printsearchcontentsmain menu








Introduction to the topic and position paper #1


Day 1

     (Note: The day before you introduce this unit to students, tell them they will need a separate three ring notebook for the next two week unit, in which they will keep their notes, assignments, and research materials. This will be their Death Penalty Notebook.)
      To begin the unit, ask your students to divide a piece of paper into two sections and have them write the following questions at the top of each section:
      1. What do you know about the death penalty?
      2. What would you like to know about the death penalty?
(Give them approximately 15 minutes to complete this task.)
      After they have completed this task, ask them to draw a line at the bottom of each section and date it. As they progress through the unit, they may revisit this activity - adding new information, answering the questions they initially may have had, adding new questions, etc. (Have them revisit this activity on day 4, before they start their group research.)
      Divide the board in half and write down their collective responses and questions. Consider using a transparency, so you can keep these reactions for later. If you use the board, copy down the responses. This will provide you with a pre-assessment about what they know. Encourage them to take notes - this will be the second entry in their know/want to know notes.
      After this task is completed, discuss what students wrote and clarify issues as necessary, but try to avoid answering the questions to which they may find answers on the web site.
      Explain the purposes of the unit and the plans for the next two weeks. (See Themes and Rationale above for direction).
      For homework, have the students write an initial position essay.

Requirements:

A) State your position/views about the death penalty.
B) Provide at least three reasons for your position. (Estimated length of this assignment: 3 pages)


Computer Lab / Introduction to the Web site; "Would you be chosen" survey


Day 2

     Using the teacher overview site descriptions, briefly go over the entire site as a class.
      Allow them to explore and become familiar with the site. (15 minutes or so)
      Have the students complete the "Would you be chosen to serve on a jury" survey and independently take notes on their reactions and questions. Take some time to discuss who may be eligible based on their beliefs about the death penalty and who is not from the information provided on the site.
      Explain that whether or not they would be eligible, during the next class period everyone will review and decide an actual case.


Computer Lab / Introduction to the Web site; "Are you eligible survey"


Day 3

     Divide the class into 5 groups (see Appendix for grouping strategies and responsibilities).
      Explain the individual and collective roles that the group members will play.
      Review the major points from the previous day's discussion regarding eligibility.
      Hand out printed copies of the cases (without the final outcomes) to all group members - one case per group. The cases on the Web site include information about the crime, the defendent, the victim, aggravating circumstances, and mitigating circumstances. The final outcomes of the cases do not appear on the student version of the Web site. Teachers can find the final outcomes at the end of the Teacher Overview for the courtroom cases.
       
Since only four cases are provided, two groups will receive the same case. Make sure that the duplicate case is not case study #4 (the McMillian case) because that case is an example of what turns out to be conviction of someone innocent of the crime. Because this is rare, it's better to duplicate one of the other three cases.
      Explain that differences of opinion are a part of everyday life and that as a citizen group they represent a cross-section of the public. In their groups have each student review their case and share their positions. Have the speaker or writer take notes that will later be presented to the class. They must first discuss their opinions about the case and then render a decision. Use a secret ballot collected by the facilitator. Have them discuss their decision, briefly, and prepare their short presentation. Explain that in some states, in the advent of a deadlock, or hung-jury, the case would have to be retried with a different jury to reach a unanimous decision. However, in the interest of time the case will remain deadlocked.
      Have each group briefly share with the class the main points of their case and the decisions/reasons that they reached. A general class discussion will certainly emerge. At the end of the period, pass out printed copies of the final outcomes of each case to the class.
      Homework: A brief paper (2 pages) on what happened in their groups; conflicts, negotiations, compromises with regard to their decision. (Some potential leading questions for this assignment might be: How did your personal opinions conflict with or support those of other group members (In other words, how did you situate your voice)? How did you feel differences of opinion were expressed and handled? What were the differences in opinion and how were they supported/not supported?)


Introduce the simulation and research project and role play exercise


Day 4

Simulation Introduction

(Make it clear to the students that the simulation concerns issues of ethics and justice.)

     To begin the simulation, first discuss your state's position with regard to capital punishment. Note that opinions and laws have changed over time. (You may draw on the History Section of the site to make this point.) If your state does not currently have the death penalty, it may introduce new legislation to enact it. On the other hand, if your state does have the death penalty, it may introduce new legislation to impose a moratorium, or abolish it. The point to make here is that informed public opinion has the power to change legislation. In this simulation, students will be introduced to this process.

