Unit 3: Humanities, Multimodal, and Legal Composition


Paws for the Cause

Many thanks to Greg Klaiber, manager of the Digital Media Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the staff of the Media Resource Center for help in designing and implementing this unit.

In 2014, comedian John Oliver satirized the American people’s seeming disinterest in the proceedings of their highest court, noting that casual observers are more likely to watch videos of cute animals than accounts of Supreme Court decisions. Using the production budget of his HBO program Last Week Tonight, Oliver released stock footage of dogs dressed as U.S. Supreme Court Justices and challenged viewers to create reenactments of recent SCOTUS proceedings that would engage a 21st-century American audience.

In this unit, you will develop a short (five-minute) video that a high school government teacher could use to explain a recent Supreme Court ruling. Your immediate audience will be American high school students so your video should balance humor with a concise overview of a case and its import.


Feeder 3.1

Storyboard and Pitch

3-5 minute oral presentation with visual component

Workshop Draft Due Tuesday, November 8th in Class

Final Draft Presented in Class on Tuesday, November 15th


For Feeder 3.1, your group will choose a recent United States Supreme Court case to “pitch” to me for your continued development in Unit 3. After reviewing audio records (http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_audio.aspx ),written transcripts, and case history on scotusblog you will use Adobe Photoshop to generate a storyboard for a short (five minute) audio/visual presentation of key moments, arguments, and the holding/judgment in your case. In class on Tuesday, November 15th, I will meet with each group. During our conversation, you will explain the importance of your SCOTUS case, why your group chose it for the project, and use your storyboard to explain how you will tell the narrative of your case in your final video project.


A successful pitch will:

  • Be between 2-3 minutes
  • Include an organic presentation of visual component such as a storyboard pdf, PowerPoint, or Prezi
  • Offer a two sentence “logline” that clearly and efficiently describes your case
  • Answer the question “so what?”—why should your target demographic (American high school students) be educated about your chosen SCOTUS case
  • Provide a “nuts and bolts” breakdown of how you will convey the narrative of your case for your target demographic
  • (Pathos): Offer a personal appeal regarding the importance of your chosen case to your group


Feeder 3.2

You Be the Judge: Audio Track and Rough Cut Review

5-minute Audio Track and Video Rough Cut

Workshop Draft Due Thursday, November 17th in Class

Final Draft Presented in Class on Tuesday, November 22nd


In Feeder 3.2, your workshop group will compose an audio summary of the SCOTUS case you pitched in Feeder 3.1 using the audio archive at http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_audio.aspx. Your 3.2 composition will provide a clear, concise overview of the case through thoughtful presentation of significant moments in the oral arguments. Dynamic storyboarding techniques will allow you to present an engaging audio account while providing a foundation upon which you will build your video presentation for the final Unit Project. Your audio file should be no more than five minutes long. After your classmates hear your presentation with rough cut footage, they will have an opportunity to ask questions about your case and your research.


Unit Project: SCOTUS Tonight!

SOCUTS Tonight: Short Video

5-minute Video

Workshop Draft Due Tuesday, November 29th in Class

Final Draft Presented in Class on Thursday, December 1st


Genre Purpose Audience Role Rhetorical Situation
Humorous, but informative video recap Demonstrate the significance of a recent SCOTUS case using humor, dynamic editing, and creative storytelling to engage high school government students American high school students Educator American government teachers have asked you to make a recent SCOTUS case engaging and entertaining for the average American high school student by juxtaposing audio of SCOTUS oral arguments with funny animals


Finally, you will edit a video reel using the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver footage of “Supreme Court Justices as Dogs” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tug71xZL7yc) to sync with your audio composition from 3.2. Your final video presentation should seek to balance humor with an informative overview of your case. You will be expected to show proficiency in audio and video composition applications explored in class workshops. Your presentation must use text to explain the Court’s judgment including the holding as well as any concurring and/or dissenting opinions. The Unit 3 Project will be scored according to the attached rubric.

Sample Student Compositions:

Bond v. U.S.

City of Los Angeles v. Patel