Classroom Activities

  Court Lesson by Dr. Walter Tilghman, Counselor, Big Ridge Elementary School, Chattanooga, TN

  1. Population: A 3rd, 4th or 5th grade classroom. May also be adapted for use in middle and/or high school. A judge, bailiff, defense attorney, defendant, witnesses and an eight-member jury must be selected from members of the class. A robe, a gavel and a bailiff's badge are good things to provide, but not necessary.
  2. Goals: Students will: 1) be made aware of and learn about the character traits of Citizenship, Honesty and Responsibility, 2) develop a greater understanding of our court system, 3) integrate social studies curriculum, and 4) be introduced to selected career information.
  3. Activities: A defendant is accused of the attempted murder of Citizenship. The prosecution's case is that a person is a good citizen if he/she is knowledgeable of the history of the country in which he or she is a citizen. The defense wishes to prove that the defendant is not a good citizen due to a lack of knowledge about our country. The defense's must show that the defendant is a good citizen, and knows about our country. The Prosecution and the Defense each have witnesses to support their case. (See attached samples)
  4. Trial: The basic rules of a trial are given to the Judge. He/she may use this sheet throughout the course of the trial.
  5. Verdict: The jury is instructed to "make their decision based only on the facts presented and not on how they feel" The decision must be unanimous. A hung jury falls to the judge.


Teacher: "(Mr. Madam Bailiff: Please prepare this classroom for trial.") The bailiff seats the defense, prosecution and the jury. He/she then seats the judge by saying: "All rise for the Honorable Judge _________."
Judge: "Please be seated. Bailiff, that is our first case?"
Bailiff: "Your Honor, our first case is ___________vs. the United States of America."
Judge "Very well, is the Prosecution ready? (Yes, Your Honor) Is the Defense ready? (Yes, Your Honor) Very well, the Prosecution may make opening statements."
Pros: Makes opening remarks.
Judge: "The defense may make opening statements."
Def.: Makes opening remarks.
Judge: After the opening statements, the Judge will say: "The Prosecution may call its first witness."

The following are the basic rules for a court trial:

  • When the Prosecution is finished with the witness, the Defense may cross-examine (ask questions of the witness) Likewise, when the Defense calls a witness, the Prosecution may cross-examine.
  • Objection: The Prosecution and Defense may object to something being said or done during the trial. If the Judge agrees, he/she says, "SUSTAINED!" If the judge does not agree, he/she will say: "OVERRULED!" If the Judge does not know why the objection was made, he/she should ask: "On what grounds do you make your objection?"
  • After all witnesses have been called, the Judge will have the Prosecution give closing statements. The Defense may not object during closing statements. After the Prosecution has finished then the Judge will ask the Defense for closing statements. The Prosecution may not object during closing statements.
  • After closing statements the Judge explains to the jury that they must " make their decision based only the facts presented and not how the feel." They also must all agree on a verdict of GUILTY and NOT GUILTY. After the jury has met, the jury spokesman will give the verdict when the Judge asks for it.
  • The Judge gets the jury's verdict by saying and doing the following: First, have the Defendant and defense Counsel stand. Then say, "Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?" The Jury Spokesman will stand and say: "yes, your Honor, we have." ("No, your Honor, we cannot) (If the Jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, then you have a Hung Jury. I will explain how that is done.) The Judge will then ask: "Members of the Jury, on the Case of _______ vs. the United States of America, what you say?" The Jury Spokesman will say: "Your Honor, the members of this Jury find the defendant GUILTY or NOT GUILTY!" The Judge dismisses the jury by saying: "Members of the Jury, this Court dismisses you and thanks you for a job well done."
  • The Judge will now pass sentence of the verdict is GUILTY or release the Defendant if found NOT GUILTY. The Judge will then say, "This court is adjourned."
  • The Bailiff will say, "All rise". When everybody is standing, the Judge will leave the bench.
  • The trial is now over and everybody returns to his or her seat.
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