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Lesson Plan: The Rule of Law in the United States

Grade Level Grades 9-12

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DESCRIPTION

This lesson has students view different interpretations and applications of the rule of law. After viewing video clips of Supreme Court Justices, federal attorneys and law professors, students will develop their own demonstrate their understanding of the rule of law, its application in society and its importance to a functioning democracy by choosing one of six activities. The entire lesson and related video clips can be found on the C-SPAN Classroom website.

PROCEDURES

  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.

    You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.

    You can also save and share the following Google resources for students to use with this lesson.

    Vocabulary Chart: The Rule of Law (Google Doc)

    Handout: The Rule of Law (Google Doc)

    Digital Activity Slides: The Rule of Law (Google Slides)

    In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.

  • WARM-UP:

    To begin class, have the students answer or discuss the following question.

    • What principles of government set the United States apart from countries with authoritarian governments?
  • VOCABULARY INTRODUCTION:

    Have the students either work together or individually to complete the vocabulary introduction. Students will provide definitions of the following terms and concepts that will be used in the video clips. They will then choose three of these terms/concepts and explain how they think they relate to laws in the United States.

    Vocabulary Chart: The Rule of Law (Google Doc)

    • Autocrat
    • Civil Rights
    • Constitutional Democracy
    • Dictatorship
    • Equal Justice under Law
    • Ideology
    • Limited Government
    • Self-Government
    • Separation of Powers
    • Totalitarian
    • Tribunal
  • EXPLORATION:

    After reviewing the vocabulary definitions, use either the handout or the digital activity slides to have students view the video clips and explore the concept of rule of law.

    Note-Taking Handout: The Rule of Law (Google Doc)

    Digital Activity Slides: The Rule of Law (Google Doc)

    While viewing the clips, students should take notes on the following:

    • Aspects of the Rule of Law
    • Other Concepts and Principles of Government Relating to the Rule of Law
    • How the Rule of Law Works in the United States
  • VIDEO CLIPS:
  • APPLICATION OPTIONS:

    After viewing the video clips exploring the concept of the rule of law, students can either choose or be assigned one of the following activities that they can apply what they learned. These activities are also included on the digital activity slides linked below.

    Digital Activity Slides: The Rule of Law (Google Slides)

  • Written Response-

    Provide a written response that address the following questions. Use examples from the video clips to support your point.

    • Define the Rule of Law
    • Why is the rule of law important to a functioning democracy?
    • What are current challenges to the rule of law? How can the rule of law be maintained in the United States?
  • Create a Meme-

    Using a meme generator or similar application, create a meme that reflects the importance of the rule of law to a functioning democracy. In addition to the meme, use examples from the video clips to provide an explanation of how this meme relates to the rule of law and the current challenges to the rule of law.

  • Rule of Law News Article-

    Find a news article that relates to the rule of law in the United States. Complete the following tasks:

    • Cite the Source of the Article (Title, Author, Publication, Date)
    • Summarize the Article.
    • Using examples from the video clips, explain how this article relates to the rule of law.
    • What current challenges does this article discuss?
    • What is your reaction to this article?
  • Rule of Law in the Constitution-

    Using the information from the video clips, search through the text of the U.S. Constitution. Identify 5 specific provision of the Constitution that relate to the rule of law. For each provision or part of the Constitution, provide the following:

    • Copy the specific language of the Constitution and identify where it is located (Article, Section, Amendment, etc.).
    • Explain how that part of the Constitution relates to the rule of law.
    • How does this specific part of the Constitution important to a functioning democracy?
  • Principles of Government and the Rule of Law-

    Choose one of the following principles of government that you feel is most similar to the concept of rule of law. Using examples from the video clips, explain why you think this is.

    • Checks and Balances
    • Consent of the Governed
    • Due Process
    • Equal Protection
    • Federalism
    • Individual Rights and Responsibilities
    • Judicial Review
    • Limited Government
    • Popular Sovereignty
    • Representative Democracy/Republicanism
    • Separation of Powers
  • Comparative Government: China and the Rule of Law-

    View the video clip of former U.S. Ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy discussing political power in China. Based on what you learned about the rule of law, answer the questions below. Use examples to explain your responses.

    Video Clip: The Chinese Communist Party and Political Power (2:35)

    • How would you define the rule of law?
    • How does the concept of the rule of law relate to China’s system of government?
    • How does the enforcement of laws in the United States compare to those in China?
    • What lessons about maintaining the rule of law can be learned from China’s system of government?
  • CONCLUSION:

    As an exit slip, have the student answer the following question in one sentence.

    • Why is the rule of law important to a functional democracy?

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