Mock Trial, A Service Activity
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    3. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify specific learning objectives from the academic core curriculum that are being applied in the service-learning project.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.

The learners will demonstrate to other learners the following concepts: common good, decision making model, opportunity cost, limited resources, pursuit of happiness, and civic writing through a courtroom simulation which they will present to other learners.

PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods; One or Two Forty-Five Minute Class Periods for Service Activity

The learner will:

  • identify and define common good .
  • identify and define limited resources .
  • define and identify opportunity cost .
  • make a decision using the decision-making model.
  • define and identify the pursuit of happiness .
  • discriminate between the common good and the pursuit of happiness.
  • compose a letter demonstrating knowledge of the common good.
  • dramatize a courtroom case applying the previous objectives.
  • Uncle Jed's Barbershop, by Margaret King Mitchell
  • The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
  • Pencils, paper
  • Handout One: Decision-Making Model
  • Handout Two: Letter Rubric
  • Handout Three: Courtroom Simulation Cards/Preparations)

Instructor's Notes: Success of an academic service-learning activity depends on reflective activities and celebration. Please note that there is a reflection activity each day and at the end of the activity suggestions are made for celebratory activities. Learners should have two ways of demonstrating reflective techniques. Categories to select from would be: Writing, Dialogue or Artistic.This service-learning activity meets the school-community need for greater awareness of dumping of waste and maintaining a clean water supply. These learners will prepare a mock trial to present to other classes to inform, enlighten and gain greater awareness of the role everyone has in the effort for the common good. Reflection : Allow a minimum of five minutes at the end of each class period for reflection. Each day learners may draw about the activities, keep a scrapbook, log into a journal, write a poem, write a letter, create a photo log, create a slide show of the class, write press releases for the parents, teachers and community, and pairs of learners can record each others' feelings about the day's activities. Final reflection should take place at the conclusion of the activity and contain an element of evaluation. Ask the learners to address how they felt about what they were doing, what worked, what needs to be strengthened, what did they learn about themselves from this service activity and what did they learn about others. Celebration: The purpose of celebration is to reinforce the positive feelings gained through service. Instructors may award certificates, invite a judge or lawyer from the community to give a special presentation to the class, an award can be sent home signed by the principal or district official, students can be recognized at parent school meetings or a bulletin board can be put up featuring the achievements of the class.

Home Connection: 

Learners can watch a trial on television with a parent or visit a court and witness a jury trial. Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Learners will interview a parent or relative about a time when he/she was called for jury duty. The learners will write a description or record their parent's experience to the class. Ask the learners to tell how their parent/guardian felt about jury duty.

  • Mitchell, Margaret King. Uncle Jed's Barbershop. Simon & Schuster, 1994. ISBN: 0671769693
  • Geisel, Theodore Seuss. The Lorax. Random House, 1971. ISBN: 0394823370
  • Skidmore, Steve. What a Lot of Trash! Thomas Yardley, 1991.
  1. Day One Anticipatory Set:Explain to learners that they will review a law case in which a city has brought a business, ( insert a name _____________, to court because the business has been dumping waste into the local river. We're going to set up a mock trial that will include defending this business, prosecuting this business, and deciding this case in a court of law. Before we can do anything with this case, we need to educate ourselves about the case and the decision-making model so we can have an informed fair trial.Explain to the class that the mock trial they produce will be tried before learners in other grades to help them understand about how important it is to keep our water supply clean and to demonstrate to others that volunteering for the common good helps everyone.

  2. Engage learners in a discussion about why the city would bring a lawsuit about this woman. What did the city feel that she did wrong?

  3. Review and discuss the definition of the common good with the class.The Common Good - Citizens should work together for the good of all.

  4. We are going to make a decision for our mock trial that will affect this business and the entire community. We will explore this idea of the common good further using the book Uncle Jed's Barbershop.

  5. Read the children's story, Uncle Jed's Barbershop, discussing the decisions Uncle Jed is faced with in the story.

  6. After reading the story, complete the Decision-Making Model (Handout One ) together.

  7. First define Uncle Jed's problem. List the two choices and the effects of each choice. Then decide the choice or choices he made for the common good . Finally, decide what the opportunity cost is in this situation. (What did he give up?)Opportunity Cost : What you give up in order to get the thing you want most.

  8. Review the importance of making decisions for the common good and discuss the effects of those decisions.

  9. Reflection : Allow a minimum of five minutes at the end of each class period for reflection. Each day learners may draw about the activities, keep a scrapbook, log into a journal, write a poem, write a letter, create a photo log, create a slide show of the class, write press releases for the parents, teachers and community, and pairs of learners can record each others' feelings about the day's activities.

  10. Day Two Anticipatory Set:Remind learners about the upcoming mock trial. Ask the class if anyone has ever watched a court case in real life or on television. Have the students/learners describe the courtroom procedure. State to the class that "our case will be tried by a jury".

  11. Explain to the learners that the business on trial will be the defendant and the lawyer representing the city will be the prosecutor.

  12. Today we will work on information needed to plead the cases for the defendant and for the prosecution.

  13. In order to do this, we will discuss another core democratic value , the pursuit of happiness . Yesterday we discussed the common good. Could someone please tell the class what the common good stands for?

  14. What do you think the pursuit of happiness means?

  15. Define pursuit of happiness and give examples.Pursuit of Happiness : All citizens can find happiness in their own way, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.

  16. Introduce the book, The Lorax, and tell the learners to look for the decisions made by the characters throughout the story.

  17. Read the story and ask the learners if the decisions were made for the common good of the community or for the pursuit of happiness of one individual .

  18. Pose the following questions: "Should the main character in that story have the right to put a factory in the community without thinking of the environment?" "Are there some ways in which the women's business enhances the common good?" (e.g., jobs for people in the community, increased revenue in the community). Discuss who works in the business and where they spend their paychecks.

  19. After you pose the questions, compose a letter with the class following the rubric on (Handout Two: Letter Rubric ).

  20. Now that we have completed all the lessons in the unit, I am going to assign parts for the mock trial. I will have the role of judge, so I can act as referee just as a regular judge would act in a jury trial.

  21. Assign parts as you see fit. See Handout Three: Courtroom Simulation Cards/Preparations for jury trial to read the roles of each part.

  22. For homework, each student will complete the assignment stated on Handout Three: Courtroom Simulation Cards/Preparations for his/her role.

  23. Day Three Anticipatory Set:Today is the day for our mock trial. I know everyone has worked extremely hard to prepare for this trial, so please be polite and respectful to your peers as they perform their part.

  24. Today we will hear the case of the city versus _________________.

  25. Facilitate the mock trial using all parts. You may want to add extra witnesses.

  26. While the class waits for the jury to complete their decision making model and discussion, the other members will write a paragraph about their likes and dislikes of the activity or they may complete the decision making model also, though it would not count in the verdict.

  27. When the verdict is delivered, the concept of the common good will be delivered by the judge (the teacher) to the defendant. The judge may also give the defendant a fine and perhaps an additional punishment as the class sees fit.


Day 1 Observe learners during the discussion of the common good. Also, observe the learners while you discuss and fill out the decision making model. Evaluate the decision making model.Day 2 Observe learners brainstorming ideas and editing the letter.Day 3 Learners simulate the mock trial. Each student will be assessed on his/her own part. Jury members must complete the decision making model as a result for the common good. Witnesses must demonstrate their knowledge of the lessons used previously and protect the common good. Lawyers and defendant must have a civic writing composed following the guidelines of the rubric.