Lesson Plan

Law and Order: Does the punishment fit the crime?

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
State Standards:
SC 3-3.4: Summarize the effects of the American Revolution, including the establishment of state and national governments.

SC 4-4.2: Explain the structure and function of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.


At the end of this activity, the student will be able to:
-Summarize the establishment of state and national governments.
-Explain the structure and function of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government.


Download Laminated cards

Download Laminated cards

Download Laminated cards

Download Laminated cards


In the haversack labeled “Law and Order” there are laminated copies of scenarios. The teacher will give some background about the legal system in this area. Next three students will be asked to read scenarios. The end result will be that students will understand why a court system is needed.

Teacher: South Carolina became a royal colony in 1719 which meant that it was under the rule of the King in England. The seat of local government in the state was in Charleston. Before the Revolution, there was legal system in this area. If people in this area had a legal problem they would have to go to Charleston to have it taken care of. Not to mention there was a lot of thievery going on, people were getting robbed as they traveled or while they were at home. In the 1760’s people were getting tired of the lack of law enforcement in this area. They had no one to turn to for help. So before we go any further I want to give you two scenarios to help us understand what the settlers in the backcountry were going through.

Scenario 1: (Abuse of Power) Tommy is the teacher’s favorite. He is the class water monitor. After recess and after the bathroom break, its Tommy’s job to make sure everyone gets 10 seconds worth of water. The teacher isn’t always looking so Tommy lets his friends get 20 seconds worth of water or the kids. John, another boy in class, doesn’t get good grades and he isn’t a friend of Tommy’s so he only gets 5 seconds of water.

Scenario 2: (Too Far) Last week, someone in your class stole your cell phone when you went to the restroom. You told the teacher but nothing was done about it. The next day you went to the principal and he told you he couldn’t do anything about it. He said to go to the State Department of Education in Columbia to report the theft. Of course, to do this, your parents would have to get off work and use up their gas which is expensive to drive all that way. You think you know who stole it but don’t have proof and even if you do report it, it’s really unlikely you’ll ever get your phone back. Would it be worth it to report it?

Teacher: So the reason why I told you these stories is to help you connect to the past. Who did the people that lived around here have to help them when they were robbed? Is there any police? Where could they go to get justice? They would have had to ride all the way to Charleston! That takes one week just to get there, then they would have to wait for their trial and then ride another week to get back! What would happen to their farms? families? So what do you think the people wanted? (The purpose of this question is to have students understand the need for a court system.) Finally Charleston realized the people back here needed help. They built a jail and a courthouse. They also sent out 2 judges that would travel to each district to hear cases twice a year. South Carolina was split up into 7 districts. Ninety Six was one of the districts, it was here that a jail and courthouse was built. We are going to act out the first court case that was heard in the courthouse.

Teacher will pass out laminated cards to several students. The students will act out the first court case. (This works really well if the teacher could be the jury spokesperson.)

Sheriff: Hear ye! Hear ye! The honorable Justice Edward Savage presiding. (Judge takes center.)

Judge: What is our first case?

Sheriff: We have Mr. John Price. He is a horse thief and stole several horses from local farmers.

Thief: You can’t prove it!

Sheriff: Your honor, we found Mr. Price riding one of the horses stolen.

Judge: (Speak to the audience or students) You are the Grand Jury. You are a group of landowners in this area, peers of Mr. Price. The charge is horse thieving and the case has been presented. Do you find Mr. Price guilty or not guilty? Take a moment to discuss the case among yourselves. When you have reached a verdict or decision choose a spokesperson to tell me. I want to remind the people in the jury that you have an important decision to make. What you decide can effect this man’s life forever!

Spokesperson: (Engage the students in a discussion about the case. Have them vote if the man is guilty or not. Make them defend their choices and explain that the punishment is bad!) We have found the defendent guilty!

Judge: You have been found guilty by the Grand Jury! You will receive 39 lashes from the whip and your left ear will be cut off!

Student: There were 19 cases tried at the first session of court. 17 were found guilty and received similar sentences. In colonial times, it was common to cut off an ear for certain crimes. That way, everyone knew that a person had been found guilty of theft. 


Justice: the quality of being just; equity.

Circuit Court: a court system in which the judges travel from district to district to oversee trials twice a year.

Regulator: a group of men who wanted to keep order in the backcountry. They were not endorsed by the crown.

Assessment Materials

Post-Site Journal questions

  1. How does the circuit court system work?
  2. Describe one thing you remember about this activity.

Contact Information

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Last updated: August 19, 2016