LESSON: Criminal law Trivia Olympics and Valentine’s Day Lesson (recommended: do before or around Valentine’s Day)
TIME & DAY TAUGHT: 120 minutes, Feb. 15, 2011
(This lesson plan takes much longer, especially if it includes Dane McCartney’s lesson as described below. For American Indian Heritage, it took up about 200 minutes of teaching, with the initial thought being it is better to include back-up activities in case any of them did not work well with our students.)
Original - Intro to criminal law trivia matching game (news stories sources: http://www.dumbcriminals.com/assaults/a-poetic-lesson-in-self-control/#more-2286 and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41427345/ns/local_news-hartford_ct/)
Original - Elements of a Crime (Actus Reus & Mens Rea) – adapted from Criminal Law – Gilbert’s.
Original – Crime of passion exercise on provocation defense (plus info from seattle.gov website on domestic abuse). Content was adapted from Criminal Law - Gilberts.
Not included, but please note that after the break, as mentioned below, we used Dane McCartney’s lesson plan. Handout #2 from David Crump, Criminal Law: Cases, Statutes, And Lawyering Strategies, Lexis Nexis 2005 pg. 117-18, which taught the students the differences between the WA murder statutes. I highly recommend incorporating this into the lesson.
candy bars as rewards for Olympic winners
folders with “do now” to return last week’s submissions with comments on them
Goals: By the end of this class, students should be able to differentiate similar crimes and apply defenses. If doing Dane McCartney’s exercise as well, they should also have a foundation for reading criminal statutes.
Knowledge objectives: as a result of this class students will be better able to:
define “Actus Reus” and “Mens Rea”
understand the different gradations of Mens Rea
understand the differences between Washington’s homicide statutes (if also using Dane McCartney’s lesson plan) and how defenses work to reduce charges
Skills objectives: as a result of this class students will be better able to:
read a statute carefully and apply it to fact patterns (if also using Dane McCartney’s lesson plan)
present and defend their interpretations of the law
Students should understand that the severity of criminal punishments can vary greatly depending on the defendant’s mental state in a manner that is largely consistent with the general societal belief that intentionally wrongful acts are worse than unintentional, but still wrongful acts.
Greet each student at the door and hand him/her a folder with feedback from the last class in it. Let them know their Do Now exercise (Handout #1) is inside.
Note: we intentionally have additional activities planned for this class in case any don’t work out well. This way we have a back-up plan.
Do Now - (10 minutes) Give them 10 minutes for their Do Now exercise.
Briefly discuss: Ask them about the purpose of punishment in criminal law (trying to pull out retribution, deterrence, etc) and remind them that the severity of criminal punishments can vary greatly depending on the defendant’s mental state in a manner that is largely consistent with the general societal belief that intentionally wrongful acts are worse than unintentional, but still wrongful acts. Then have them place it in their folders to turn in at the end of class.
Event # 1 of Criminal Law Olympics - Intro to criminal law with news stories– (20 -30 minutes)First write the possible answers on the board (as listed below) and go over the definitions of the less commonly used words. Break the class into teams for the day by having the students count off and let them know these are the criminal law Olympics consisting of two rounds. Announce what the prize will be! Alternatives: you could also expand this exercise to cover the difference between felonies and misdemeanors.
Here are the correct answers.Write on the board: “Possible crimes” and then list the underlined words below in a DIFFERENT order – these will be the possible answers for the students to choose from when matching the news article to the crime. This exercise’s purpose is to get their interest and attention.
News story 3: fraud: any act, expression, omission, or concealment calculated to deceive another to his or her disadvantage
News story 4: theft: a criminal taking of the property or services of another without consent. Theft commonly encompasses by statute a variety of forms of stealing formerly treated as distinct crimes.
News story 5: grand theft: theft of property or services whose value exceeds a specified amount or of a specified kind of property (such as an automobile).
News story 6: aggravated battery.
Mention how there are different degrees of crimes that correspond with different punishments, depending upon how culpable, or mean and harmful the crime was. If this was murder, there would have been a way more serious charge.
