Charlotte Lee
Political Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Lecture, Lesson Plan, Reading
Community College / Lower Division
  • International Criminal Court
  • International Law
  • International Relations
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Text/HTML, Video

    International Law


    Module on international law. Intended for community college students and aligned with the requirements for POLS 140: Introduction to International Relations within the California Community College system. Includes readings, lesson plan, and ancillary materials (lecture slides and handout).


    Lesson Plan: International Law

    Lesson Plan: International Law

    Topic: International Law

    Week #: 10

    Estimated Time: 150-180 minutes


    Assigned Readings:

    1. Traisbach, Knut. 2017. “International Law.” In International Relations Theory, Stephen McGlinchey, ed. pp. 57-71. Available online at (14 pages, core reading)
    2. United Nations. 2012. “The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Historical Perspective.” Available online at (19 pages, briefing)
    3. International Criminal Court. “How the Court Works.” Available online at (17 pages, briefing)


    Total page count: 50


    Learning Objectives:

    By the end of this lesson plan, students will be able to:

    1. Distinguish international law from domestic law
    2. Remember sources of international law
    3. Analyze examples of international law
    4. Evaluate a new international court: the International Criminal Court


    Misconceptions of Topic:

    1. Students may assume international law functions the same way as domestic legal systems.
    2. Alternately, students may assume international law is weak or non-enforceable.



    Lesson Component


    Lecture: Review learning objectives

    Lecture slides

    Lecture and discussion: What’s special about international law?


    Reading 1

    Lecture slides


    Lecture and discussion:

    -Key concepts in international law

    -Sources of international law

    Reading 1

    Lecture slides

    Example of a treaty: United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)


    Think Pair Share: Should the US join UNCLOS?

    Reading 2

    Lecture slides


    Additional online resource: UNCLOS Website:


    Lecture and discussion: Evolution of international law


    Application and discussion: International Criminal Court 

    Readings 1 and 3

    Lecture slides


    Online video and discussion: ICC

    Reading 3

    Online resource:

    POV/PBS (2015), Excerpts from “The Reckoning: History of the ICC” (Approx. 17 minutes)



    Conclude and wrap-up

    Lecture slides



    Required Readings: International Law


    • Reading #1: Traisbach 2017
    • Reading #2: United Nations 2012
    • Reading #3: International Criminal Court 2019

    Introducing the readings:

    This unit’s readings provide an introduction to international law. To define and connect key concepts, Traisbach (2017) discusses sources and applications of international law. This reading also distinguishes international law from domestic law, as the former faces unique problems of implementation and enforcement.

    Two additional readings offer examples of international law at work. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is a major international law governing maritime rights. UN (2012) provides an historical overview of how this convention came into existence.

    International law is also a very dynamic and growing field of action and advocacy. One young international court, the International Criminal Court, was founded in 2002. It is today the only international court to investigate and prosecute certain crimes against humanity. ICC (2019) offers an overview of how this court works to address these international crimes.


    Ancillary Materials: International Law

    Attached are CC-licensed lecture slides and a handout to accompany the lesson plan for realism and liberalism.