Are you looking for a must-do project for your social studies students this year? If you teach the Revolutionary War time period, or anything to do with government and the judicial system - than you NEED this now!!!
Bringing history alive is so important and so much fun! In our classroom, we bring the American Revolution to the present day by putting the Sons of Liberty and the British Red Coats on trial during our classroom 'Mock Trials.'
I cannot take credit for this idea, it was passed on to me through my mentor teacher and even though she's now retired, I keep it going strong because it's just so amazing to see my students living out the history they've learned from their text books.
Now I want to pass the torch to you because this memorable project is the perfect way to bring excitement and authenticity to your history classroom. Plus, mock trials are an ideal way to hit those Speaking and Listening standards in the Common Core.
Implementing mock trials though, or any project based learning curriculum can be TONS of work when you have to create everything yourself, as I have over the past 10 years. So to make your life easier, I've compiled EVERYTHING right HERE that you will ever need to ensure successful classroom mock trials!
So how does it work? I'll run you through some of the important basics of putting on classroom mock trials. MUCH more in depth information, photos, and resources can be found right HERE.
Here we go!
Week 1 - Mock Trial Introductions and Auditions
The first thing I do is talk with my students about the Judicial Branch of government and its purpose. I show them a couple (previewed) Judge Judy (or similar) clips from You Tube and we talk about why we need a judicial system and how jury duty works in our country.
Next, I connect this discussion to two events we've learned about in social studies - The Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre (you could use any historical events that you wish). I explain to the students that we are going to bring the judicial system to life in our classroom by putting these two events on trial. Most of week one is full of discussion, creating anchor charts that detail each mock trial position, and hosting auditions.
|One of my sweet students hard at work on a script to prepare for try-outs!|
Week 2 - Researching the FactsAfter listening to tryouts, I determine who will receive each part and then pass out attorney case files. During week two, attorneys begin the research phase. They need to learn as much as they can about their particular case so they can prep the witnesses and create a winning strategy.
I check out lots of books on the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre from our school and local libraries so students can begin this phase and build their case. My students work on this during daily independent reading and computer lab times so very little actual curriculum time is used.
|Using her text book and a library book to research the facts of the Boston Tea Party.|
Week 3 - Lines of QuestioningAttorneys begin to build their cases. They meet with witnesses to brainstorm strategies for defending or prosecuting the defendants. They also use the facts they've gathered to write out the questions they will ask each witness during the trial. Plus, they start their opening statements. Attorneys and witnesses practice their lines of questioning and at the end of the week we hold our first rehearsal.
If you're wondering how in the world do they accomplish ALL of this in one week - everything is explained clearly HERE with pictures and every resource needed to make your life so much easier!!! You can implement this project without any experience with legal system jargon - I promise!!! I've done all the work for you. :)
|The judge's table and witness stand in preparation for rehearsal #1.|
Week 4 - Practice Makes PerfectNow that the students have had a chance to practice what they've accomplished, week 4 is all about revising lines of questioning, beginning to formulate cross-examination questions/answers, finalizing opening statements, beginning closing statements and a second rehearsal.
|Attorneys and witnesses working on their lines of questioning.|
|The bailiff practicing swearing in a witness.|
Week 5 - The Judge and the JuryWith two rehearsals down, most of the fifth week will be about preparing for the "real" judge and jury and a dress rehearsal. I play the judge during all rehearsals but I invite someone in to serve as the official judge on trial day. Don't worry, everything the judge will need and say is included HERE so your visitor can be anyone. I do try to secure a graduation gown and gavel for the judge - but those are optional items.
The jury is the remaining students in your classroom after you've selected the 22 speaking parts (the number of speaking parts can be altered to fit your classroom needs). For dress rehearsal I do ask my students to dress up. They look so cute and serious in their dress clothes.
|The jury may seem like a small part to students but mine learn quickly that it's|
actually the most powerful position!!
|Dress rehearsal to get out the nerves!!! Look at those adorable suits and ties.|
Week 6 - Court is in SessionIt's the last week (you can complete this project in less or more weeks - depending on how much class time you want to use). I use very little class time, the students do most of their preparation during independent reading, writing and computer lab time and at home.
During this crucial week students finalize all parts of their case and I remind them how amazing they are! I usually schedule the trials on a Friday so parents/visitors can take time off work and attend. Each trial takes between 45-60 min.
On the big day, I just sit back, relax and watch my students bring history alive. Parents are shocked when they find out how little I've done during this project and how much their students are able to accomplish on their own! Mock trial presentation day is my favorite school day every single year!