Posted by: jockmackenzie | November 16, 2009

Court – More Role Playing With Bloom’s


Court – an explanation and a script

Let’s assume the class has read “The Gift of the Magi” and you have given the two-sided handouts to the students (see previous blog entry). For this exercise, it often works well to organize the class into pairs. (A sample of questions from “The Gift of the Magi” follow in an upcoming blog.)

The objective is to generate questions to used by the prosecuting and defense attorneys. In an effort to involve as many students as possible, we always have 2 prosecutors and 2 defenders. If a class of 30 students, paired up, complete 15 sheets with the required number of questions, the result is 150 questions.

I divide the questions sheets as evenly as possible between the two pairs of attorneys. There is, of course, some duplication so careful selection is important. The defense attorneys tend to choose the lower level thinking skill questions in an effort to make their clients look as good as possible. Their clients are always accused of the same crime, and a heinous one it is: Failure to read with due care and attention. The prosecuting attorneys generally choose the higher level, more difficult questions.

During the actual trial, the best results come when defense attorneys marvel when their clients answer questions correctly and when prosecutors portray amazement and disgust when questions go unanswered or receive poor responses.

As mentioned earlier, everyone has a role to play. A trip to the drama room may supply suit/sport jackets for the lawyers and a policeman’s hat for the bailiff. A lawyer friend gave me an old clerk’s robe that we use for the judge who also employs a gavel (wooden mallet) borrowed from the Industrial Arts teacher. Use of handcuffs purchased from the Dollar Store was fun but proved a distraction. Whatever other costuming and props can be added makes for a nice break from classroom routine.

The classroom needs to be set up like a courtroom but this can be done quite easily. The hallway acts as the holding cell, three chairs for the accused and the judge’s table and chair go across the front of the room with a chair beside the judge if witnesses are used. Two tables and chairs each for the attorneys and as many chairs as one wishes for the jury make up the rest of the set-up. Anyone without a job can sit as the viewing audience.

At least to begin with, a script seems to help the flow. One is attached below.

In essence, the attorneys take turns asking questions of the three accused students, when the questioning is done the accused are removed while the jury deliberates. The jury foreman provides a written verdict to judge who announces innocence or guilt and passes sentence. In the end, court is adjourned . . . but it can be reconvened at a later date with students playing different roles and accused of the same crime but with respect to a new story, film, audio tape, etc.

Warning: Court can be a recipe for disaster. My suggestion is to handle it a bit like the advice many of were given in our university practicum classes –  “Don’t smile until Christmas.” If the sessions are controlled at the outset, an easing of control is possible later. I have seen judges rage out of control (like some piano players at parties who don’t’ know when enough is enough), accused students who use the opportunity to “act out,” attorneys who don’t prepare, etc.

Nevertheless, Court has the potential to be a challenging and interesting alternative and one that I would say has far more advantages than disadvantages.

Here’s a script I’ve used:


Bailiff: Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise for the Honorable Judge _________________

(Judge enters from the hallway and sits at a table at the front of the room)

Bailiff: The Court of ________________ School is now in session. Please be seated.

Judge: Bailiff, please bring in the defendants.

Bailiff: (to the first defendant) Defendant, please stand. Place your hand on the textbook (or whatever the source of the story/information being tested) Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth? After the first defendant says, “I do,” the bailiff says, “You may be seated.” He then swears in the other defendants.

Judge: Bailiff, please read the charge.

Bailiff: The defendants are charged with first-degree inattentiveness by failing to read and understand the story __________________________________

Judge: Defendants, how do you plead?

Defendants: (together) Innocent!

Judge: The prosecutors for the Crown are _______________________ and _____________________ . (seated at stage right) The defense attorneys are ___________________ and ___________________________. (seated at stage left.)

Judge: Defense, you may examine the defendants. (At this point, the defense attorneys take turns asking questions of the defendants. They usually rely on the lower level questions from the Bloom’s Taxonomy Questions provided by all members of the class. Some leading of the defendants is expected, as are statements of affirmation when correct answers are given. E.g.“It seems clear that such an excellent response is proof positive that our clients have a sound grasp of the facts as presented in the story.”, “Yes, yes. Well said!”)

Judge: The prosecution may now cross-examine the defendants. (The two prosecuting attorneys now take turns trying to prove that the defendants have not read the story with due care and attention. They tend to rely more on the upper level of the Bloom’s Questions. Posturing and theatrics are encouraged. The judge has to be taught the meanings of “sustained” and “overruled” and the opposing attorneys can make objections.)

Judge: Do the prosecutors wish to make any final remarks? (The prosecutors have this opportunity to sum up.)

Judge: Does the defense wish to make a closing statement. (The defense has one last chance to plead their case.)

Judge: (once both the prosecution and defense are finished): Bailiff, please escort the defendants to the outer chamber. (Students are taken into the hall by the bailiff)

Judge: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please discuss the case and prepare your verdicts. (The jury deliberates, determines which defendants are innocent, and which are guilty and prepare a written statement.)

Judge: Bailiff, please bring the defendants back to their seats. (Bailiff does so). Foreman, have you reached a verdict?

Jury Foreman: We have your honor. (Bailiff gets the written verdicts from the Foreman and delivers them to the judge)

Judge: Defendant Number One, please rise. (The judge reads the verdict aloud. If innocent, the student is told that he/she is free to go. If guilty, the judge may pass sentence. Sentences should be made to fit the crime e.g. “You are sentenced to read two children’s books a week for the next six months.” “You must write a three-page essay on character development using round characters.”

Judge: (once the sentences have been announced): The Court of _______________ School is now adjourned.

* * * * *

Sustained and overruled – offers this explanation:

Re: sustained/overruled

The opposite.

“Sustained” means the objection to the question is correct, and the examiner must not ask that question or rephrase it.

The judge will “overrule” the objection if it is not valid, and the line of questioning may continue.

To truly understand the concept, students need to experience a courtroom situation where “sustaining” and “overruling” take place. A teacher can take the time to walk them through a couple of situations where this takes place OR could show a clip from a courtroom drama. I employed the former method but will suggest a film if I can find a good example.

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