Monday, October 12, 2009

The Appeal for George Milton

There are teachers and then there are educators. The latter are usually to be found in offices or headquarters and are particularly fond of writing about teaching. The former can be found in classrooms with the students or at the games with the parents. I fancy myself a teacher that writes about education; this blog is my third attempt to do so and in the form of stories. And this particular story begins with my constant quest for alternative assessments (i.e. "tests") and a chance conversation with a parent at one of my students' soccer game.

This parent happens to be a lawyer and related to me the alternative methods one of his law professors used to teach legal theory. To be honest, some of it (well, a lot of it) was over my head and I kept up as well as my "Law and Order" experience would allow. What I did understand right away was that this professor must have been my kind of teacher and that this parent was a really interesting guy. No surprise, really, since I have taught and currently teach two of his children: both of whom are exceptionally smart. At any rate, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and I thought nothing more of it until I was on the elliptical machine later on.

It occurs to me that I have resources in my students' parents that I hadn't considered before. I get out the Student Handbook and make the call. I asked him what he thought about helping me put together an often suggested, but rarely implemented, "test" for "Of Mice and Men": putting George Milton on trial for the murder of Lennie Small. He was thrilled with the idea. As he got excited, I got excited. Under his advice, we decided to go with a "Mock Appeal" rather than the mock rial format. Since we will run this with 8th graders, we needed to make it as simple as possible as possible. With a mock appeal set up, there would be not need for witnesses or cross examination. The students could focus their attention on the facts of the "case" and demonstrate their understanding of the plot.

Later, I worked with an Upper School teacher to hammer out the details of how to actually grade such an assessment whilst my new colleague worked on creating the format we would use. The end result is to provide the students with about three days of preparation, divide them into three groups, and then run the simulated appellate court. The students will treat the novella as a court record from a previous trial where George was convicted of murder. With this in mind, all students write two "briefs" in outline form that detail evidence for both sides of the case.

So here is the break down:
I. Wednesday: Introduce the situation where George Milton has been convicted of murder and his lawyers want an appeal. Explain the "law" we created and give them a overview of an appeal process. Their home assignment will be to close read the sections of the novella that they think are pertinent to these "laws."

II. Thursday: The class will summarize the book and share points of evidence with each other. I will explain how the appellate court will work and review our legal "definitions" of murder and mercy killing. Their home assignment will be to generate two outlines of briefs for both the appellant and appellee side, complete with items of evidence from the book and with page references.

III. Friday: Divide the class into three teams and give each team their tasks and responsibilities.
A. Team one and two will serve as Appellant Side and Appellee Side (respectively) and work towards to building their case on their best two arguments. Defense Team: one Senior Partner, two Junior Partners, ans two Research Associates. Prosecution Team: One District Attorney, two Assistant District Attorneys, and two Research Assistants.
B. The third team will be the Appellate Judges and will use their outlines to generate at least two questions they will want to ask both parties. Home assignment will be to review their notes and prepare over the weekend.

IV. Monday: Mock Appeal Day. 

  • 5 Minutes set-up and organization
  • 6 Minutes for Appellant to present (they should expect to be interrupted by Judges' questions)
  • 6 Minutes for Appellee to present (same expectations as above)
  • 3 Minutes for each side to rebut
  • 5 minutes for extra questions from Judges
  • 5 minutes for judges to adjourn and vote. Majority and Dissenting Opinions to be outline by both sides of the Justices.
  • 8-10 Minutes for wrap-up and debriefing.

I see the final grade comprised of 20 points for research(10 points for collecting evidence for both sides of the issue) and 10 points for class participation during the trial. I will serve as the Bailiff and my parent co-conspirator will serve as Parliamentarian. I will provide an actual lesson plan and rubric later. 

No comments:

Post a Comment