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Literary Characters on Trial: Combining Persuasion and Literary Analysis
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Unit|
|Estimated Time||Eight 50-minute sessions|
After reading a work of literature as a class, students will brainstorm "crimes" committed by characters from that text. Groups of students will work together to act as the prosecution or defense for the selected characters, while also acting as the jury for other groups. Students will use several sources to research for their case, including the novel and internet resources. All the while, students will be writing a persuasive piece to complement their trial work.
While this lesson uses Shakespeare's The Tempest, there are several other text options. Handouts (except for the model case handout) are generic so that they can be used with any text.
Roles of the Members of a Trial: This handout briefly explains all the roles played by students in a mock trial.
Exploring the Judicial System Through a Literary Mock Trial: This online tool asks students to visit several Websites and answer questions in order to learn about the U.S. judicial system.
Dramatic activities, such as imagining a trial for certain characters, encourage students to "reflect on the experience and meaning" of the reading. Students work together to create their own meanings, an essential characteristic of constructivism. Through drama, students create a new world in which the characters, themes, and motivations of the novel combine with and affect students' understanding of the world in which they live. Most important, students are empowered to see how the themes of literature relate to their own lives.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. "Learning by Being: Drama as Total Immersion". Voices from the Middle 6.2 (December 1998): 3-10.