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Teaching Strategies

Street Law, Inc.

Over 40 years of educating about law, democracy, and human rights

All Street Law programs use a variety of interactive instructional methods. These methods help students develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, and participation skills while engaging them in their own learning.

Specifically, these strategies help students

  • acquire new knowledge and skills by combining previous experiences, new information, and practical application
  • learn how to apply content of the lesson to contemporary issues as well as to a variety of practical law situations
  • connect the classroom to real life experiences

The table below contains helpful information about choosing which interactive teaching strategies to use in a lesson plan/teaching activity. For step-by-step instructions, click on the strategy name in the "type" column. 

Best Uses 
Audience Status 
Special Aspects 
For Best Results
Lecture/direct instruction
  • Mini-lecture
  • To summarize group work
  • To conclude an activity by summarizing learning points
  • Passive listening
  • Reaches only one learning style
  • Implies superiority of speaker and ignores experience of learners
  • May produce boredom
  • Supports false notion that saying creates learning
  • Use only as a mini-lecture (5 minutes or less)
  • Tailor to emphasize the topic's impact or importance to the students
  • Solicit input from your audience
  • Follow with a participatory activity 
Small-group learning activity
  • To integrate the following:
    • Personal experiences
    • Individual knowledge
    • Specific perspectives
    • Consensus on issues
    • Responses and reactions
  • To prepare for a subsequent activity
  • Everyone participates
  • Creates shared ownership in outcome
  • Reaches  multiple learning styles
  • Learners can practice using information provided
  • Practical framework better addresses educational needs
  • Instructors and participants have greater equality
  • Can have groups do same or different tasks
  • Write concrete learning objectives
  • Ensure accountability by requiring groups to complete and submit a handout related to the activity
  • Consider the make-up of the groups
  • Provide groups with precise written instructions
  • Small groups should have no more than 5 members; sometimes working in pairs is useful
  • Assign specific roles to small group: recorder, reporter, time-keeper
  • Allocate time to specific activities and monitor and be prepared for groups that end early
  • Conclude and debrief with a structured large-group discussion
Role-Play and Simulation

Role-play:  Participants feel like, think like, and/or act like another individual and “act out” a particular problem or situation

Simulation: Participants react to a specific problem within a structured environment

  • To practice/model new skills
  • To present specific content that you wish for students to consider
  • To experience and appreciate different viewpoints
  • Reaches multiple learning styles
  • Draws students into more active participation
  • Quickly builds relationships among unacquainted students 
  • Learners can apply new information
  • Set the context and prepare the audience with questions to consider during role-play/simulation
  • Use props to make it more authentic
  • Prepare the participants by providing specific instructions or scripted roles
  • Step aside and let the role-play/simulation unfold
  • Acknowledge the participants and ask how it felt to play their roles
  • Conclude and debrief with a structured large-group discussion
Individual activity
  • To reflect on specific issues and their resolution
  • To apply new information
  • To accomplish learning objectives
  • Students feel individual ownership of their success
  • Reaches limited number of learning styles—reflective
  • Give clear instructions for individual work
  • Ask participants to share results with the instructor and/or other students
  • Conclude and debrief with a structured large-group discussion
Teaching about controversial issues
  • To illustrate multiple sides of a controversial issue
  • To provide discussion
  • To set groundwork for learning about public policy
  • Active participant involvement
  • Reaches multiple learning styles
  • Requires instructors to control for emotional reactions
  • Fosters analysis and critical thinking
  • Clearly communicate that every opinion is right, provided it is backed up with reason
  • Select issues that are of concern to students
  • Ensure that any foundational terms are taught
  • If there is no disagreement, ask for possible alternate opinion
  • Support the lone dissenter
  • To teach a lot of information in a short amount of time
  • To teach content and practice important skills: explaining difficult information, asking questions, listening, and communicating.
  • Active participant involvement
  • Reaches multiple learning styles
  • Strengthens students’ knowledge and self-esteem for knowing information they can teach others
  • Select topics that are important and relatively unknown to the students
  • Develop a handout for students to keep track of what they learn
  • After the peer teaching, evaluate student learning with an additional activity to ensure the information is understood (e.g., role-play, case study, etc.)
Case study
  • Apply what students have learned about law to an actual case
  • Probe students’ current knowledge and/or sense of fairness
  • Active student participation
  • Increased interest from using a real world example
  • Reaches multiple learning styles
  • Select cases that are applicable to students
  • Have students identify important facts, the key issue(s), and arguments for each side
  • Inform students of court’s decision and have them evaluate its significance and impact
  • Evaluation
  • Active student participation
  • Reaches multiple learning styles
  • Ensure that the rules are fair
  • Keep the focus on learning; don’t let students get too carried away by playing the game

This chart was adapted by Margaret Fisher for Street Law, Inc. from Michael W. Runner, JD, Family Violence Prevention Fund, based in part on Curriculum Program, and Faculty Development: Managing People, Process and Product, Waldrop and Conner, 1994, JERITT.