One important resource for any teacher planning a law course is the following compilation of the best practices in law-related education. Keep these practices and principles in mind as you prepare to teach.

You can also use these best practices to “justify” the new course to your school’s administration. Show them the research about “what works” and how you intend to follow it. As your course takes off, you should refer back to these principles and practices frequently to reflect upon how you can improve your strategies and course.

  • Lessons focus on essential knowledge and skills. Appropriate knowledge includes civil, criminal, administrative, and constitutional themes; practical information about the law and public policy; and concepts underlying a constitutional democracy. Skills include critical thinking, decision-making, problem solving, communication, cooperation, and participation. Legal and policy issues should be analyzed in depth.

  • Selected issues and materials present multiple points of view or perspectives. Materials are selected so that they provide a balanced view of the judicial system and other aspects of the political system. Controversial issues should be discussed often, as it motivates student interest and broadens understanding and tolerance.

  • A sufficient quantity of instruction is provided. While “sufficient quantity” is not a precisely defined term, it is important that students have ample opportunities to practice skills and gain confidence in defending their points of view and making presentations.

  • Interactive teaching strategies, particularly strategies that foster true student-to-student interaction are the heart of the lesson. Other characteristics of good instruction are sharing outcomes with students, drawing on students’ existing knowledge, giving students appropriate time to answer questions, and involving as many students as possible in all aspects of the class.

  • Opportunities for students to interact with community resource people are offered often. The community resource person is well prepared and integrated into the interactive lesson. The content presented by the community resource person is part of the course content and she or he clarifies the law and procedures that directly arise from the lesson.

  • Administrators are actively involved in providing classroom teachers the support they need. Teachers should feel that the school director and education officials support their endeavors. The administrators must be able to address questions raised by family members, other teachers, or the community about the Street Law program. Involvement of administrators can also serve to reduce the gap between school policies, rules, and ideas about justice that may be generated in the class.

  • Networks to support teacher innovation are available through joint planning sessions, training sessions, and social events.  Strengthen teachers’ commitments to use interactive methods and practical legal information.  The involvement of more than one teacher from a site in training helps to enhance the Street Law program.