Education Technology

NCSS: The Structure of the Federal Court System

Published on 07/19/2006

Activity Overview

Students investigate the purpose and structure of the U.S. federal court system. They will be in groups of three, and then independently research their assigned court (e.g., federal district court, circuit court of appeals, or the Supreme Court).

Before the Activity

See the attached Activity PDF file for detailed instructions for this activity.

Print the appropriate pages from the Activity for your class.

Install the NoteFolio (tm) and Timespan(tm) Apps on the students' graphing calculators following the attached instructions.

Place students into groups of three. Assign each student a number from one to three within his/her group. They will research in detail the court that corresponds to the number they were assigned: 1-Federal Courts, 2-Court of Appeals, 3-Supreme Court.

During the Activity

  • Distribute the appropriate pages from the Activity to your class
  • Follow the procedures outlined in the Activity


  • Students will:
  • Examine the origins and continuing influence of key ideals of the democratic republican form of government, such as individual human dignity, liberty, justice, equality, and the rule of law.
  • Explain the purpose of government and analyze how its powers are acquired, used, and justified.
  • Evaluate the makeup of the federal judiciary and the powers of federal courts.
  • Participate in a Socratic Seminar in which the implications of judicial review are assessed. For purposes of this lesson, a Socratic Seminar is a group discussion where the instructor asks broad discussion questions to stimulate student thinking. The class is to have a discussion of the important topic by integrating any primary and secondary material utilized by the instructor.
  • Write a persuasive essay in which the student takes on the role of a delegate who is in charge of creating a new federal judiciary.
  • After the Activity

    Ask the individual groups to discuss their federal court timelines. Use the TI-Navigator(tm) classroom network to collect the students' files and display each group's timeline. Ask the class to discuss aspects that may have been omitted. Create a timeline with the entire class, which can be used as a study aid for a later test or quiz.