Lesson Plans

Back to lesson plans archive
August 8, 2013

Debating race, justice and policy in the case of Trayvon Martin – Lesson Plan

by Katie Gould,  Teacher Resource Producer for NewsHour Extra

Subjects

Government and Civics, Social Issues

Estimated Time

One 45-minute class period with possible extensio

Grade Level

Middle School and High School

Middle School Lesson

Warm up Activity
  1. Give students a blank page of the terms in the glossary and in partners have them write down definitions to see what they already know.
  2. Have students complete warm up questions (on back of blank glossary page)
  3. In small groups have students share their answers with each other.
  4. Give students the answer key and have them verbally provide a real world examples for each word.
  5. Read the article from the lesson plan pdf or the blog (either individually or as a class), and watch any video components, keeping in mind the warm up questions as a guide or perspective to process the story. Have each student write down one thing that surprised them from the text and video to share with the class.
  6. Ask students if after reading and watching the story has anything changed from how they answered their warm up questions?
  7. Ask the class to consider Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” which allows people to defend themselves with deadly force as long as they “responsibly believe” it is necessary to protect themselves. Is this a fair law?
Main Activities

Choose from the activities listed below that best fits the needs of your class:

  1. Written assignment- You be the lawyer!
    • In pairs, ask students to brain storm key ideas that they would use as evidence to prove their case first for the prosecution, and then for the defense. Remember the charge was second degree murder.
    • Individually allow students to expand on their key ideas for either the prosecution or defense, and write one paragraph for each key idea citing evidence from the text, video and timeline. Prepare your case as though you were presenting your argument to a jury who will be deciding whether George Zimmerman is guilty of second degree murder or is innocent.
  2. Speaking and Listening assignment – A class divided!
    1. In pairs ask students to brain storm key ideas that they would use as evidence to prove their case first for the prosecution, and then for the defense.
    2. Have students go to opposite sides of the classroom based on:
      • If they feel that George Zimmerman was guilty of second degree murder
      • If they feel that George Zimmerman was innocent of second degree murder
    3. Have students put their ideas together and have students present their three strongest arguments for their guilty or not guilty verdict to the other side of the class. Take turns and allow students to move from different side of the room after students present their side.
    4. As a class come up with a working definition of justice
    5. Now ask students to consider whether they believe that justice was served by the verdict given by the Florida jury. Have students go to different sides of the classroom based on if they felt justice was served or not.
    6. Repeat the process of each side brainstorming and then presenting their strongest three arguments to the class. Take turns and allow students to switch sides after both arguments have been shared.
    7. Have students return to their seats and as a class de-brief about their experience during the activity. Was one question easier to answer than the other? Was anything said that changed their mind, or made them feel less sure about the side they were on?
Homework:
  1. The not guilty verdict and acquittal of all charges against George Zimmerman has angered many people because they feel that justice was not served because Trayvon Martin was an African American teenager. Do you believe that race played a role in the jury’s judgment? What does this demonstrate about our country’s ability to provide justice for all? Discuss these questions with two people you know.
  2. Find out if your state has a “Stand Your Ground Law”. Answer the following questions in writing, “Do you believe it is a good law in general?” “Does it make you feel more or less safe?”
  3. *Bonus: Come up with five creative non-violent ways to protest or support the verdict that was delivered.

High School Lesson

Warm up Activity
  1. Give students a blank page of the terms in the glossary and in partners have them write down definitions to see what they already know.
  2. Have students complete warm up questions (on back of blank glossary page)
  3. In small groups have students share their answers with each other.
  4. Read the article from the lesson plan PDF or the blog (either individually or as a class), and watch any video components, keeping in mind the warm up questions as a guide or perspective to process the story.
  5. After reading the blog have students create a timeline of the story in pairs, then share out to create a class timeline of the key events that took place in the story from the day of the shooting, when George Zimmerman was charged, when the trail began, and when the trial ended.
  6. Ask the class to consider Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” which allows people to defend themselves with deadly force as long as they “responsibly believe” it is necessary to protect themselves. Is this a fair law?
Main Activities

Choose from the activities listed below that best fits the needs of your class:

  1. Written assignment- You be the lawyer!
    • Individually have students prepare a paper/case as though they were presenting their argument to a jury who will be deciding whether George Zimmerman is guilty of second degree murder or is innocent. You choose whether to be the defense or the prosecution. Make sure to include “opening remarks”- an introduction to the case making sure to define key words, and contextualize the story. Then write one paragraph for each key argument citing evidence from the text, video and timeline. Conclude your paper as though you were making your final case to the jury.
  2. Speaking and Listening assignment- Four Corners
    1. Ask the students to think about whether the case should have been tried as second degree murder, or voluntary manslaughter (review definitions if needed). Have students go to the four different corners of the classroom based on:
      • If they feel that George Zimmerman was guilty of second degree murder
      • If they feel that George Zimmerman was not guilty of second degree murder
      • If they feel that George Zimmerman was guilty of voluntary man slaughter
      • If they feel that George Zimmerman was not guilty of voluntary manslaughter
    2. Have students put their ideas together and present to the rest of the class:
      1. Why they believe the case should have been tried for either second degree murder or manslaughter.
      2. Why they believe the verdict should be guilty or not guilty supporting their case with three key arguments citing evidence from the text, video and timeline.
    3. Take turns and allow students to move from different side of the room after students present their side.
    4. Have students return to their seats and as a class de-brief about their experience during the activity. Did you agree with the actually case’s decision to try George Zimmerman for second degree murder? Was anything said that changed their mind, or made them feel less sure about the side they were on during the presentations of the four corners?
Homework:
  1. The not guilty verdict and acquittal of all charges against George Zimmerman has angered many people because they feel that justice was not served because Trayvon Martin was an African American teenager. Do you believe that race played a role in the jury’s judgment? What does this demonstrate about our country’s ability to provide justice for all? Discuss these questions with two people you know.
  2. Find out if your state has a “Stand Your Ground Law”. Answer the following questions in writing, “Do you believe it is a good law in general?” “Does it make you feel more or less safe?”
  3. *Bonus: Come up with five creative non-violent ways to protest or support the verdict that was delivered.

Tina Yalen,  NBCT, Early Adolescence:Social Studies/History contributed to this lesson.

  • Tags:

  • Common Core Standards

    Tooltip of standarts

    Relevant National Standards:
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

    Related Stories

    Tooltip of related stories

    More Lesson Plans

    Tooltip of more video block

    RSS Content

    Tooltip of RSS content 3