The Justice System

“A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”

Robert Frost (1874 - 1963), American poet
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on the justice system has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

The justice system of a country includes the laws and process by which justice is carried out. Usually this takes place in a court presided over by a judge. The justice system is considered an integral part of a democratic society, although even in democracies, many people believe that justice is not always done. In this ESL lesson plan on the justice system, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the justice system of their own countries, problems associated with justice systems and the role of lawyers.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Be Kind To Lawyers Day, which takes place in April, or the Day of International Criminal Justice, which takes place in July. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

BBC | ” Why US top court is so much more political than UK’s”

The article discusses some of the differences between the appointment of judges to the supreme courts of the USA and UK. In the USA, supreme court judges are appointed by the president, which, in recent times, has led to a huge increase in partisan appointments and accusations of the politicisation of this court. In the UK, on the other hand, judges are appointed by an independent commission, meaning that these appointments cause little controversy. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? How are judges appointed in their countries? Which process do the students think is better?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “What happened to trial by jury” by TED Ed which explores the history of jury trials in the United States and why they are not used quite so much in the present day.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including how criminal trials are decided in the students’ countries, whether people have confidence in the justice system and whether the students would be prepared to give evidence in court.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with education such as plea bargain, beyond a reasonable doubt and double jeopardy. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about the justice system. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the pros and cons of jury trials, the responsibilities of lawyers and whether or not it can be considered fair that rich people get access to the best lawyers.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of the justice system. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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