Class 11: Using Mock Trials in the Classroom

George CoulsonI’m a big fan of using mock trials – they embody critical thinking in the classroom. Over the years I wrote a number of cases which proved to be effective tools for improving student analytic skills and Common Core skills. Here’s a few posts from my blog on using them in the classroom and a link to two mock trials and an appeals case that I developed.

This week we will be visited by Ms. Barbara Rost, program director, Classroom Law Project. She’ll provide resources for law related education. (Be sure to follow that link – loads of lesson plans!)

As a demonstration activity, she will guide us through a mock trial –Vickers v Hearst (443kb PDF) Rules of evidence here.

Barbara graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Portland State University after using the 11-year plan to earn her degree, something she does not advocate for others. Three years later she earned her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School. She enjoys combining her interests in law and education in her work at Classroom Law Project. She is married, has two daughters in college and a really cute dog.

Classroom Law Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing civics, government and law to Oregon classrooms K-12. Teachers and students know CLP through programs such as mock trial, con team, Law Day conference (for students), Civics Conference for Teachers, court tours, weekly current events, professional development and more. CLP makes civic education fun. Its mission statement: Classroom Law Project is a non-profit organization of individuals, educators, lawyers, and civic leaders building strong communities by teaching students to become active citizens.

Image credit: George Coulson / Mug Shot / 1930s
This image is part of the Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum’s set “Newcastle upon Tyne criminals of the 1930’s.” Accession no. DX1190

This mug shot comes from a police identification book believed to be from the 1930s. It was originally found in a junk shop by a member of the public and subsequently donated to Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. No information is available to confirm which police force compiled it but evidence suggests it’s from the Newcastle upon Tyne area.

Class 10: Hosting #sschat / Get Started with iBooks Author

page 288 of Baltimore and Ohio employees magazineWe’re very proud that our EdMethods class has been selected to host #sschat on the Twitters – Nov 3, 2014 4-5 PM (Pacific) That night is election eve ’14 and our topic will be very timely – “Teaching Politics, Controversy and Civic Engagement.” For more on our chat questions click here.

After the Twitter chat raps up, we’ll spend some time debriefing on the experience.

Class DBQ iBook
Next up, we’ll get started with our iBooks Author training. Over the next few weeks we will use our DBQ projects to create a collaborative iBook. As a group, the class will review each other’s work before inclusion in the iBook collection of DBQs. Each student (or team) will contribute one DBQ in the form of a book chapter. It will include the project reflection as a way of introducing the DBQ.

Technical aspects
The iBooks will be designed using iBooks Author in the Mac lab. Students will bring digital versions of their DBQs to the lab – including all image and sound files, text files, citations and URLs. Here’s a quick guide to managing your files to get ready for iBooks Author: Get Started with IBA

Note: YouTube videos will be added to the iBooks using ibooksgenerator. All you need to have is the URL of the video.

For more see:


Next week we will have a visitor from the Classroom Law Project who will share law-related educational resources and guide us through a mock trial activity.

  • We will argue the case of Vickers v Hearst (443kb PDF) so be sure to read the case in advance.
  • To “learn the rules” read this guide Mock Trial Rules of Evidence (185kb PDF).
  • If you have never participated in a mock trial you may wish to look at this material that explains the various roles of attorney and witness  The People v Carter (2.4mb PDF)

Image credit: page 288 of “Baltimore and Ohio Railroad employees magazine” (1912)

Identifier: baltimoreohioemp01balt
Title: Baltimore and Ohio employees magazine
Year: 1912 (1910s)

Class 9: Work Session

palmer-riveting-team-webThis week we take a break from introducing new content and take an opportunity to give careful consideration to our DBQ design project. Students will have the opportunity to comment on each others blog posts to give suggestions and feedback. I will take time to meet with each student individually to discuss their project. We will also put finishing touches on next week’s class where we will be guest hosts of #sschat on Twitter.

