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.

Rediscovering Japantown Through Images

Matsubu Laundry

For use with the Nikkei Center Suitcase, I wanted to create a lesson that could be used in upper elementary. This is the age range that most often checks out the suitcases. However, one has to be discerning of what one can discuss with students at that age, and for the most part, I left that up to the person teaching the lesson. Therefore, this lesson focuses more on the changes in physical features. It is a compare and contrast lesson on the past and future. There are elements of history, current day features, discussion and writing. This is a lesson that focuses on Japan town before Japanese Incarceration during World War II. Students will gain an understanding of change over a long period of time as well as some of the causes for that change. Students will also gain some writing practice.

It was very interesting learning about a part of this city’s history. I feel that this lesson can be used and modified across the elementary grades and that it will give a foundation of deeper learning about the situation in the future. Having written several lessons at the third grade level at this point, I believe that this is both appropriate and useful at that grade.This lesson is merely a guide to a deeper lesson. Teachers may chose to modify it as they see fit for their classroom or grade level.

Teacher:                                                                     Location:

Class/Topic: Social Studies

Time: approx. 35 minutes for discussion and some writing time. Might be a good supplement for regular writing lesson.

Grade Level: 3-5                                                       Date:


This lesson would be a basic overview of how things have changed in what used to be Japantown (and is now partly Chinatown) and what might have caused physical features as well as themes and ideas to change. To do this, students will look at old images; find similarities and differences to their own experiences and time. Then students will discuss and write about these themes. This is a lesson on the general Japanese-American experience before Japanese Incarceration occurred during WWII.


  1. Students will gain a familiarity with how and why things change over time.
  2. Students will be able to discuss things stay the same across time and how things change.


Students will be gaining knowledge of how to work with images and documents as well as gaining familiarity over their own community as it was in the past and how it is now. This will also give them experience in finding similarities and differences as well as some writing skills.

More: Download Incarceration Lesson PDF version of the complete lesson (81kb)

Image Credit:

DBQ “The Red Scare” Reflection


Christina Steiner and I have been working on this project for several weeks. We started out with the idea that propaganda is meant to stir feelings in a certain direction, bad or good. Then we decided that we wanted students to recognize the use of propaganda throughout history. Our general question was “What do we want students to learn from the DBQ overall?” The generative question that we formed out of this starting idea was: “How does a nation develop such an intense fear of an enemy, creating mass hysteria?”

We thought that a good starting point to understand such hysteria would be the Red Scare in 1950’s America. We wanted students to learn about the paralyzing fear of communism that existed among Americans at that time. We wanted students to understand what caused such terror to develop. We wanted students to think about what words, images, actions, and depictions might cause fear and what is needed to cause mass hysteria. Student will then be able to understand the driving force of the Red Scare in 1950’s America. The DBQ slowly leads students to think in an investigative manner.

Christina and I chose documents that would help answer the generative question. We found A LOT of interesting documents and images, but we tried to stick to those that would answer that generative question. This kept us focused on the task at hand. We also ended each document or image with follow-up questions, to scaffold student understanding of propaganda. We wanted each document or image to provide a great deal of information that could lead to greater student discovery and interaction with each piece.

The final project can be found here on Learnist and will soon be part of a larger iBook. Through this project, students will come to see and learn how America held such great fear of communism though images, books, comics, films, and posters. We looked specifically at media, examining the creation of enemies based on common perceptions rather than true events or facts.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

Nikkei Suitcase Lesson Plan – Legalities of the Incarceration

Reading evacuation orders on bulletin board at Maryknoll missionReading evacuation orders on bulletin board at Maryknoll mission

This project was really interesting to work on, because we had to take the images from the suitcase and then build lesson plans around them. We looked at the images to decide what point they were trying to make, and then we took those images and included them in our lesson plans. Making the lessons was a very educational experience, as I thought that it forced us to think more critically about the images – what does it say? How can a teacher use this? What would a elementary/middle/high school student take away from this image?

My lesson, titled Legalities of the Incarceration, is designed to be used with a travelling collection of artifacts from the Nikkei Legacy center. It is also intended to be used in a legal or government class or unit – for example, a unit on Japanese-Americans in World War II that concentrates on the legal question of incarceration, or a unit on the Bill of Rights with an examination of the Japanese-American incarceration as it relates to the Constitution, etc. I deliberately made this lesson extra-long, so that teachers can pick and choose what aspects they want to focus on in their classes. Continue scrolling down to find the lesson:

1. Identifying Information

Teacher: Location:
Class/Topic:   Social Studies/Japanese-American Incarceration Legal Study Time: 50 minutes
Grade Level: Middle School Date:

2. Overview:

This lesson is meant to be used as an overview of the legal aspects of the Japanese-American incarceration in concentration camps during World War II. The lesson can be used to introduce the history of the Japanese-American incarceration, or as a lesson meant to challenge students to think critically about the legal aspects of the incarceration. In this lesson, the students will be asked to think about the various legalities of interning people based on race and ethnicity, particularly how it relates to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans. This lesson is meant to complement a unit on either the Constitution/Bill Rights or World War II.

Note: Teachers, please use your discretion on what material you wish to cover. If your classroom is studying World War II, please feel free to just cover the vocabulary from WWII – make the lesson fit your needs!

3a. Goal:

Unit Goals:

  • TSW: develop an understanding of the Japanese-American incarceration.
  • TSW: be familiar with various legal terms (internment, incarceration, detain, lawsuit, civil rights, etc).
  • TSW: be familiar with the social, legal, and ethical arguments surrounding the Japanese-American incarceration.

Lesson Goals:

  • TSW: be familiar with the causes and effects of the Japanese incarceration.
  • TSW: be able to give definitions for the legal terms used in this unit.
  • TSW: describe the importance of the Japanese-American incarceration in its historical context.
  • TSW: describe the similarities and differences of the Japanese-American concentration camps to the concentration camps used by Nazi Germany.

More: Incarceration Lesson Download PDF version of the complete lesson (81kb)

Image credit: Library of Congress  LC-USF3301-013292-M2
Title: Los Angeles, California. Japanese-American evacuation from West Coast areas under U.S. Army war emergency order. Reading evacuation orders on bulletin board at Maryknoll mission
Creator(s): Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer
Date Created/Published: 1942 Apr.