Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Court Case

I have just had the most amazing teaching experience in sportyclass. We read a short story called "Tony's Story" in which the protagonist, Anthony Sousea, a Pueblo Indian, kills a New Mexico state trooper. In New Mexico, this is punishable by death by lethal injection. So we had to stage a court case; "The state of New Mexico vs. Anthony Sousea".

One (bright) student wanted to be the defendant. Then, I described all the roles in the case; we needed:
  1. Counsel for the prosecution
  2. Counsel for the defence
  3. A jury of about 5 students
  4. Witnesses
  5. Character witnesses
  6. Expert witnesses

I, the teacher was the judge (gavel and all). Then, three students were chosen for each of the counsels. I picked out students of varying skill in order for them to work together. A number of students were not present and these got to be the jury. When they returned their job was to read the short story carefully. Then, two and two students got to represent each witness; friends, the first to get to the scene of the crime, the Governor of the Pueblo, psychologists and so on.

When everyone had got a role, I explained about death penalty and lethal injection in particular. Then, I explained about the procedure of the court case and helped the students by guiding their research. In this case, I had to give the counsels legal advice as best as I knew how ("plead insanity" etc.).

After 1,5 hours of preparation, we arranged the desks as if in a court. Then, I opened the trial by using television phrases ("Hand on the English book and repeat after me: I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth") and invited the counsel for the prosecution to call witnesses. This done, the witnesses were questioned by the prosecution and then cross-examined by the defence, all practicing their speaking skills. Then, the counsel for the defence were allowed to do the same. Most witnesses were called, and the prosecution clinched the deal early by getting the psychologist to give testament to the defendant's sanity. The defence then had to argue self defence, but did so poorly, getting less than optimal testament from Tony's friend Leon.

A few misguided and overruled objections later, the court was told to adjourn after a 10 minute break (while the judge put the desks back in their places and the jury deliberated). The jury, being excessively bloodthirsty, actually asking to prosecute the village priest as well, spent little time in condemning the poor Native American to death. The verdict passed, the students were allowed to leave, and colleagues, who had been wary of such experimental teaching techniques, were informed of the success.

Now I am lending out my gavel to them.

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