Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies



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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John Kurilecjmk@ofcn.org