Trial by Jury (grades 5-8)

September 30, 2007

Trial simulations put students into the middle of tough topics in government, economics and history — or can do, depending on how well the simulations work. In the middle of the fight is a great place to learn.

Scholastic.com features a series of lesson plans suitable for government and civics. Looking for Constitution Day lesson plans I stumbled into a trial-by-jury simulation, with the mock trial script all prepared for you, for grades 5 through 8.

It looks to me to be a good way to study the jury system (see Amendments 6 and 7 of the Constitution).  The lesson plans and materials were designed, and their dissemination supported by the American Board of Trial Advocates.  Yes, that’s a group with a view; no, the bias doesn’t show up in the classroom materials, really.

Here’s a graphic on amending the Constitution, from the same site. This could be reproduced for student journals, printed for small posters, or, check with your high school drafting classes to see whether they won’t print this out for you in a poster size, in color. Scholastic.com features nine graphic pages like that one.

Trial by jury provides the foundation for some of our greatest drama: On television with Perry Mason, Matlock, Law & Order, Boston Legal, or L.A. Law; on the stage with Inherit the Wind and Ayn Rand’s The Night of January 16th; in opera with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury (okay, in operetta). This is the sort of thing students enjoy, and probably will remember.

How and why to show up for jury duty is one of the most important understandings our students can take away.

Justice by the People logo, from Scholastic.com


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