The Rendell Center Literature-Based Mock Trials framework is easy to follow. The downloadable Handbook guides educators step-by-step on how to develop literature-based mock trials with their students from grades K through 8.
The literature-based mock trial is designed to focus on the literature that the students are reading in the classroom. The goal is to enrich the students’ learning experience with the literature while teaching them about the American government and its judicial system.
This activity not only builds knowledge and understanding of our judicial system, but also provides practice in democratic deliberation while strengthening students’ literacy skills. The framework is one that marries literacy and civic literacy in an ongoing effort to provide students with the knowledge and disposition of engaged citizens. These are skills they will carry throughout their lives.
Everything you need to learn about and introduce Literature-Based Mock Trials into your classroom is available in our Training Section. This is where you can watch our instructional video and download our Mock Trials Handbook, as well as download additional worksheets and handouts. We’re excited for you to get started and are here to help. Email any questions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Teachers and Students are Saying
Here are just a few of the comments we have received about the impact our Literature-Based Mock Trials are having:
“Reading a book lets you use your imagination. Playing the role [in the trial] makes it so personal for you.”- Tayjonna
“The trial felt so alive as if it were in a courtroom and this was for real. The authenticity of the trail, I believe, helped my classmates and me to treat it as if it was an actual case… Every part of the mock trial taught me something new.”- Annamaria
“I enjoyed doing the Mock Trial because it really had our brains working, and it was fun for all of us. Also, I enjoyed the Mock Trial because it was an experience for my class to think outside of the box.”- Mustafa
“We learn to think…because as a lawyer you absolutely have to be on your toes. Not every case is simple and if you don’t have the ability to think [critically], you could end up letting a lot of criminals roam free.” – Itez
“[Mr. Cozzi] inspired me to learn more about law, court, and everything related to that subject. I would love to be a lawyer or a judge, and I will keep working towards that goal.” – Thea
“It taught our students how to think critically about a situation and realize that there is a gray area… The students were able to write the dialogue for the trial and were also able to do a very close reading of the text to learn more about the characters’ actions and motivations.” – Judy Bender, Perelman Jewish Day School
“Knowing that they were going to do the Mock Trial gave my students the incentive to really read and comprehend the novel.” – Jodi Fleishman, teacher, Olney Elementary School
“Our mock trial fit perfectly with our fifth grade Social Studies and Literature programs. We study civics, government, and where we, as good citizens, fit into the overall picture of our nation.” – Dr. Steven Portman, teacher, Copper Beach Elem. School
“The Program requires students to read critically and find evidence upon which to build their cases. This is a necessary literary skill- supporting a thesis with excerpts from a text. It also enhanced their writing skills by encouraging them to be succinct and direct in their arguments.” – Mary Finnegan, teacher, St. Isadores
“The students were required to think very deeply about the characters, their motivations, evidence, proof, types of questions to ask in a trial, and working well with others in a group setting. The students were also able to speak in front of their classmates and a judge in an actual courtroom.” – John Behan, teacher, Greenberg Elem School
“This year we had a criminal defense lawyer who helped the students to formulate questions. She was amazing. The students were overwhelmed when she showed them how to question a witness. They said it was like watching a TV law show! Also, our judge for the trial was tremendous. She helped to guide the students through the trial and really treated them like experts in the case. Both the lawyer and the judge spent extra time after our sessions to teach them about the jobs that they do and what a person would need to do be successful in that career. I have several students who want to be lawyers now!” – Anne Olvera, EM Stanton Elementary School
Our Mock Trials in the News
The Rendell Center’s Literature-Based Mock Trials have been featured in the following education publications:
Through participation in literature-based mock trials, students:
- Gain an understanding of courtroom procedures and our legal system (roles of judges,
lawyers and juries), thereby providing exposure to a wide variety of law-relate careers.
- Gain an understanding of the Constitutional principles of Rule of Law, Presumption of
Innocence, Burden of Proof, Due Process, Rights and Responsibilities and the concepts of
justice and authority.
- Develop higher level thinking skills (i.e. critical analysis of problems, strategic thinking,
- Develop confidence, teamwork and communication skills.
- Increase proficiency in basic skills such as reading, writing, speaking, analyzing, listening
and reasoning—all in an interactive and engaging environment.
- Develop skills in preparing, organizing, and presenting material.
Learn more about the positive impact our Literature-Based Mock Trials are making in schools. Our 2017 report shares information about our current Mock Trials activities and includes a teachers’ poll, their comments, and other valuable information. Download the report.
The Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement is proud to partner with the Pennsylvania Bar Association on this project. The Pennsylvania Bar Association has lawyers and judges who will come into your classroom and assist with the Literature- Based Mock Trial. Have your students learn about cross-examination from a defense attorney or watch your students argue their cases in front of an experienced judge.