Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mock Trial - Blended and Fun

    We are engaged in our annual mock trial project.  We do a lot of in-class work in small groups preparing and having the trials.  We do a lot of reading/research/reflection online that complements what’s happening F2F.  While we’ve repeatedly lost class time to snow days, students have used the class Moodle to stay on target as much as they can.
Gavel & Strykerphoto © 2008 KeithBurtis | more info (via: Wylio)

     If you’re interested in how we do mock trial, I’ve attached the study guide and basic case materials for this year.  I divide each class into two trials.  Each half class takes on plaintiff and defense teams for one trial and then acts as the judge and jury for the other trial. 

    Snow days have cost us almost half the days we use for working in small groups to prepare for the trials.  Despite interruption after interruption, students are still remarkably prepared.  First, because students have had to be focused on the time they actually had; there has been no time for fooling around (yay, silver lining!)  Second, I had asked  students to explicitly discuss online how they would cope with a non-participant group member; this brought out some good strategies, encouraged proactive thinking, and even got some of the usual nonparticipants to think about what they needed to be doing.  Third, my students are motivated; they love this project-based learning unit. 

    This is problems from the real world; I use real cases that are working their way to the Supreme Court, using high interest topics like gender-segregated middle schools.  They get to play roles that grownups play (never, ever underestimate their interest in this). They have to struggle to read materials written for adults, but they persevere because they are interested.  They get to read laws that actually impact their lives (Title IX, for example) and relate their lives directly to the Constitution.  They also do a lot of writing that makes sense – questions for witnesses, opening statements to explain their case to the jury, online discussions about how to handle problems, reflections about what they hope to learn and what they do learn.  It’s also inherently dramatic – what kid doesn’t want to shout out, “I object!” 

    Snow days are now impinging on our ability to even have the trials, which is the topic of the next post.

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