Lesson Plans - Law

The Case of   Slanted News

Lesson Plan:

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


Headline: Bookstore wants ten year old in Jail!

This is a two part Simplified Mock Trial based on a fictional life experience in Thailand:

"The Stolen Comic Book"
"Slanted News"

Mock Trial about child stealling Selling the news cartoon image lorenjavier.com - selling news image source newscopy.org

DURATION: 2 class periods (45 minutes each)

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 criminal dispute (how are the facts of the case presented; how is the dispute resolved)
• identify key players in a criminal dispute trial and the roles they play in settling the dispute.


Small group deliberation in simple mock-trial format; groups of six, one each acting as judge, clerk, prosecutor, witness, accused, and defence counsel.

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.
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.

- A Newspaper heard that a ten year old had been caught stealing a comic book from a police station source, and that the shop staff wanted him charged with stealing .

- They got the names of Tip, his mother, and Nok from the police report and called Tip's mother.

- Tip’s mother said the staff of the book store hates kids, which is why they wanted her kid arrested.

The Newspaper did not call Nok or the bookstore.

- The Newspaper ran a story with the Headline: Bookstore wants ten year old put in Jail

- The story added: "The bookstore staff only cared about making money and didn't care about the boy's future.

- "The staff were not acting like Thai people, who are kind..."... the article concluded.

- Sales at the bookstore had dropped by 90%, within a week, customers stopped coming, and two bookstore staff quit because they were afraid of the threatening phone calls to the store....

- The Newspaper claimed the damage to the bookstore was its own fault and the Newspaper should not be held responsible.
Steps in the Trial
1. Let The Bookstore (the accuser) tell their side of the story.

2. Let the boy's mother (the accused) tell her side of the story.

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

4. Let the judge ask The Store Clerk, the boy's mother, 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.
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.

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 Law and Society Lessons Simplified Mock Trials.

The Case of Slanted News - A Simplified Mock Trial based on the Canada School Net Simplified Mock Trial Design.

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