It is crucial that law students receive some training in the basics of effective law-related education, regardless of your program’s model. To be effective, Street Law classes should focus on relevant topics and use methods that actively involve the students.
Writing Effective Lesson Plans
Law students need training on how to develop effective lesson plans. The purpose of the lesson plan is to assist law students in focusing their classroom presentations on the topics most beneficial to their students. A student armed with a thoughtful, creative lesson plan will find the class session to be more enjoyable, more comfortable, and more successful. Lesson plans also help ensure that lesson topics fit within the overarching goals of the course. This is especially important for high school courses linked to state standards.
Street Law, Inc. recommends using the following materials to guide lesson plan development:
- For schools: Street Law: A Course in Practical Law and Street Law’s Classroom Guide to Mock Trials and Moot Courts
- For community-based sites: Street Law for Lawyers and Law Students Teaching in the Community
Components of a Lesson Plan
1. Lesson: (Topic to be taught)
2. Time: (Number of minutes to teach)
3. Goals: Goals are broad descriptions of the outcomes for students as a result of their work with the unit. The goals provide the basis for the development of specific learning objectives for each section taught.
4. ObjectivesIn order that students derive maximum benefit from the Street Law course, it is essential that student instructors articulate several fundamentally different, though interrelated, kinds of objectives. These objectives can be characterized as follows:
- Knowledge objectives: These objectives focus on students' obtaining and understanding specific information. For example, a knowledge objective for a search and seizure lesson might be: students will list four exceptions to the search warrant requirement.
- Skill objectives: These objectives focus on the development of important skills, frequently relating to advocacy/communication, critical analysis, and decision-making. For example, a skill objective for a legislative hearing might be: make a persuasive public policy argument in support of a proposed law.
- Attitude objectives: These focus primarily on students' feelings, values and beliefs. For example, an attitude objective may be that students develop confidence that, despite some exceptions, most police attempt to protect the rights of all members of the community.
5. Activities This is the longest portion of the lesson plan. It will tell you what to do in your class and in what order. The activities selected should be varied to keep interest high and appropriate to desired outcomes.
In devising the activities section, student instructors should be particularly aware of classroom problems when teachers lecture too much. A useful rule of thumb is to plan an activity for the major portion of each and every class. Activities that work particularly well include role plays, simulations, open-ended discussions, case studies, hypotheticals, group work, debates, and mock trials.
6. Evaluation What activities will the law students use to determine whether the learners have achieved the objectives through the methods used? When the law students have completed this section of the lesson plan, it is a good idea to return to the goals and trace the objectives, methods, and evaluation sections to ensure there is alignment. Frequently, new instructors identify goals that are not served by objectives, methods, or evaluation or include methods that serve no objectives or goals.
Field trips can be a useful method for Street Law classes if law students are willing to plan them properly. Work closely with your cooperating teacher and building administrators in planning any off-site activity. Before embarking on a field trip, a law student instructor needs to determine whether school policy and finances allow for the trip. Students under 18 will need parental permission slips.
Courts, jails, law firms, law schools, police stations, mediation centers, and homeless shelters are typical choices. Whatever the choice, it is important to structure the visit. This is best done by preparing the students for the trip and by preparing the site for their arrival.
To prepare the students, the student instructors should teach the students about what they are to see, determine the students' attitudes about the sites, check the accuracy of their perceptions, and create curiosity on the part of the students.
To prepare the site for a visit, the student instructors should contact the proper authority to arrange for a visit. In some instances, law students have created lesson plans to use during a site visit whereby a resource person at the site can participate in the lesson. This requires communicating with the resource person ahead of time and sending him/her a copy of the lesson. For example, when visiting a judge, you may want to have the students decide on how they would sentence offenders in a variety of scenarios and then have the judge comment on their sentences.
After the field trip, student instructors should discuss with the students the value of the trip and then determine whether the learning objectives were met.