Education Technology

NCSS: The Powers of the Federal Judiciary

Published on 07/19/2006

Activity Overview

Students examine the powers of the U.S. federal courts. They work in groups of four to collaborate to outline the powers of the federal judiciary, and identify the jurisdiction of the federal courts and the length of tenure for judges.

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 LearningCheck (tm) App on the students' graphing calculators following the attached instructions.

Students must have access to the Internet. If this is not possible, print out copies of the information that students will require from the Web sites. Distribute the case, Marbury v. Madison, from the Web site, one or two nights before this activity so they can spend some time taking notes on the case.

During the Activity

  • Distribute the appropriate pages from the Activity to your class
  • Distribute the LearningCheck(tm) file(s) to your class using TI Connect(tm) and the appropriate TI Connectivity cable
  • 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

    Open the LearningCheck(tm) application to display class results, using a overhead projector. Ask students to present answers to the questions from the LearningCheck(tm) assignment. As a class, discuss the powers that the federal judiciary has, and how those powers have developed over time.

    Ask students to prepare for a Socratic Seminar involving the case of Marbury v. Madison, to be held during the next class period. Inform them that they must complete Student Handout 2-2 (Question Sheet) to have a ticket to the conversation and to receive credit for the assignment.