Skip to main content


Last year, for the first time, I had my students conduct mock trials as part of our Outsiders/Juvenile Justice Unit.  It was a huge success, so I definitely wanted to do it again.  However, I did learn a lot from last year's experience, so I tweaked a few things this year.  First of all, I gave each group a different case.  Last year I only had two different cases split among four groups.  I felt that would be more entertaining for the jury (class) to watch.  I also found an awesome script/template for conducting a mock trial and shared this with students.  This seems to be helping them with courtroom vocabulary and procedures.  Next year, I am going to make my OWN!  One thing at a time though!

I love many things about this assignment.  First, it forces students to collaborate and communicate.  Next, It requires students to synthesize information from a variety of articles that we read in class.  They are required to use this information as part of their defense.  For example, one of our Article of the Week articles was  "Teenagers, Friends, and Bad Decisions."  All of the cases that I assigned involve juveniles who were with their friends when they committed the crime. The defense may choose to call an expert witness (psychologist, scientist) who will cite information from this article as part of the defense.

Students put a lot of work into this project, but I feel it's a wise use of time.  Students are required to read, write, speak, listen, use technology, and use both creativity and critical thinking skills!

Popular posts from this blog

Ditch those Reading Logs: Try Flipgrid Instead

If you've read my posts or follow me on Twitter, you know how I feel about pointless projects and homework!  This year I made it official and ditched homework.  It's the best decision I've ever made as a teacher.  My students are loving it, I am loving it, and I think most of their parents are loving it! I have completely transformed the way I run my classroom and feel like my students are more engaged and excited than ever. 

Student Example (Click to watch)

Like homework, I never felt quite right about assigning reading logs.  Whenever my own kids had to read a book on their own for school, they were initially excited. First, they were told they had to read twenty minutes each night. Then the dreaded reading logs began.  They had to write  down what pages they read, as well as a summary.  Urgh! I can only imagine lying on the beach with my own book and having to complete a reading log.  No thanks!  And I am not going to lie. I just might have signed one of my son's read…

Have a Dance Party Before Class Starts

This year I decided to play music as students are entering my classroom and before the final bell rings.  I had no idea what a difference it would make!  Why didn't I do this before?  It creates a positive, upbeat mood and seems to energize my students and ME! 

At first I thought they'd complain when I blasted disco tunes by artists like Chic, The Bee Gees, and Vickie Sue Robinson ("Turn the Beat Around").   I thought they'd groan when I played Bon Jovi, Journey, and Whitesnake. I thought they'd roll their eyes when I played clean versions of songs by Tupac and Snoop Dogg.  I really thought they'd lose it when I played Gypsy Kings.  NOPE!  They loved it!  I had NO idea that my kids would react they way they did.  Here are the results:

If I don't have time to put the music on, several kids will ask, "Where's our dance party?" I really like Pandora because I can create my own stations.  If you're looking for a way to create a positive vi…

Getting students to RESEE their writing

When students are asked to write, they often want to "get it done" and turn it in as quickly as possible.  I often ask them to look over their writing and look for places they can improve. Sometimes I even have them read each other's work and provide feedback.  Yet, even after I do these things I receive papers riddled with errors and flat out bad writing.  For years I have provided students with feedback (I try to offer as much positive feedback as I can).  I tell them, "Good verb choice. Great imagery. Fantastic argument. Wonderful hook."  However, I am frequently frustrated that  I am also continuously making comments like  "Sentence fragment.  Run-on.  Verbs aren't consistent."  You get the idea!  What's even more frustrating is that even though I make these comments telling students what they did incorrectly, the make the same errors on future assignments!

So, two weekends ago, I dedicated some time to researching add-ons available on Goog…