Welcome to Mock Trial: December Lessons
A Fun Review of Legal Lessons from 2013
Deborah has new lessons coming for the first two weeks of December in which you will review her 2013 lessons!
Welcome to the 2013 year in review for the Mock Trial class! This week and next, we will review what was learned this past year, as well as look at any updates in the areas that you studied this past year.
I’ll have a lesson this week and next, and then we’ll take a break for the Christmas holidays.
We will review legal concepts and cases with a fun game of “Mock Trial Jeopardy!”
This game may be played by an individual or in pairs or teams. It’s a twist on the hit television game show Jeopardy! The question will actually be the answer to a question. The player then answers in the form of a question.
Here is an example:
Question: Duty owed, breach of duty, injury, and causation.
Answer: What is negligence?
November: Social Media and the Law
One of the topics we delved into last month was social media. This month we will look more deeply at how the law is changing with the advent and popularity of social media.
The presence of social media in American life is growing, and with this growth comes an increase in the number and types of crimes associated with it. This week we will look at these crimes.
Technology has already made us more cautious in many areas of our lives. We protect our computer passwords. We’re careful not to give out too much personal information to a stranger over the phone. Parents instruct their children to say, “My parents aren’t available right now,” instead of “My parents aren’t home right now.” These precautions came as a result of others’ experiences with crimes committed against them.
Now an entirely new level of crimes is being committed with the help of social media, and the law is trying to catch up with these criminals. . . .
In this class, I will help you teach a mock trial class to a group of students or an individual student. You will be amazed at how fascinating young people find legal concepts! Through these lessons, students will learn a great deal about the U.S. legal system through different cases, information on the court system, and more. Culminating with a mock trial allows students to actively engage with the material they have learned.
The vision for this mock trial class is that students’ knowledge of God and His world will grow through study of the legal system. Their reading comprehension, logic/critical thinking, persuasive argumentation, writing, research, and public speaking skills will be strengthened. A mock trial class teaches important information about the judicial branch of our government, as well as honing these skills every person needs.
The lessons provided here are targeted toward students in the middle school grades, but also can be used by high schoolers. You can also try these lessons with gifted, or just motivated and curious, younger students! My philosophy is that interested and motivated middle school students are able to learn at an amazingly high level. In the local mock trial classes I teach, it is not unusual to have even younger students (my classes often start at fourth grade) able to understand and articulate legal concepts, such as liability, negligence, intent, and the elements of specific crimes or legal theories. I have been so pleased when students told me that they enjoyed the depth of the class—even having one fourth-grade student tell me, “I liked how you didn’t talk down to us!” Much of the material will be fresh and challenging for older students as well.
The Introduction and first month’s lesson provide the framework and foundation for the mock trial class. Students will learn basic concepts about the American legal system that will be built upon in later lessons. Teachers will be advised about how particular types of students might participate.
Here is the basic monthly layout:
Week One: Legal Concept
Week Two: Case Summary
Week Three: Related Skill
Week Four: Case Holding (Outcome and Reasoning)
The first week of each month’s lesson plans will teach about a particular legal concept (for example, negligence).
The second week will provide a fact summary related to that legal concept for students to read and begin to prepare for the mock trial in which they will participate, or to write a persuasive essay taking one side of the case (or preparing to debate that side).
Students will continue preparing during the third week and a particular skill will be emphasized. These skills include: reading a fact pattern, writing persuasively, expanding vocabulary, working as a team, interviewing witnesses, creating a “hook,” considering ethical issues, applying Scripture and Biblical standards, thinking critically, and writing creatively.
The fourth week will provide the findings if the case is real, or the legal precedents for a mock case, so that the teacher can go over the findings with the student(s) after the mock trial or with regard to the debate/paper. At any time, you may see the need to go back into previous lessons to restudy particular concepts.
How to Use These Lesson Plans
Ideally, your child will be part of a group, such as a class or a co-op. If you’re not a member of a co-op or class, go round up some family friends! If you are not able to round up a group, do not despair. Your student will still learn a great deal about our court system and be able to hone his/her skills of persuasion in a debate in your home or by writing an essay. The same material will be mastered—just using a different method.
If you are part of a group or co-op that meets weekly throughout the year, you can use these lesson plans weekly, taking advantage of the two weeks to prepare for a monthly mock trial, debate, or paper. If you do not want to have a monthly mock trial, you can take the enrichment ideas and add them to the weekly lessons. Then, you may want to choose one monthly topic/concept to focus on and do a mock trial at the end of the year or semester (depending on the length of your class). If you choose to wait for one big mock trial at the end of the class, you still have plenty of work for students—each month they can still write or debate the issues in the fact summaries.
Generally, the monthly lesson plans will alternate between trials and appeals. Appellate cases consist of two attorneys arguing before a panel of justices, while trial cases involve witnesses, evidence, and a jury. If you have a small number of students, they can still debate or write essays regarding the issues in the trial cases.
And finally, you may choose to print off the lesson plans to be read by your student, or you may take the material and teach the lesson yourself—either way will work. I have written the lesson plans so that they can be read by the student. For any worksheets provided, I have included an answer key for the teacher.
Do you have a question for Deborah? Try our new Ask a Question page.
Deborah Burton is a follower of Christ, a wife, and the homeschooling mother of two fascinating, bright, and curious sons. She worked as an attorney for ten years before homeschooling, and is licensed in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In addition to her law degree, her undergraduate and graduate degrees are in Journalism. Her love of God, her children, homeschooling, writing, and the law intersect in her company, Homeschool Court, which provides Biblical materials enabling homeschool students to participate in a challenging and fun mock trial class. Everything the teacher needs to offer high quality instruction is provided in her mock trial curriculum found at http://www.homeschoolcourt.com/.
You can find helpful materials to add to what is provided each month at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Write to her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention Schoolhouse Teachers to receive a special offer and to sign up for updates as new cases and topics are added! Stay up-to-date on Homeschool Court on FB at https://www.facebook.com/HomeschoolCourt and on Twitter @HomeschoolCourt.