8th Grade English Common Law Lesson Plan (Social Studies)

Topic: English Common Law

Objectives & Outcomes

  • Students will be able to describe what English Common Law is and how it evolved.


  • Handout with definitions and timeline of English Common Law
  • Copies of the Magna Carta for each student
  • Access to a computer with internet for research (optional)


  • Start by asking the students if they know what common law is and if they can provide any examples.
  • Ask the students if they know who invented common law and when it came into existence.
  • Discuss their answers and provide additional information on the topic.

Direct Instruction

  • Begin by explaining that common law is a system of law that was developed in England and was later adopted by other countries, including the United States.
  • Common law is based on custom and tradition, and it is not necessarily written down.
  • Common law is also known as case law, as it is based on previous court decisions, or "cases."
  • Discuss the evolution of common law, starting with the ancient legal system of England, which was based on tribal customs.
  • Then, explain how the Norman conquest of England in 1066 led to the development of feudalism, which was a system of land ownership and service in which people owed allegiance to a lord and provided military service in exchange for land.
  • Feudalism eventually gave way to the Tudor monarchy in the late 15th century, which was characterized by a centralized government and the development of a legal system based on the royal courts.
  • Common law as we know it today developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, during which time the royal courts in England became increasingly independent and began to make decisions based on reason and justice rather than royal whim.
  • Common law was brought to the United States by English settlers, who brought with them their customs, traditions, and legal system.

Guided Practice

  • Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different section of the handout on common law.
  • Have the groups work together to answer the questions on the handout, using the direct instruction discussed above as a guide.
  • At the end of the activity, have each group share their answers with the class.

Independent Practice

  • Have students choose one topic from the list on the handout on common law and research it further using a library or online resources.
  • Have students write a brief report on their chosen topic, including information on when and how common law was applied in their chosen area and any historical or contemporary examples that they found.


  • Review the main points of the lesson, emphasizing the origins and development of English common law and some of the more famous cases and concepts.
  • Ask students to reflect on what they learned and how it relates to their own lives and society as a whole.


  • Observe students during the activity and take notes on their participation and understanding of the material.
  • Review students' written reflections for understanding of the topic and their own learning.

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