      Introduce the simulation by reading the following:

     Your state legislature is reconsidering its position on capital punishment. In the spirit of the democratic experiment in the United States, legislators are calling for citizen input in rendering a decision. Legislators are holding an open legislative hearing on the death penalty. Your group, motivated by various political and social reasons assigned below, has chosen to attend this hearing. As citizens concerned with the issues of fairness and justice, you have the responsibility to act as the voice for your community and its position. This Web site will provide a substantial amount of information with regard to the death penalty, but you are also encouraged to draw on current events and publications concerning the issue.

Note: This research will culminate in a role-play toward the end of the unit.
     
After the research is complete, each group will determine how they will make their case in a role-play scenario based on their research. Students should keep this in mind as they do their research.

  • 5 principal groups (A sixth is added for a larger class size) will examine 4 propositions drawn from the argument and rebuttal section of the site. (One group will serve as legislators who make a final decision on whether or not the death penalty should be supported, abolished, or whether a moratorium should be imposed, with appropriate support for their decision.)
  • Select a proposition for each group (drawn out of a hat). The roles and propositions for each group are below. These should be printed out and given to the group facilitator. Grading rubrics for this activity are in this Appendix. These rubrics should also be available to the group facilitator.
  • Note: Although students are given specific propositions to investigate and a specific role to play, they are not limited to these positions in general class discussions. Students should be encouraged to pass through the inquiry process: beginning with assessing what they currently know, learning more about the death penalty through the simulation and the Web site, and then re-examining their views given their investigations and the new knowledge they acquire.

Group #1 Role: Law Enforcement Community

     You are members of the law enforcement community - police officers, detectives, prosecutors, etc. You are primarily concerned with preventing crime. If criminals are left on the streets, your jobs will be tougher, your task is to research the following proposition:

Proposition: The Death Penalty prevents future murders.

     You should read over all of the information given on both sides of the issue, including expert testimony and any other sections of the Web site that might be useful. As people charged with enforcing the law and preventing crime, you should decide which arguments are most persuasive to you. You should be prepared to argue this at the legislative hearing when it convenes. As a group, you should prepare a written statement of beliefs to present to the legislative hearing and a visual product to illustrate your points (either poster board or PowerPoint).

Group#2 Role: Families of Victims

     You represent the families of the victims in the case studies you read. One of your loved ones was killed in that case. You need to bring some resolution to this terrible tragedy. Do you believe that the accused must be killed to make up for your loss or for justice to be served (a life for a life) or is it sufficient to lock the person up for life? Your task is to research the proposition:

A just society requires the death penalty for the taking of a life.

     You should read over all of the information given on both sides of the issue, including expert testimony and any other sections of the Web site that might be useful. As people who have lost a loved one in a violent crime, you should decide which arguments are most persuasive to you. You should be prepared to argue this at the legislative hearing when it convenes. As a group, you should prepare a written statement of beliefs to present to the legislative hearing and a visual product to illustrate your points (either poster board or PowerPoint).

Group #3 Role: Families of the Accused

     You represent the families of the people accused of the crimes in the case studies that you read. You do not know whether they are guilty or innocent. All you know is that a member of your family is accused of a terrible crime and faces the loss of his/her life because of it. Your task is to research the following proposition:

The risk of executing the innocent precludes the use of the death penalty.

     You should read over all of the information given on both sides of the issue, including expert testimony and any other sections of the Web site that might be useful. As family members of an individual who may face the death penalty, you should decide which arguments are most persuasive to you. You should be prepared to argue this at the legislative hearing when it convenes. As a group, you should prepare a written statement of beliefs to present to the legislative hearing and a visual product to illustrate your points (either poster board or PowerPoint).

Group #4 Role: Multicultural Task Force (MTF)

     You represent a civil rights organization that advocates equal justice for all people, without regard to race. You are against discrimination and arbitrariness in the justice system. If your group collectively advocates the death penalty, how might it be applied more fairly with regard to race? If your group does not advocate the death penalty and views it as being applied unfairly, what racial issues can you find to support your position? Your task is to research the following proposition:

The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used.

     You should read over all of the information given on both sides of the issue, including expert testimony and any other sections of the Web site that might be useful. As a group that advocates equal justice for all people, you should decide which arguments are most persuasive to you. You should be prepared to argue this at the legislative hearing when it convenes. As a group, you should prepare a written statement of beliefs to present to the legislative hearing and a visual product to illustrate your points (either poster board or PowerPoint).

Group #5 Role: (Optional)Youths for Justice (YFJ)

     You are a group that advocates basic human rights for all people, especially juveniles. You are concerned with how young people are affected by the justice system. Are juveniles treated fairly when the death penalty is administered? Consider this question carefully and then select one of the following propositions to investigate, given your group's focus:

The death penalty prevents future murders.

A just society requires the death penalty for the taking of a life.

The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used.

