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Unit 1, Lesson 4: Actively Understanding Key Academic Terms

This lesson will reinforce the meaning of vocabulary as it relates to the trial of David and judicial concepts by having students actually use the vocabulary in improvisations.


Materials & Resources Needed

Standards Addressed


  • Students will demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary by using improvisational techniques.
  • Students will analyze the facts of the case based on sequence of events, and character’s motivations.


Teacher observation based on the following quality criteria / rubric:

  Absolutely Almost Not Yet
Creative Expression


  • Participates in improvisational activity
  • Explores complex ideas and themes relating to the vocabulary
  • Recalls facts, details of case using an analytical approach to sequence of events, motivation of characters. Correct use of vocabulary

Learning Activities (60–65 minutes)


How many of you like to talk? This is your opportunity to use dialogue, create your own character, and use the vocabulary of the court!

We will play a game called Vocabulary Improv…(somewhat like Whose Line Is It Anyway?)

Model Improvisation: Ask for four volunteers in advance: Using four vocabulary words, “become characters” who are having a discussion about a scenario of your choice (example: a young person is accused of tagging the school building, or David’s case). Post the following vocabulary on the board, and use the vocabulary handout (PDF) to accurately show the meaning within the discussion:

Constitution, judicial branch of government, rule of law, due process, burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, impartiality. (You may want to “set this up” with volunteers before the lesson, giving them their vocabulary word in advance, so they can prepare.) For example, you might start the conversation for them by saying, “What do you think about this case? Do you feel that the rules of our class Constitution were broken in this case?” Another student then needs to “chime” in using one of the other vocabulary words ~ adding to the conversation, ie: “Our class Constitution says that we have to be impartial before judging someone”.  (continue conversation until all have added and the words have been used.

Goal: Accurately use as many of the vocabulary words on the list as possible within your discussion. Clarify use of vocabulary and improvisation relating to the same with whole group.


In groups of five, you are students at David’s school and are discussing the case, K-1 v. David.


  1. Everyone must have the opportunity to participate and will choose one word from the pile of vocabulary words (cut up from the PDF list provided).
  2. Your conversation, using the word, must show that you understand the meaning of the vocabulary as it relates to the case. (Analysis) (Synthesis)
  3. After everyone has added to the discussion, using their vocabulary word, they may pick randomly from the pile of words to add to the discussion if they still have time left.
  4. Your team receives 2 points each time a starred vocabulary word is used accurately, an additional point when another vocabulary word on the sheet is used properly. If the same vocabulary is used again, one point is gained for the starred vocabulary, and no additional points for the other vocabulary words.
  5. One member of the team videos the improvisation with smartphone or iPad if possible. Following the discussion teams watch their own video and establish points earned for the number of vocabulary words used correctly and in context with the case. One team may share with another to see if they came up with the same score…they compare with the score teams gave themselves and analyze the discrepancies, ie: accurate use of the vocabulary word.

No Tech Options: One person is the “scorekeeper”, using the vocabulary chart to note accurate use. One group shares their improvisation with another group and they discuss the vocabulary used, and why they believe it was/was not used accurately.


Use the “Gathering the Facts” handout (PDF) to assist in the analysis of the case and the conversation about what may have happened, using vocabulary where possible, ie: the Defendant, David, the witness, Suzie, the prosecuting attorney (in teams preferably)…

Please compare “what happened” to how it relates to the law.   For example, “What has happened so far?” Connect that fact to a discussion with how it relates to the Rule of Law. For example, “This fact is important because it creates reasonable doubt in my mind that David could have stolen the stickers.”


Discuss any of the vocabulary words that need reinforcement. Let students know they will be members of the jury soon ~ and they will be making decisions as informed citizens who understand the vocabulary of the law!

Special Needs of Students Are Considered in This Lesson

Create heterogeneous groups, visual of the vocabulary words helps assist students, opportunity for creative interaction is beneficial for GATE and kinesthetic learners.

Extension Ideas

Students describe a case and the conflicting issues using as many vocabulary words as possible.


  • Common Core State Standards
  • Visual and Performing Arts Standards for California Public Schools/Theatre