Review by Jennifer Sitkin, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2014

SCOTUSblog

Real-time updates and in-depth content on U.S. Supreme Court decisions

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
9-12
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Pros: Complete coverage of current and past Supreme Court cases; unbiased and regularly updated articles.

Cons: A legal background is necessary to understand much of the content on the site; students will need substantial support to access information.

Bottom Line: A comprehensive resource for any educator or student following the Supreme Court's work.

The best fit for SCOTUSblog in the classroom is as a resource for teachers and students who are learning about Supreme Court cases or the Supreme Court justices. Due to the complex legal topics it covers, teachers will need to gauge what is and isn't accessible to their students and create appropriate assignments. The Glossary, the Procedure Materials, and the Justice Biographies can all be used to help students learn background information about the workings of the Supreme Court. The site can be used to research how a specific issue has been addressed or to follow the process of a case going through the Court. The articles and multimedia resources would also be especially valuable for a class that is participating in a mock court activity.  

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SCOTUSblog is a website that covers the U.S. Supreme Court. "SCOTUS" stands for "Supreme Court of the United States." Lawyers, law professors, and law students write regular articles about all of the petitions and cases that come before the Court. The articles cover arguments, decisions, and other topics related to the Court. Resources available on the site include Plain English, with simplified articles about key cases; the Glossary, with an extensive list of legal definitions; and Procedure Materials, which uses an imaginary Supreme Court case to illustrate complex terms and concepts. In addition, links to statistics, videos, and special features provide in-depth content on a range of cases and legal topics. The search tool has current and archived cases as far back as 2005.

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While not created for classroom use, SCOTUSblog definitely has educational value at the high school level. The daily blog posts can be used to stay current on Supreme Court news, the Plain English articles can help students understand developments in a specific case, and the entire site can be a recommended reference for research projects. Overall, the content on the site will be difficult for students to grasp unless they have vocabulary support and guided assignments. You could use some of the videos to supplement the text-based content and engage classroom discussions on important issues that come before the Court. For example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg shares her opinion on the Roe v. Wade decision, and various politicians respond to the same-sex marriage decision. 

 

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Overall Rating

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

SCOTUSblog is perfect for classes studying the Supreme Court or students fascinated by Constitutional issues. The content is written at a high level, and students may lose interest or disengage without teacher direction.

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

Teachers will need to develop lessons that provide background information to support student understanding of complex legal issues and terms discussed in the articles. The Plain English articles are more accessible for high school students.

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

While the site is well-organized, users may feel overwhelmed by the abundance of content. The About page explains the site's purpose and has helpful info about how to navigate the blog.


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Jennifer Sitkin Classroom teacher

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