Sunday, March 8, 2009

Post # 12 - Mock Trial

Objectives: To analyze the themes of Antigone through the creation of a mock court trial.
Materials: Handouts explaining roles and court procedures, Internet access, video clip of a court trial.

Our Antigone mock trial has probably been the hit activity of the year! Students loved taking on roles and digging into the characters. By the end of the trial, students really knew the story. They had to, in order to create character testimonies & questions! My offerings here focus on Antigone, but I took some of them from a friend who made them for The Odyssey. Adapt them as you need!

I think the hardest part in any mock trial situation is making sure that each student is doing an equal amount of work. Naturally, the attorneys have probably the greatest amount of pressure, come trial-performance. However, with some careful planning, you can make sure that each student has a role and has something to do. The jury, for instance, can sometimes pose a difficulty in meeting that. I had a teacher-friend who had her jury (for a trial against Odysseus) make a large map charting Odysseus's journey. My jury had to make a newspaper, writing a short article about the "trial starting today." Give them something creative to do and that will make sure that they are working in preparation of the trial as well!

On the first day, I showed a clip of a court trial, so students could see the roles of each courtroom persona. After having students pull their role out of a hat, I played an excerpt of Law & Order:SVU that worked (ok, so I love that show, and it was self-serving). I then handed out Antigone Mock Trial Manual to everyone and we reviewed the outline together.

The next day, I handed out the Antigone Mock Trial Specific Roles & Expectations. Students had all day and the next to work on this. Each role had some sort of paperwork item to turn in. The attorneys each got a copy of the Duties of Prosecution/Defense Attorney from this ReadWriteThink lesson, as well as the Model Defense Handout. I helped out my judge a bit by copy/pasting several helpful websites into one packet: Antigone Mock Trial - Judge Resources. The judge & bailiff could use the packet and the internet for completing Antigone Mock Trial - Judge/Bailiff's Prep Research.

On the day of the trial, the jury received copies of the Jury Verdict Form (ReadWriteThink) - they turned in a paragraph response AND their trial notes. I also graded students on participation. As long as they paid attention, seemed prepared, acted confident and in role, they earned full points. What do you do about those students who were absent during the preparation or trial day? I saved you a little headache and made up some "alternative" make-up activities for those absentees: Antigone Mock Trial - Absent in Prep or Trial. 'Cuz you always have a few.

It was great to see the students get into this lesson. What was also interesting was how they held each other accountable: they weren't afraid to call out other students who didn't do a good enough job. In one particular class, the defense put up an extremely poor show and the jury let them know it! I loved how they took command of their learning through this activity.

For homework, they completed the "Opinion Analysis" of page 21 on this Mock Trial Guide PDF(which is another GREAT resource!).

Learn from my mistakes:
1. The trial took one day, not two. They didn't take as much time for examining witnesses as I'd thought they would.
2. Allow cross-examination. I thought that might be too much for our first foray into courtroom proceedings, but they could have done it. It would have given the trial a bit more depth.  I guess if you do this, you might actually need 2 days after all.
3. Give the judge and bailiff more script to work from. Mine didn't do as much "putting the pieces together" independently as I'd thought. Next time I might give a worksheet that is already integrated with the agenda from the Manual (I had expected them to merge that themselves, but there was some confusion here) with some official proceedings that they can look up online and fill in.
4. Each student can be a character - now, in Antigone, there aren't a lot of characters, so I didn't have enough for every student (largest class is 28). I assigned two students to make one character's testimony; however, I see now that they could have been individual characters and then the attorneys would have had more witnesses to examine.

Hm, let's recap those resources I used & offer to you:
1. Antigone Mock Trial Manual
2. Antigone Mock Trial Specific Roles & Expectations
3. Antigone Mock Trial - Judge Resources
4. Antigone Mock Trial - Judge/Bailiff's Prep Research
5. Antigone Mock Trial - Absent in Prep or Trial
6. ReadWriteThink Lesson: Literary Characters on Trial
- Duties of Prosecution Attorney
- Duties of Defense Attorney
- Model Defense Handout
- Jury Verdict Form
7. Mock Trial Guide - PDF**
- pg. 21 Post-Trial Opinion Analysis

**it would seem that the American Bar Association has overhauled their website since last I checked.  This PDF, as best I can tell, is no longer available.  They DO offer teacher resources, but all for a cost.  I have a different document I can offer instead, that students had to complete for homework: Antigone Final Analysis

Source: me, my SHS co-worker, ReadWriteThink, and MockTrialGuide.pdf


  1. I just created a similar trial for Medea yesterday. You have so much more information, though. What a wonderfully thorough lesson! How long do your classes last? I've got 90 minutes with my "Honors" students, and I can see them doing as little as they possibly can. On the other hand, my girl murdered her two kids, her brother, her ex-husband's new wife and many more. So maybe my delightful students will be more drawn to murder and mayhem than I anticipate.

    Thanks for posting all of your information. You helped me see the gaps in mine.

  2. Your blog is amazing! I have learned so much from just skimming it! The information about your mock trial is very thorough and clear. My middle school students have conducted mock trials for TUCK EVERLASTING and THE OUTSIDERS. I would like to contact the teacher that conducted the trial of Odysseus because that is our plan for this year. Please ask that teacher if she would please contact me about her trial. I would be happy to share materials and ideas. Thanks!

  3. Hello! I am planning an Antigone Trial right now and came across your page. I'd love to see some of your attached resources, but for some reason the links do not seem to be working. Is there any way you could send them to me or check them?

    Thank you so much and sorry for the inconvenience.

  4. zbalaconis, thanks for stopping by! I have updated the links, so they should work now. The only one that seems to have fallen prey to the ever-changing internet is the final PDF, but I offer an alternative to that instead. Happy mock trial!