Mock Trial Day Two

At 9:15 AM, the mock trial of Storyville v. Jack Jones was called to order.  The judge gave brief instructions and then invited the prosecution to give their opening statement.IMG_0021

Then it was the defense’s turn to make opening remarks.IMG_0022Next, the prosecution called their first witness, and the judge swore in Mrs. Martha Giant.

The prosecution conducted direct examination of Mrs. Giant.  She explained all about how her husband loved to sing that old giant favorite, “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” and how the lyrics were just lyrics and should never have been taken as threats.

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Then, it was time for the defense to cross examine.  They asked Mrs. Giant if she had given Jack permission to take the goose, and she vehemently denied that she had.


Mrs. Giant held firm.  She didn’t let the defense change her testimony.


The prosecution then called their next witness, Inspector Albert Morse.  Inspector Morse testified that he found Jack at the crime scene with an ax and the golden goose and egg.


Of course, the defense had to cross examine him, too.


Then it was the defense’s turn to call their first witness, Mr. Jack Jones.  Mr. Jones admitted that he had taken the goose, but claimed that Mrs. Giant had given him permission.  Mr. Jones testified that he had no idea the giant was on the beanstalk behind him, and that he acted in self defense when he chopped down the beanstalk.



The prosecution cross-examined Jack.  His criminal record troubled them, and they didn’t buy his story that he didn’t know the giant was on the beanstalk.  Jack held firm, though.


Then, the defense called their next witness, Mrs. Nora Jones.  Mrs. Jones testified that her beloved son was helpful around the house and trustworthy.


The prosecution cross-examined Mrs. Jones, pressing her about her son’s criminal past.IMG_0039

Then it was time for the prosecution to make their closing argument.  They denied that Mrs. Giant gave Jack permission to take the goose and claimed that the giant had not been threatening Jack so self defense had not been proven.


The defense made their closing arguments, emphasizing that Jack had acted in self defense.  Even if the giant had only been “singing” there was no way Jack would have known that the threatening words were simply part of a song.IMG_0041

The jury (five fourth graders on generous loan from Ms. Allan’s class) retired to deliberate.  They returned about ten minutes later, and found Jack guilty on the burglary charge and not guilty on the murder charge.  The jurors were swayed by Jack’s testimony that he meant to take the goose and that he took it because the giants had so many other things and could do without it.  They felt he was clearly guilty of burglary.  They were, however, convinced that Jack had acted in self defense.  They felt that, even if the giant were just singing his favorite song, there is no way Jack could have known this, and his fear for his life was reasonable.


**Note that, at the end of the other group’s mock trial, the jury found Jack not guilty on both counts.  As they explained, they believed Jack’s testimony that Mrs. Giant had given him permission to take the goose.  Further, Mrs. Giant admitted on the stand that she had given Jack permission.

Thank you so much to everyone for all of your support throughout this unit.  To the parents who helped draft and practice questions, statements, and arguments; and who joined us with standing-room-only in a small, sweltering room to observe the trial.  To the second grade teachers who dealt with time and date changes in addition to an already-confusing regular schedule to accommodate the trial and preparation.  To Ms. Lang, who helped do everything from move furniture, to take pictures, to prepare and supervise the jury (all on her own time).  To the third and fourth grade teachers who loaned us their students, and to the students themselves, who served as thoughtful, reasonable jurors.  Thank you ALL!

One Mock Trial Down, One to Go


At 9:15 AM, the first mock trial of Storyville v. Jack Jones was called to order.  Judge Green gave brief instructions.



The prosecution then made their opening statement.



Then it was the defense’s turn for their opening statement.


Next, the prosecution swore in their first witness, an obviously distraught Martha Giant.



The prosecution conducted direct examination of Mrs. Giant.



Then the defense cross-examined Mrs. Giant.  They threw her some hardballs for sure.



The prosecution called their next witness, Inspector Albert Morse.


Unfortunately, that’s when our school iPad decided to give up and stopped recording.  Maybe some of you have pictures you could add?  Inspector Morse didn’t take any guff on cross examination.  He  knew what he wanted to say and didn’t let anyone convince him otherwise.  The defense also called two witnesses — Jack Jones and Nora Jones.  Jack Jones, despite his criminal past, proved a remarkably credible witness.  Mrs. Jones’ belief in her son and his innate goodness was evident to all in the courtroom.

