Setting the scene

These activities are designed to encourage students to explore the concept of justice before going on to study the justice system.

1. Defining justice

Use a first and second definitions table and look at the words below. You can add more words. The students complete the first definition on their own. Collect these and gauge their current level of knowledge.

During the course of the unit, add the agreed-on or correct definition in the second definition column.

A definition table


First definition

Second definition




human rights












justice system



2. Responsibilities and rights at different ages

Ask your students to consider responsibilities and rights at different age levels. For example, they could complete tables like these ones:

My rights at the age of ...

My responsibilities at the age of ...

I have the right to say what I want.

I have the responsibility to make sure what I say is true.

I have the right to choose what I believe in.

I have the responsibility to allow others to choose what they want to believe in without persecution.

I have the right to ...



My rights from the age of 18

My responsibilities from the age of 18

I have the right to vote in a general election.

I have the responsibility to enrol as an elector at the age of 18.

I have the right to own items such as a car.

I have the responsibility to use what I own in safe and responsible ways (like obeying the road code).

I have the right to ...


Ask your students to consider why rights and responsibilities change with age.

3. Why do we need a system of justice?

In groups, read the two stories and answer the following questions for each story.

a. What happens next?

b. What are the rights of the student involved?

c. What are the responsibilities of the student involved?

d. What systems of justice could Sam or Julia use next? Create a flow diagram describing the steps Julia or Sam could take next.

e. Why does New Zealand need a system of courts or a judicial system?

A. Where's my mobile phone?

As Julia walked out the school gates, she reached into her bag to grab her mobile phone to text her Mum. "Hey, where's my phone?" she said to her friend Amy. "I'll just stop and check my bag." Julia searched her bag, but she couldn't find the missing phone. Just then, Tom ran past holding a phone and laughing loudly, "Are you missing something, Julia?" The phone he held looked just like Julia's.

B. Give me back my mobile phone

Mrs Parkinson was droning on again. Sam was tired, and he was thinking more about what he could do after school than he was about maths. He carefully reached into his bag and got out his mobile phone to text Michael about what he was up to after school. 'Sam!' shouted Mrs Parkinson. 'Pass your mobile phone up here. You've just lost it for a week. Remember the mobile phone rules we wrote last week?'

4. A 'lawless' society - some scenarios

  • In groups students imagine that they have arrived on a deserted island and have to start their own society. What rules/laws would they need? What responsibilities would they have to observe in order to survive/thrive?
  • In groups students imagine they have just moved into a flat together - what rules do they need to have in place to make the flat run smoothly? What consequences are there for breaking rules?
  • Consider what a country would be like without a justice system. Students design a scenario of what could happen if there were no systems like there are in New Zealand to address crime and lawbreaking. Draw an eight-frame cartoon showing this scenario.

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