Today is the last day of Mock Trial in my classroom. It has been going pretty well…yesterday I got feedback from other teachers, who didn’t know what was going on, but heard about it from students. Usually, if students are talking about your class, it is either very good, or very bad…there’s no real middle ground on that. Since they have had to come “dressed for court,” teachers have also been asking questions about the activity, and then asking ME questions about it.
Verdicts will be delivered today, although High School juries seem to be even less engaged than adult juries, to be honest. Cross Examination is the most exciting part for everyone, and the students, oddly, have gotten a very firm grasp of the basic concept. Maintaining a “case”, where all of the statements and evidence lead to the same set of points…that’s a tough one. Impeaching a witness on the stand in front of a jury of their peers, that seems to be really firmly in the teenage wheelhouse. Overall, the cases have been very enthusiastically executed, even when the main points of the case sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
It has been surprisingly funny, and low stress, despite the fact that students are really actively bickering over the fine plot points of our novel, “Lord of the Flies,” and grilling each other over those points. Witness preparation has substantially improved, because no one really wants to be embarrassed by not knowing what to say, or floundering.
Also, “objections” were more or less discovered as a strategy yesterday, and there was a whole lot of excitement about trying them out. At first, it was pretty random, with no sense of timing or which should be deployed at a given time. The lawyers on both sides were pretty quick learners though, and currently, every question and witness statement has to get through a pretty rigorous gauntlet to stay on the record, or at least not be the subject of debate. The excitement about objections obviously drove today’s art, featuring Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
The most excellent thing on Wednesday was in the final period’s trial. In that case, a prosecutor who has proven to be one TOUGH little girl, trotted out the actual book as evidence. She read a section of it to soundly impeach a witness, by then asking leading questions (on cross) to systematically destroy his credibility. When he would attempt to backpedal, she invariably had another quote waiting, that forced him back into her very direct line. If he didn’t stay in line, she was quick with, “Oh? Were you lying then, or are you lying now?”
That little girl is tangibly feared at this moment. Possibly even by me.
Still…an amazing thing happened, especially for an English class. Immediately, the value of the book as our main source of evidence was finally understood. Suddenly, all of the lawyers had a copy out, and were making frantic notes and evidence citations, to attempt to replicate what that one prosecutor did.
That? That’s a damn good feeling.