After closing arguments, the jury retired to deliberate.  They came back with a verdict (not guilty on both counts), which they explained eloquently.  I don’t know about you, but I was super impressed with how well they listened and processed what they were supposed to do.  The jury stated that Mrs. Giant had given Jack permission to take the goose, and so no burglary had been committed.  Further, they felt that Jack had acted in self defense and so could not be found guilty of murder.  (Just so you know, the jury had no warning or preparation.  They arrived to see Ms. Lang for their regularly-scheduled class and were told that — surprise! — they had jury duty.)

The second graders did a fantastic job.  They weren’t just reading lines from scripts — they wrote each and every question they asked in the trial.  They learned the difference between direct and cross examination and can explain what types of questions you ask and why.  They came up with the theories that came out at the (mock) trial — the giant was just singing his favorite song!  It was so cloudy out Jack couldn’t see that the giant was on the beanstalk! — and they stood by them to the end.

As with any trial, many of the witnesses were nervous, and things did not proceed exactly as planned or anticipated.  That is to be expected, and (at least to me) it made it seem even more like a real trial.

I hope these kids are proud of themselves and what they’ve accomplished.  They put on a mock trial that could rival any high school mock trial (and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to say that they would do okay against law school students, too).

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement over the last several weeks.  At many times I wondered if attempting this unit with second graders was a completely boneheaded thing to do, but they proved themselves more than capable, and we couldn’t have done it without your help.

Mock Trial part two (for students in Quinn, Stillwagoner, Manalac, Will, and Cunningham’s classes) proceeds tomorrow promptly at 9:15 AM!


Welcome to Kindergarten Reading!

Welcome to kindergarten enrichment reading! I see each kindergarten group once a week for half an hour on Tuesday afternoons. The groups will re-configure next quarter based on assessment information; they are designed to be fluid, based on the students’ needs.

This week, we spent some time going over the rules (did you hear about Rule #1?) and getting acquainted. We talked about how some of the reading we do in the group, and some of the questions we ask and answer, will be difficult sometimes. That’s okay! We’re here to push their limits, and that is what we’ll do.

Some weeks the kids will bring a book home with a sheet of questions about the book. This week, one group brought home Animal Hospital and the other group brought home Mammals. Both are non-fiction, though Animal Hospital does have elements of a fictional story mixed in. Other weeks, the kids won’t bring home a book because we’ll be doing other reading-related activities like word games, parts of speech, anagrams, onomatopoeia… the list goes on.

There will be homework almost every week. This week, as always, your child’s name and the due date is written at the top of the homework in green. That’s how you know it comes from me. Homework is due one week from the day it is assigned. It’s always okay to turn it in early!

This week, we played Word on the Street Junior. This game is great for practice with letters, spelling, and sounds in words. There is more strategy to it than it appears, and the kids took awhile to understand that they needed to choose long words with lots of letters, especially letters that were close to being “captured.” They had a great time playing, though many of them were dismayed that it was a “winning” game (“My mom says it’s better when we can all just work together!” — I don’t disagree!).

I will post updates about our activities here on the blog. Stay tuned!

Second Grade Humanities — Mock Trials NEXT WEEK

Well, the second grade humanities students seem to be as ready as they possibly could be for the mock trial of Jack Jones.  Trials are next week Tuesday, December 9th (Custer/Dixon/Smith/Neubert) or Wednesday, December 10th (Manalac/Cunningham/Quinn/Stillwagoner/Will), both at 9:15 AM in my room here at TJ, Room 149 just at the bottom of the stairs down to the gym/cafeteria.  All are welcome; your children should have brought home formal invitations today.  It’s a small room and it will be squishy, but we’re all friendly.  (Mostly.)  We will be recording the trials, so you will be able to view them later even if you cannot come in person.

Students need to be practicing!  Links to questions are below. They also brought their files home this week, so they should have everything they need.  Costumes, for both witnesses and attorneys, are welcome and encouraged next week. They will have time and space to change if necessary.

Defense Questions

Prosecution Questions