Lesson Plans - Law

The Case of   News vs Gossip

Lesson Plan:

GRADE(S): 9-12 (or older grades inexperienced with mock trials)


Use and abuse of chat rooms selling gossip or news? Chat room image Florida online reading - selling newspapers image source newscopy.org
This is a three part Simplified Mock Trial based on a classroom incident:
"I can say what I want!"
"I was just protecting my kid!"
  News vs Gossip
"I Want My Money back"
DURATION: 2 class periods for each trial

LANGUAGE: English (can easily be adapted to the language of the classroom)

AUTHOR: Keerock Rook, The Learning Foundation

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to...
• identify the process for settling a legal dispute (how are the facts of the case presented; how is the dispute resolved)
• identify key players in a legal dispute (who presents the facts; who makes the final decision)
• determine what makes a decision fair.
Small group deliberation in simplified mock-trial format; class is divided into three groups for mock trial; groups of three, one each acting as judge, accused and accuser, for review discussion.
A full-scale mock trial can be an intimidating prospect for an elementary classroom-both for teacher and students. This lesson plan for a simplified mock-trial provides an opportunity to experience the fundamentals of a trial:
• Beginning with a cast of three characters, students will develop skills that will lead them safely into more complicated cases.
• The basic tenets of the lesson include those items covered in the learning objectives.
• Understanding that the purpose of a trial is to settle a dispute between two people, the two parties are given an opportunity to present their side of the story to a judge.
• With the final authority resting with him/her, the judge takes some time to clarify issues with each party and then makes a decision that is seen to be fair to each party.
Without distinguishing between civil and criminal issues, this lesson illustrates the essentials of our adversary system: that each party is allowed to tell his/her side of the story, that the judge is the person with the authority to settle the dispute, that a fair decision is presented with reasons supporting that decision. See also mock trial cases: Apealing a Lower Court Opinion.
RECOMMENDED STUDENT MATERIALS: Copies of facts for accused and accuser; copies of Steps in the Trial for the judges.

The fact situation given here is based on an imaginary classroom incident. There may have been a real incident in your classroom that would be a good substitute. Develop roles that are gender-free and easily used by males or females.
Prepare fact sheets for the accused and accuser groups to read before beginning their trial. Make copies of the
Steps in the Trial for distribution to the judges group.
• Divide the class into three groups; each group represents the judge, the accuser, or the accused.
• Give fact sheets to the accused and the accuser groups, but not to the judge group. Give a copy of the Steps in the Trial to the judge group.
• Allow time for the groups to discuss their strategy: who will present their case, and how they will present their side of the story. Each group should choose a spokesperson to represent them in the trial.
• Follow the Steps in the Trial described below.
• Time permitting, repeat the trial with a different set of students representing each side of the story and the judge.
• Talk as a class about the trial(s) and the results. Ask for reactions to each role: how did it feel to be the judge, the accused, the accuser?
• Review the objectives for other teaching points.
Fact Situation:
A Newspaper that looks for possible stories from Thai web site bulletin boards, blogs, and chat-rooms picked up the story spreading about Lek and called her mother for an interview.

Lek’s mother told the Newspaper that Ms Lawson hated her daughter and took her hand phone to punish her.

The Thai Newspaper printed a story: Headline News "Teacher abuses kid"

The story added that the school in which the teacher taught was very bad and should be closed until the government investigates.

The article used Lek and her mother's name, and referred to the internet stories which used the name of the school and Ms Lawson as the teacher.

The same day, a parent of a student from the school sent the newspaper article to the head of the school.

He translated the article for Lek's teacher, Ms lawson, who became very upset.

"That's not true!" She said. "They lied!" "Don’t they need any evidence to show what they print is true?"

The Newspaper said it was just passing along stories that interested readers and the damage to Ms Lawson and the school were their own fault not the Newspapers.

Steps in the Trial
1. Let Ms Lawson (the accuser) tell her/his side of the story.

2. Let the Newspaper (the accused) tell their side of the story.

3. Let the judge ask Ms Lawson and the Newspaper questions.

4. Give the judge a few minutes to think.

5. Let the judge make a decision that is fair.

6. Let the judge explain his or her reasons.

ASSESSMENT: Lead whole-class summation discussion based on the objectives stated earlier. Older students might be given a written assignment. In groups of three, one representing each role, prepare a one page summary of the trial, that presents each side of the story and the judge's decision, with reasons. WHERE TO GO FROM HERE:
Click to open these related Simplified Mock Trials:

"I can say what I want!"
  News vs Gossip
"I was just protecting my kid!"
Try another of the mock-trial lesson plans, or develop your own based on a situation from current events in the community or the classroom. Write your own fact situation and adapt the Steps in the Trial accordingly. Some other lessons continue with three roles in each trial; some more complicated situations, for trials of six characters, add clerk and two lawyers. Refer to the Canada School Net Bibliography on Mock Trial Materials for reference or LFS Mock Trial Lesson Plans.

News vs Gossip - A Simplified Mock Trial based on the Canada School Net Simplified Mock Trial Design.

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