How to Teach Kids About Why Contracts and Laws Are Important

Teaching kids about history and government is not just about the course material, but also about molding responsible, engaged citizens. You need to consider teaching your students about the past so they can learn from the mistakes and achievements of others. You need to teach your students how to be productive members of modern society, including how to function within the confines of modern government. Instructing them about laws and contracts is an important part of the process.

Laws are something children of all ages can understand. From the basic "laws" or rules of the classroom to the more complex legislative process, children need age-appropriate instruction on laws, contracts, and similar information, so they will be well adjusted adults when they are done with school. No matter the grade level, history and social studies teachers have a responsibility to teach this material.

In this guide, you will find detailed lesson plans and resources to help you teach about laws and contracts to your specific age range of children.


The Preschool Years

Can young children understand contracts? While it may seem that the concept of "contracts" is too complex for the youngest students, the reality is that they can understand the basic principles of laws and contracts, even in the preschool years. Children at this age have a very strong sense of what is fair and unfair, and that can be tapped into in a discussion of laws and contracts. They also have begun to understand the truth behind rules, both in the classroom and in play, and as such can understand some basic instruction in these topics. On this level, your focus will be on teaching the basic concepts and ideas behind agreements and rules, rather than more specific terminology.

Lesson Plans for Preschool Students
  • ABA Law Day: For Schools: Lessons K-4: Teaching About Contracts - This lesson plan and demonstration, created by a Chicago attorney, helps kids understands contract law in an age-appropriate way.
  • Stop! Why Do We Have Rules? - This lesson plan helps kids understand the need for rules, which will translate into an understanding of laws. It is designed for kindergarteners.
  • Peacemakers Activity - This activity from a kindergarten classroom looks at what makes a "peacemaker" and a "peacebreaker." This concept can help students learn to come to peaceful agreements, which can set the stage to learning about contractual agreements later.
  • Classroom Rules - This basic outline of simple classroom rules will set the stage for a successful year of preschool.
  • Road Rules - Preschool students can learn road signs and the safety rules they represent, which can serve as an introduction to the basic concepts of laws that everyone needs to follow. This lesson plan helps teach this concept.
  • Learning to Resolve Conflicts - This preschool resource helps teachers understand how to teach their students to resolve conflicts in a positive way. Learning to resolve disputes is an important step in learning how to understand contract negotiation.
  • Stop Sign: A Conflict Resolution Tool - This video from The Teaching Channel provides a conflict resolution tool that works well in preschool and kindergarten.
  • Meet Orb and Effy - Using a fictional story about two orbs living in Bubble World, this lesson plan helps introduce the idea of government and law and why they are important. Works for kindergarten.

Early Elementary

In the early elementary years, students continue to build on their ideas about conflict resolution, rules, laws and agreements. In these years they are able to understand some basics about the government systems and how laws are made as well. Their understanding of details of contracts and law making are still weak, but teachers can continue to provide a foundation to build upon in future years.

Lesson Plans for Early Elementary Students
  • Justice Teaching - This list of activities and lessons cover all aspects of laws, contracts and the judicial system. This resource is designed for lawyers and lawmakers who are going to classrooms, but can be tweaked for teacher use as well.
  • Creating a Classroom Contract - This primary school lesson and activity plan teaches students to work together to create a classroom contract that will help the classroom be great.
  • Conflict Resolution Lesson Plan - This lesson plan for grades K-2 teaches conflict resolution strategies that kids can apply to daily life and later to contract negotiations.
  • From a Bill to a Law - A lower elementary lesson plan on the legislative process from Kids in the House.
  • The Mediation Process in the Primary Grades - This lesson plan from the Washington Courts covers the mediation process and is ideal for grades K-3.
  • Rules and Laws - This first grade lesson plan looks at what rules and laws are and why they are important.
  • Rules and Reasons - This lesson plan from LEARN NC looks at the need for rules and laws by playing a game with no rules.
  • How a Bill Becomes a Law Lesson Plan - A first look at how bills turn into laws, designed for grades 2 through 4. This lesson plan is from Kids.gov.
  • Rules Make Sense! - This sample lesson plan from the Justice Rules Program, a comprehensive K-12 program for teaching the judicial system, looks at why rules and laws are important to society. Works well for lower to mid elementary grades.
  • Why do We Need Rules? - An example lesson plan for first grade that discusses why we need rules and what they are.
  • Third Grade Congress Performance Task - In this unit, students will create "laws" and send them through the legislative process. All successful laws then become classroom rules. Designed for third grade.

Upper Elementary

As students enter fourth grade, they are ready to look more deeply at the legislative process. They are also ready to start making rules for their own study and their own classrooms, and the process of making rules can help solidify the need for and importance of laws. Students at this age are able to understand some basic legal concepts as well. This is the age to being introducing the idea of contracts, as students can understand the legally binding nature of these agreements.

Lesson Plans for Upper Elementary

Middle School

In middle school, students have established their understanding of the need for laws. They are now ready to understand a bit more about contracts and the law-making process. During these years, students also have the ability to think a bit more analytically, and to use that thinking to craft rules and laws for their own classrooms.

Lesson Plans for Middle School
  • Student Contracting - This two-part lesson plan for middle school students helps students create a contract that makes them responsible for their education. It teaches contracts and also personal responsibility.
  • Contract Law Basics Lesson Plans - This series of videos uses fun graphics to help students understand the basics of contract law.
  • Contracts and Consumer Law - This seven lesson unit discusses the concepts of contracts and how they relate to consumer law. It includes handouts and discussion questions.
  • Laws Lesson Plan - This government lesson plan discusses the need for and importance of laws within a society.
  • Why Do We Need Authority? - This lesson plan looks at why authority is important as it relates to government and law making.
  • Why Do We Need Laws? - This unit looks at why laws are important. It also outlines some of the terminology associated with laws.
  • A Bill Becomes a Law - A middle-school level look at how a bill becomes a law from Kids in the House.
  • Hammurabi's Code - This seventh-grade lesson plan looks at Hammurabi and his contribution to the development of laws.

High School

High school students should have a basic understanding of where laws come from, and at this stage they are ready to start analyzing their role in the law making process as productive adults. They are also able to delve more deeply into contracts and how they affect them. Students at this age are able to think more abstractly about the concepts of law and authority as well.

Lesson Plans for High School
  • Street Law at the UW School of Law: Model Lesson Plans - These lesson plans created by law students from the University of Washington School of Law cover all aspects of law and law making and cover a wide range of high school ages.
  • Minors and Contracts - This lesson plan from the State of Washington Courts is aimed at grades 9 through 12 and focuses on contract law and how it relates to minors.
  • Drafting a Recording Contract - Students love recording artists, and this lesson plan helps them learn about contracts by drafting a mock recording contract for an artist, helping generate interest in the topic.
  • Legal Aspects of Business - This slideshow lesson introduces students to the basic terminology associated with contracts as related to business.
  • A Bill Becomes a Law - A high school level look at the legislative process from Kids in the House.
  • The Rule of Law - This lesson plan from the Colorado Judicial Branch provides students with an understanding of where the rule of law comes from and how it affects government today.
  • Foundations of Business Law Elective - This elective course from the School District of Haverford Township includes a section on contract law.
  • Due Process - This Law Day lesson plan looks at Due Process of the Law. It is designed for high school students and includes a graph and questions teachers can use in the classroom.
  • Magna Carta: Symbol of Freedom Under Law - This Law Day 2015 unit for high school looks at the importance of the Magna Carta as it relates to the rule of law today.

Additional Resources

Are you looking for additional help to teach your students about laws and contracts?
Consider these valuable resources:

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