Nation, the Supreme Court ruled it lacked the jurisdiction to review the claims of an Indian nation in the U.S. In Cooper v. Aaron, the Court affirmed that its interpretation of the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land” and that states were bound by its decisions. A PDF lesson guide is provided.

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

The Origin, Nature and Importance of the Supreme Court

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and high school students discuss the Supreme Court: its history and traditions, how it selects and decides cases, and the role of an independent judiciary. A lesson guide accompanies the video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Grade 6-8 Article III, The Supreme Court

The purpose of this lesson is to assist student understanding of the U.S. Supreme Court created under the Constitution. Through a document exploration and story-telling activity, students will understand the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system of government. Students will also explore how the Court’s role has evolved over time by looking to a number of key Supreme Court decisions.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

Grade 3-5 What makes a court Supreme?

The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand the original purpose and powers of the Supreme Court according to the Constitution. Students will learn the Supreme Court’s role in preserving the U.S. Constitution and the balance of power it creates. In this lesson, students will learn about the powers of the Supreme Court according to the Constitution through a guided hidden message activity and vocabulary lesson.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 3, 4, 5