     You should read over all of the information given on both sides of the proposal your group has selected, including expert testimony and any other sections of the Web site that might be useful.
     As people who want to see justice for Americaâs youth, you should decide which arguments are most persuasive to you. You should be prepared to argue this at the legislative hearing when it convenes. As a group, you should prepare a written statement of beliefs to present to the legislative hearing and a visual product to illustrate your points (either poster board or PowerPoint).


Group #6 Role: Legislators

    You are the members of the legislature in your state. As representatives of both individual citizens and of the state as a whole, your job is to enact legislation that represents the best overall approach to capital punishment in your state. While the other groups are researching specific areas, your group should investigate all of the following arguments on the Web Site:

Deterrence, Retribution, Innocence, Arbitrariness and Discrimination, and any other sections of the Web site that might be useful.

     Make sure you are aware of both sides of each of these arguments. When the groups make their presentations at the legislative hearing, you should be ready to ask questions. You should make up your mind how you will vote after listening to all of the arguments. (Remember that you will have to support your final answer. It is certain that some people will disagree with you, so be prepared to justify your position).

     Before this research begins and after the groups have received their roles and propositions, revisit their know/want to know notes. Consider revisiting the know/want to know activity during the research process. This provides an excellent time for you to evaluate the performance of your groups/facilitators, contributes to their ongoing thinking regarding this issue, and helps you identify emergent themes.


Computer Lab and group research

Days 5
& 6

     Unlimited accesses to the computer lab. As a teacher you should monitor the sites the students are accessing and the activities in which they are involved. Utilize the know/want to know to guide their inquiry.


Group organization of reports and role play preparation


Day 7

     Meet briefly with the facilitators to remind them that tomorrow they will be making their presentations. Also remind them that they represent various constituencies and have a vested interest in the outcome. Remind them also of the requirements stated on the rubrics. It is important for the students to know that a good presentation flows well, is well thought-out, matches the visual aid provided, and has some emotional investment. Allow them this time to prepare, since there will be no preparation time on Day 8. Consider explaining how a legislative hearing works.


Role play presentations and legislative decision (This may take two days)


Day 8

     Arrange the room so that there is a large table at the front (if no table is available, arrange the desks so your legislators face the room) and the desks sit in a semi-circle facing the front. There should be a separate place for the presenter to stand, as well as a place for the visual products (either a television if you are using PowerPoint, or an easel if you are using poster board).
      Remind students that they will all prepare their own position papers when this is over, and that the information from the presenters may help them in preparing their views.
      Choose groups randomly to go first, second and so on. Allow each group to make its presentation and answer any questions from the legislative committee. It is important to note that other groups may want to rebut what the speaker has said or to ask questions - donât allow this; however, encourage them to take notes for the general discussion/debriefing on the last day.
      After all the speakers have presented and given the legislators their written position statements, have the legislators go to the hallway or some other conference area to deliberate. (Given time constraints, this may have to take place the following day.) There they should discuss what they have seen and heard, and make a determination for your state regarding the death penalty. While the legislators are deliberating, discuss with the students remaining in the room where they stand on the death penalty. Should your state enact the death penalty? Why or why not? If so, what methods of execution would they want to have? If not, have them revisit the compelling arguments against the death penalty. There will be further discussion after the legislators announce their findings.
      Legislators announce their decision - a debate and discussion will emerge. Drawing on what they have learned during the course of the unit, the simulation, the arguments presented and the notes they have taken during the presentations, revisit the themes that have emerged.


Post-reflection essay exam (using DP notebook)


Day 9

     Essay exam: Allow for some flexibility with regard to this essay so students can situate their own personal positions, reflect on what they have learned, and support their positions with compelling arguments. It is difficult to anticipate a format for this essay, since the specificity of the emergent issues may differ between classroom contexts and student populations. However, the essay should address two important themes of the unit: 1) their position with regard to the death penalty through the lens of fairness and justice, and 2) the group decision-making process in dealing with a controversial issue. Assessment should be based on how well students make and support their positions/arguments using information provided on the Web site, as well as the arguments made by their peers during the simulation and class discussions. This Appendix contains suggested grading rubrics for the research reports.


Debriefing and Discussion


Day 10

     Share opinions and group work dynamics in dealing with a controversial issue in a democratic fashion; discuss issues of fairness, justice and the democratic decision-making process. Much of this will be drawn from what students have written on the previous day, the issues that emerged as a result of the simulation, and their experiences with working in groups concerning a controversial issue. This may also be a time when you may reflect, along with your students, on the effectiveness of the unit, the Web site, group work, and student interaction. Your comments to us are encouraged.

 




printsearchcontentsmain menu