Pre-Viewing Lesson Ideas

Before learning about the particulars of the International Criminal Court, we hope all students have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of justice and the role of courts.  Below are some suggested ways to prepare students for the modules.

  1. What is justice? A quick opening activity might ask students to complete the statement “Justice is . . . .” You could have all students share their responses as a wraparound. You could also challenge small groups or the whole class to reach consensus on a class definition of justice. After viewing the film or the modules, students can discuss how their definition of justice applies to the material they just viewed. They may also want to revise their definition based on new information they encounter.
  2. International justice word wall: While studying international justice, students will likely encounter new vocabulary. Building a word wall in your classroom is an effective way to familiarize students with new terms. Students, individually or working in pairs, can be assigned a word from the International Justice Glossary found at the end of this guide to define for the word wall. It often helps students retain definitions if the word is connected to a visual. So you might ask students to provide an image, hand-drawn or found in a magazine or on the Internet, that represents their assigned word.
  3. Justice anticipation guide: You can ask students to respond to an anticipation guide that asks students to express an opinion about justice-related statements. Here are some examples of statements you might use:After students have studied international justice by watching one or more of the modules and/or reading the supplementary documents, you can have them review their anticipation guides to see how learning new information has changed their opinions. The four corners debate teaching strategy can be used to structure a whole-class discussion about statements on the anticipation guide.
    • A strong judicial system can deter individuals from committing crimes.
    • The international community has the obligation to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity if those perpetrators are not being held accountable in their own nation.
    • When a conflict is ongoing, achieving justice is equally as important as achieving peace.
    • After grave crimes have been committed, justice can best be achieved through reparations for the victims rather than punishment for the perpetrators.
    • Achieving justice for crimes committed against one group advances the civil and human rights for all people.

    After students have studied international justice by watching one or more of the modules and/or reading the supplementary documents, you can have them review their anticipation guides to see how learning new information has changed their opinions. The four corners debate teaching strategy can be used to structure a whole-class discussion about statements on the anticipation guide.

  4. Reviewing prior knowledge about courts: The film modules assume the viewers understand the basic workings of a criminal court. Before students view the films, you may want to see what they already know about how courts work, especially about the specific purpose of criminal courts (as opposed to civil courts) and the role of the prosecutor. You might ask students to draw and label a courtroom. Or students could create an identity chart for a court. After students indentify what they know about courts ask them to consider questions such as: What is the purpose of a court? Why do nations establish court systems? Who are they for? How might society be different if there were no courts? Facing History interviewed Allan Ryan, who worked as a lawyer prosecuting Nazi war criminals for the United States Department of Justice. In this interview, Ryan speaks about the purpose of trials in a court of law. Having students listen to or read Ryan’s remarks is another way to help students think more deeply about the purpose of courts. This would be an appropriate text to use as the basis of a Socratic seminar or fishbowl discussion.
  5. International justice timeline: Another way to introduce the material covered in the film is by familiarizing students with the history of international justice. Students can read the International Justice Timeline for homework before viewing the film. Or students can review the timeline during class using the human timeline teaching strategy.
  6. Defining “reckoning”: The three modules are adaptations of a feature-length documentary called The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court. The word “reckoning” has many definitions. It can refer to a calculated guess, the act of considering options, or the settlement of rewards or penalties for an action. You can introduce any of the modules by first having students define the word “reckoning.” Have they ever heard this word before? In what context? (Students may be familiar with the expression “the day of reckoning” and “to reckon with.”) Then you can share the whole title with students and ask them to predict what this film will be about. Finally, you can share the filmmakers’ explanation of the title:

The title The Reckoning has three meanings: the reckoning of a world trying to bring the worst perpetrators of massive crimes to justice; the reckoning of the International Criminal Court becoming an effective global arbiter of justice; and the reckoning with the international community over whether or not we have the political will to carry out the arrest warrants and fulfill the mandate of this new Court. (Point of View Discussion Guide, page 3)

Continue to the first module: Law or War: The Creation of the International Criminal Court.

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