Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2014

Supreme Decision

Tackle free speech issues in a simulated Supreme Court

Subjects & skills
  • Social Studies

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Students get an inside look into the awesome responsibility of the Supreme Court, and the game has nice detail from actual legal precedent.

Cons: A lack of depth leaves students with an incomplete idea of how the Supreme Court truly works.

Bottom Line: It's a limited but effective experience that works best for beginners who need an introduction to the work of the Supreme Court.

Since it's not very deep, it can be used as an introduction to -- but not full coverage of -- the Supreme Court, the Judicial Branch, and/or free speech. It's best as a hook, conversation starter, or accessible picture of how Constitutional issues get debated and decided. Assigning it as individual work allows students to complete the work at their own pace, while providing them with discussion forums to talk silently. After students finish the game, have them research and present on other, perhaps more contemporary issues that challenge our understandings of free speech. The class can vote on the best presentations/issues and use the top 2-3 choices as topics for in-class mock debates.

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Supreme Decision is a browser-based game that helps students understand how the Supreme Court decides cases. Students are presented with the arguments for both sides of a fictional but realistic case drawn from legal precedent, and are tested thoroughly on their understanding of the case and how different Justices interpret it. Once kids understand the case, they decide which argument they support. Their support determines the case's outcome.

Full Disclosure: iCivics and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

With a fascinating premise and interesting content, students who have strong opinions will dive right in. What they'll find is a good introduction to free speech and how the Supreme Court works, along with solid critical thinking exercises and interesting information about an actual case (Tinker v. Des Moines). Students can provide feedback to each other while playing or work together to understand the content in more depth. They can also do this on their own, taking their time. While the Justices' arguments can be replayed, it's up to students to think critically -- or guess -- to get the right answers; there's not much contextual help.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids should like the idea of deciding Supreme Court cases, but the unsophisticated visual presentation and guided story limit engagement. And the limited amount of content means kids won't come back for more.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids must decide what constitutes different legal definitions of speech. With in-game references to real-world legal precedent, kids also learn the outcomes to related cases.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Text-based descriptions of legal precedent and amendments provide good detail, and kids can replay arguments if they feel lost. Results can be printed, along with many lesson plans and extension activities.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jessica L. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Great Way for Students to Learn Basics about the US Supreme Court
I think that this lesson is great as a supplement during a unit on the US government and/or the Constitution. It is not comprehensive enough to be a stand-alone lesson on the Supreme Court but is good as entry into thinking about the different arguments the Supreme Court has to weigh. It's good also for my students who are struggling readers or need multiple opportunities with the similar content because it's audio-based (though the text is also supplied so students who are limited English could read ...
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