TITLE: WHY A MOCK TRIAL? AUTHOR: Chris Dousso, Spearvill High School, KS GRADE LEVEL: 11-12 / American Government, Civics OVERVIEW: A mock trial is a valuable learning experience in many ways. It may be used to help students learn about: 1. Specific areas of law 2. Courtroom procedures 3. Roles of courtroom personnel 4. How U.S. courts resolve conflicts peacefully Through participation in mock trials and analysis of the activity, students gain an insiders perspective on court room procedures. PURPOSE: While learning the details of trial process and procedures, students are also developing a number of critical skills that are universally necessary: 1. critical analysis of problem 2. strategic thinking 3. questioning skills 4. listening skills 5. skills in oral presentation and extemporaneous argument 6. skills in preparing and organizing material Of particular interest is the high level of cooperation among students needed for successful mock trials. Recent research findings indicate that such findings indicate that such cooperative learning activities encourage significant cognitive achievement among students from a variety of backgrounds and also improve student attitudes toward school and each other. Other positive results - They challenge students, encourage field trips and use of resource persons (visits to court houses and visits by judges and attorneys are a natural accompaniment to mock trials), they also are fun. Participation in mock trials helps students to understand better the roles that the various actors play in the justice system and also the difficult conflicts those persons must resolve daily in performing their jobs. On a more complex level, mock trials also provide students with an excellent vehicle for the study of such fundamental law-related concepts as authority and fairness. Through participation in mock trials and analysis of the activity, students gain an insiders perspective on court room procedures. Mock trials help students gain a basic understanding of the legal mechanism through which society chooses to resolve many of its disputes. RESOURCES/MATERIALS: If you have access to an attorney who will help with a guest visitation during your mock trial program he\she would be able to get the various forms which you can then reproduce. You may also contact; National Institute for Citizen Education in the Law 25 E. Street N.W. Suite 400 Washington D.C. 20001 (202) 662-9620 For information on case materials designed especially for mock trials contact; Social Studies School Service 10200 Jefferson Boulevard Culver City, California 90232 ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: 1. A mock trial project should involve every student in the class for the entire unit. Students not assigned specific, active roles quickly loose interest 2. The trial itself has room for roles other than attorneys and witnesses. They include: a. Judges or juries b. Clerk or Bailiff c. Members of the jury e. Court artist f. We also film the entire case so a camera operator is needed. (Parents request to see the film and really enjoy it.
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