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.

Grades 8, 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Lesson Plans

Different Treatment for Different Folks

The lesson begins with an illustration of the “separate but equal” doctrine – two water fountains are depicted, one labeled “colored” and the other labeled “white”. Students will discuss how this doctrine was used to justify separate treatment based on race, and that such a policy would not be legal today.

The 14th Amendment and the Evolution of Title IX

Congress and the courts have applied the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to many aspects of public life over the past 150 years. In this activity, students will explore the evolution of the 14th Amendment through the lens of Title IX, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from excluding students from participating in educational and athletic programs on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court’s first Title IX case, Grove City College v. Bell, also demonstrates how each of the three branches exercises its authority.

The Power of Nonviolence: Rosa Parks: A Quest for Equal Protection Under the Law

This lesson asks students to revisit the well-known story of a figure in the civil rights movement–Rosa Parks–through the primary source documents associated with her arrest in 1955. The arrest occurred in the shadow of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) and had a powerful impact on the public policy of segregation and the application of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Grades 5, 6, 7, 8
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Lesson Plans

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

This case summary provides teachers with everything they need to teach about Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). 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.

Grades 7-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
ESL Appropriate

Brown v. Board of Education

On May 17, 1954 the Brown v. Board of Education decision was made. This landmark Supreme Court decision declared that laws establishing separate public schools for black and white children were unconstitutional. The Brown v. Board of Education ruling overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation in public schools. 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.

Grades 5, 6-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Lesson Plans

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.

The Pursuit of Justice

The Pursuit of Justice book, written by Kermit L. Hall and John J. Patrick, analyzes 30 Supreme Court cases chosen by a group of Supreme Court justices and leading civics educators as the most important for American citizens to understand. An additional 100 significant cases included in state history and civics standards are summarized. The complete book or individuals chapters can be downloaded.

Grades 8, 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Books

Judicial Independence: Essential, Limited, Controversial

In a constitutional system of government, the role of the judiciary is essential for maintaining the balance of power, protecting individual rights, upholding the rule of law, interpreting the Constitution, and ensuring equal justice for all. In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States.