Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers

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Jury Classroom Activities
By:Jennifer Hench

Teaching students about the judicial system within the United States involves focusing on all areas of the law. When it comes to teaching the jury portion of trial and case law, utilizing classroom activities is one way to make the concept more understandable. Jury classroom activities teach basic concepts through interactive methods, thus helping educators better explain the somewhat complex topic.

Basic Concepts
The first way to teach the concept of a jury and trial law is to introduce students to the importance of the topic. As a baseline activity, present a lecture which explains the judicial process, making sure to note which types of cases are suitable, eligible or potentially chosen for a jury trial. Pass out documents listing basic information such as The Declaration of Independence to support the historic relevance of jury trials, a list of commonly used terms found throughout the judicial system and summaries of some well known jury trial cases from the past. Follow the activity by a roundtable question-and-answer session where students are encouraged to ask questions to better understand the concept and process.

Jury Duty Definition and Responsibilities
The concept of the jury, once the basics are understood, is rooted in the development of a student's understanding of the importance and civic duty associated with jury duty. To better help students learn about being a member of a jury, use a jury selection activity to illustrate the process for selection and participation. Have students fill out standard-style jury questionnaire forms to help show how a good mixture of viewpoint, impartiality and unbiased opinion are required for a balanced jury. This activity is a precursor to learning more about the jury system and process.

Movie Time
The classic film "Twelve Angry Men" is one way to introduce the concept of jury trials to students. The movie, available in both classic and modern versions, is specifically centered around the trials and tribulations associated with 12 men making up a jury which will decide the fate of another man. Use the movie as a classroom activity in teaching about juries and jury duty as the characters in the movie wrestle with the decision making process and the associated tasks. To expand this activity, make sure to have students write an essay about lessons learned by watching the movie.

Mock Trials
A mock trial is one way to further teach about the court system, due process and legal proceedings. When using a mock trial to expand and extend the knowledge about a jury and the functions relevant to the jury portion of the process, opt for a mock trial suitable for jury usage. Gather and distribute case information, sticking to a known case with easy to understand parameters based on the age of the students. Showcase arguments by both the defense and prosecution, mock judge statements, witness testimony and victim statements for the entire class to see. To include more of the jury portion, make sure the jury debates and assesses the mock trial information in an open area for other students to watch and learn from.





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