Lesson Plan: Landmark Supreme Court Case: Brown v. Board of Education

The Origin of Brown v. Board of Education

Linda Brown Thompson describes her childhood experiences that led to this case.


The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution. Its rulings on cases determine the meaning of laws and acts of Congress and the president. Knowing the key decisions of the Supreme Court and the precedents they set is vital in understanding the meaning of laws, how our country has changed over time, and the direction the country is currently headed. In this lesson students will examine the case of Brown v. Board of Education.


  • STEP 1.

    In this lesson plan Landmark Supreme Court Case: Brown v Board of Education, the students will watch nine video clips that help the students analyze the significance and outcome of the case. To check for student understanding, a formative assessment will be used after each video clip. The teacher can assign a number to each formative assessment as listed below. Roll a die to determine what assessment the students will complete prior to each video clip.

    1. Play-Doh

    Students use Play-Doh to create an object that helps communicate their understanding of the film clip they just watched. In addition to the sculpture, a notecard that requires a title and a short explanation of the Play-Doh creation should be submitted.

    2. Twitter

    Students should communicate the main idea of the video clip in 280 characters or less. Students can search the internet for an image or draw one to enhance the 280 characters that help communicate their understanding of the clip. The tweet can be posted to the social media site or a teacher can ask the students to take a screenshot of their creation and email it. The printed tweets can be pinned to a bulletin board or shared through a google doc, thus providing an opportunity for the class to review their work. This assessment can be done on a notecard in circumstances when the use of social media is not permitted.

    3. Snapchat

    Students can utilize the popular social media app to display their knowledge of an educational concept. Snapchat allows people to display their understanding of concepts through multiple methods that include drawing, photography, and acting. The students can enhance their snap creations by adding descriptive text, clip art, and additional pictures. This visual tool can be used safely by asking students to make their creation and share it on their phone with the teacher or send a screenshot through email to the teacher. This formative assessment method does not require the teacher to have a Snapchat account and it is advisable to NOT follow your students on the social media platform.

    4. Whiteboards

    Individual whiteboards can be used to allow the students to communicate their understanding of the clip in a sentence. The student then passes their board to a neighbor who writes a follow-up question based on the response. That student passes the whiteboard to another student who poses an additional question. The whiteboards are then returned to the original student and they answer the proposed questions. The use of a variety of colored dry-erase markers is advisable.

    5. Word Grouping

    Students should record ten terms they believe are important as they view the video clip. After viewing the clip, the students should work with a partner to establish a list of ten words that best represent the video clip. Next, the students should group the words into two categories and provide justification for the groupings.

    6. Graffiti Wall

    The teacher should place several sheets of chart paper on the wall. After watching the video clip the students should express what they learned by decorating the chart paper with descriptive text and/or pictures. This collaborative project encourages teamwork and communication to depict the meaning accurately.

  • STEP 2.

    As a class, determine the formative assessment to be used with each video clip, watch the video clip as a class, then provide time for the students to complete the formative assessment and share their work.

    Students can use the chart below to take notes as they view the videos in this lesson.

    Note Taking Chart: Supreme Court Case: Brown v. Board of Education (Google Doc)

    Questions teachers should consider for discussion are listed below each of the following videos.

  • VIDEO CLIP: The Origin of Brown v. Board of Education (1:35)

    VIDEO CLIP: Path to the Supreme Court (4:54)

    • Describe Linda Brown Thompson's childhood experience that led to this Supreme Court case.

    • Describe the images that are presented in the video and explain their significance.

    • Why did Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP choose the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case?

    • Explain the important aspect of Judge Walter A. Huxman's opinion in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Consolidation of Cases (3:05)

    • Explain the cases that were consolidated into the Brown v. Board of Education.

    • Why did the Supreme Court decide to consolidate these cases?
  • VIDEO CLIP: The Doll Test (3:57)

    • Describe the "doll test" and its significance to the Brown v. Board of Education case.

    • What effect did the "doll test" have on the thinking of the justices during the case?
  • VIDEO CLIP: The Key Question and Decision (2:57)

    • What was the key question before the Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case?

    • Describe the process through which Chief Justice Earl Warren ensured the Court's decision would be unanimous.

    • Explain the decision as written by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Reactions to the Decision (3:26)

    • Explain the different reactions to the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

    • Describe the two statements by members of Congress referenced in the program. What was the effect of these statements?

    • What were some examples of resistance to the decision in the South?
  • VIDEO CLIP: Enforcement of the Decision 1 (3:35)

    VIDEO CLIP: Enforcement of the Decision 2 (1:48)

    • Describe the statements of Thurgood Marshall regarding the actions of President Eisenhower in enforcing the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

    • Explain the actions of President Eisenhower and the difficulty of enforcing the decision.

    • Describe the Supreme Court's actions in attempting to enforce its decision.

    • Why was the phrase "with all deliberate speed" included in the Brown v. Board of Education opinion?

    • Explain the effect that the phrase had on the implementation of the decision in the South.
  • VIDEO CLIP: Legacy of the Decision (5:37)

    • Describe the current debate on the Supreme Court regarding the meaning of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

    • Explain Thurgood Marshall's statements on the state of race relations in the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education case.

    • Describe the significance and legacy of the Brown v. Board of Education case to law and society.
  • STEP 3.

    As a class, discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.

  • Extension Activity:

    Choose an activity from C-SPAN Classroom's Deliberations site to engage in a structured student-centered analysis of the case.

Additional Resources


  • 14th Amendment
  • Brown V. Board Of Education
  • Earl Warren
  • Equal Protection Clause
  • Integration
  • Precedent
  • Segregation
  • Supreme Court


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesJudicial BranchSupreme Court CasesU.S. History


Middle SchoolHigh School