Students will open an account at Learnist in class on 10/27 and use the site to post their working draft DBQ.
Due date: Nov 3rd.

Learnist is a web-based curation site with built in social media tools – it can collect and comment on videos, blogs, books, docs, images or anything on the web. (Think Pinterest for education?)

Your Learnist board should be tightly focused on documents that help students answer the DBQ’s generative question. Each document should include one or two scaffolding questions which help the student to use the documents to answer the DBQ’s generative question.

For a sample of a Learnist board Incarceration of Japanese Americans During WWII
YouTube Tutorials – Using Learnist

Your peers will be able to make comments after each document on your Learnist board to help you focus the DBQ. Since Learnist is open to the public, you can expect that others outside our class may comment as well. Later we will use your Learnist as part of your guest post on Copy / Paste – example

Image credit:

A man and woman riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 aircraft at the plant of North American Aviation
Photographer Alfred Palmer
Library of Congress LC-DIG-fsac-1a35284

Class 8: Teaching with Your Mouth Shut

Wanted for murder her careless talk costs livesDonald Finkel in his book Teaching with Your Mouth Shut, wrote “Our natural, unexamined model for teaching is Telling. The fundamental act of teaching is to carefully and clearly tell students something they did not previously know. Knowledge is transmitted, we imagine, through this act of telling.”

I admit to being guilty of dominating classroom discussion as a rookie social studies teacher. “Class, what were three results of the War of 1812? … Anyone? … Anyone??”

After years of facing this type of discussion, students learn that their comments are of provisional value until “approved” by the teacher. Over time, students stop listening to each other and only focus on what the teacher says or validates – “will that be up on a test?” When students are put in small group discussion, they rapidly get off subject. With no teacher to validate their comments, they naturally gravitate to other subjects where peer comments are valued – “what are you doing this weekend?”

Today’s class will explore strategies and resources for taking the teacher out of the role of information gatekeeper and encouraging productive student-centered dialogue.

We will begin with a peer review of student ideas the DBQ Assignment. Students will form two lines and have 2 minutes to pitch their DBQ design idea to each other and share some feedback. Then one line will shift and we repeated the pitch exchange. In all students will pitch their idea three times.

The goal of this phase is to gather feedback from peers regarding the following:

  1. You have an interesting generative / essential question worth answering.
  2. Your initial appraisal indicates there are suitable documents available.
  3. You have an idea for how students will interpret your documents. “What does it say, how does it say it, what’s it mean to me?”

The peer review will both reinforce the notion of getting the teacher out of the role of information gatekeeper and assist students in their DBQ Design process. Students will process the peer feedback using the Goal Setting Activity. (OETC Staff Development Strategies)

Next we will take part in another student centered discussion using the Fishbowl technique. Students will evaluate the activity as participant observers.

Finally we will explore a variety of student-centered discussion activities at OETC Staff Development Strategies and The Teacher Toolkit


Students will share their progress / reflection on the DBQ assignment as a blog post at EdMethods by Sunday Oct 26th. Here are some suggested approaches to the post.  Use what works for you. This will be a baseline reflection that you will look back on later to measure your progress with the DBQ design process

  • Explain how you intend to address the 3 questions above.
  • Use a sample document (or two) and related scaffolding questions to illustrate what you hope to accomplish.
  • Focus on the “big picture” of developing a DBQ that puts the student in the role of historian.
  • Reflect on the process we’ve used to peer review your ideas – has it been helpful?
  • What are the challenges you’re facing? What are you learning from the process?
  • How does (or doesn’t) this assignment build on the work we did on historical thinking earlier in the semester?

Image credit: Wanted! for murder : her careless talk costs lives ; Her careless talk costs lives

Keppler, Victor, 1904-1987 ; United States. Adjutant-General’s Office ; U.S. G.P.O. ; Distributed by Office of War Information 1944
Northwest University Library