Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2013

Judges, Courts, and the Law

Comic-style explanations of judicial system could use more interaction

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-9
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

Take a look inside

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Pros: The Courts in the Classroom section offers engaging animations to help explain many complex judicial concepts.

Cons: Site organization isn't intuitive and quality of content is uneven across the site.

Bottom Line: Perhaps a useful starting point for those learning the basics of civics and our judicial system.

If it's an available option for your students, you could flip instruction and assign an animation at home before covering the concept in class. Subjects include issues like due process, the 4th Amendment, checks and balances, among many others.

Since the site isn't very interactive, you might want to create some activities and conversations around what students discover. What parts of the judicial system did they already understand? What laws do they find unfair? Why do they think the outcomes of certain rulings occurred? Is our legal system set up to provide "justice for all?"

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Judges, Courts, and the Law is an informational site from the Judicial Council of California offering educational links for kids studying America's judicial system. There are three content sections; Courts in the Classroom Education Project, Administrative Office of the Courts, and Constitutional Rights Foundation. The Courts in the Classroom resource is a comic book-inspired collection of animations that explain all kinds of judicial information in ways that kids can understand. The Administrative Office links take users directly to the California Court system's official (not-so-kid-friendly) content.

Bonus features include a glossary of terms at the bottom of the screen, defining phrases like “absolute right” and “public good" and the like. A handful of lesson plans and a 28-page teachers' guide PDF are available as well.

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At first glance, the site may appears rather dry, as the home page isn't very appealing. But if you dig a little bit, there's some excellent content that kids can engage with. Graphic-novel style narratives guide kids through some rather dense legal concepts using real-life historical examples, and in a comprehensible way. Although not the most design-friendly site, Courts in the Classroom does an excellent job of explaining challenging ideas in ways kids can understand.

While it makes sense to have all these resources in one place, the site seems a bit cobbled together. It's hard to tell if all of the site's content is original or if it's pulled from other resources; nevertheless, it's clear that the site's focus is simply to give kids this important information. While noble in its aim, the site pales in comparison with the stellar iCivics.

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Overall Rating

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

The home page is fairly basic and dry, hiding the fun, comic-like content within. Kids will enjoy watching the animations, although more options for interaction would be a plus.

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

While the content is kid-friendly, the site doesn't hold back on the real-life, detailed info that makes up our judicial system. Kids have the chance to really understand some complex -- though important -- concepts and ideas.

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

Unfortunately, access to site's content is pretty uneven and tricky to navigate. There isn't much extra support aside from a few lesson plans and teachers' guides.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Scott M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
American Canyon High School
American Canyon, CA
Engaging introduction to constitutional law

The comic-book format reviews key issues of constitutional law like the first amendment, due process, search and seizure, etc in an engaging way. I would like to see them add multiple choices quizzes over each court case/lessons to assess students' understanding. This site would be ideal for students to learn the basic facts about a particular court case or constitutional law term before they went on to a more in-depth study or project.

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