News story 7: embezzling: Embezzlement is defined in most states as theft/larceny of assets (money or property) by a person in a position of trust or responsibility over those assets. Embezzlement typically occurs in the employment and corporate settings.
Explain: “These are real news stories that have been edited. They are somewhat ridiculous, so hopefully they will be entertaining and useful in learning about a few of the different types of crimes we’ll be encountering. Look at the possible crimes on the board. Each group will take a turn reading each news story out loud or silently (we gave our class the choice, and they preferred to read to themselves). Then each group will have one minute - we will time you – to discuss your answer with your group and the group recorder will write down which crime you think the person has committed (the possible answers are listed on the board). Also nominate a group reporter. We will then ask each team for an answer and will keep a tally on the board. Move onto the next question only when you are told to do so. We’ll announce scores at end of game and they are cumulative for the day, so they will carry over to the next round and anyone can win.”
Event # 2 of Criminal Law Olympics: Learning the elements of crimes. (45 minutes)
Remain in your groups/teams.
Distribute Handout #3 (Elements of a Crime) –
Handout #3 Walk through the Elements of a Crime handout. Write “Elements of a Crime”: “actus reus”, “mens rea”, “causation”, and “concurrence of mens rea and actus reus” on the board, and then exaplain each one to give them a quick overview, since that is how each round is broken up and those are the elements of a crime. Be careful to explain that: “Not all of the elements are always present in statutes. For example, attempted murder doesn’t have a harm element and parking violations don’t have a mens rea element, e.g. one can receive a parking citation for parking in a handicapped spot even if it was unintentional or an accident. Furthermore, the elements aren’t perfectly discrete and there is some overlap.”
Distribute Handout #4 - Explain the subject matter of each round and reference the terms already on the board: mens rea, actus reus, concurrence of mens rea and actus reus, and causation. “Remain in your groups, but choose a different recorder and a different reporter than the last round. Do the questions for each round and write down your answers, working together as a group. After each round, stop and we’ll go through each group’s answer out loud, asking the recorder why they chose that particular answer, and we’ll note on the board what each team put down. Then we’ll read you the rule and go around to see if any of you want to change your answer. At the end of each round, we’ll read out the correct answers before moving onto the next round. Points: one for getting it right each time, so two if you get it right before and after the rule is read. These points are cumulative from the last round.
Teacher’s Handout: See teachers’ version of handout #4 for rules and answers.
Announce winners of Criminal Law Olympics – they get extra candy. Distribute candy to all students.
Break – 15 minutes
Please note that at this point, we used Dane McCartney’s lesson plan. Handout #2 from David Crump, Criminal Law: Cases, Statutes, And Lawyering Strategies, Lexis Nexis 2005 pg. 117-18, which taught the students the differences between the WA murder statutes. I highly recommend incorporating this into the lesson.
Do Now –when students return, have them take 5-10 minutes to complete the Do now that is on their desk, handout # 5. Explain that in honor of Valentine’s Day, the second half of class will have that as a theme. Discuss briefly for about 5 minutes.
Crimes of Passion Exercise – Defense of Provocation
Distribute handout #6. Also reference the excel spreadsheet with the different degrees of murder on it. Note, for handout #6, there is also a teacher’s version with the answers on it. Have them read the first section and then stop. Explain the instructions of the activity:
Speed dating instructions:
Have each student write his/her name on the heart in front of him/her. The teacher will then collect the hearts and put them in a jar. The students will count off by 1’s and 2’s. The 1’s remain seated. All of the 2’s stand up and move to the next open seat to their left. Sit down. You will do the first example with this partner. The teachers will then pull one of the hearts out of a jar, read that student’s name, and that student will state the answer he/she and his/her partner came up with. The 2’s will then stand up and move to the next available seat to their left, sit down, and do the next example.
Alternatively: If it is difficult for the students to move around your classroom, maybe have them switch partners every round instead of after each question, and then review the answers after each round in the same fashion as described above.
Domestic Violence Resources
After going through the exercises on handout #6, let the students know that the domestic violence resources that are available to them and anyone they know in need of help can refer to the services listed at the end of handout #6. Walk them through these if time permits.