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(Mock) Trials and Tribulations

Every September, Mr. Cook hosts the Mock Trials in his English III classes. So, what is a mock trial? A mock trial is a simulation where students are given roles such as lawyers and witnesses based on the chosen book for the trial. Students will act as if they are in court with the lawyers questioning the witnesses. This year, Mr. Cook decided to include the English II Honors classes in addition to the English III Honors classes in the trials.

While English III did their trial on the classic play The Crucible, English II acted upon the Greek play, Antigone. As Mr. Lowman and Mr. Cook have told their classes, the first day of the trial is always the worst. After the first day, students were able to grow and refine their answers for the next trial day. Now that the trials have concluded, some students have shared their input on how they think the trials went.

"It was intense," Riley Grubbs, an English III sophomore who played Ann Putnam, said. "It felt like a real court. I learned a lot from this experience."

Throughout the years of trials, there has been a well-known fact among the English III class members: defense always wins. According to Mr. Cook, prosecution has only won the trial twice before. This year, there was one class which showed the school it is possible for the prosecution case to win: Mr. Cook's 2A English III Honors class.

Matthew Lopez, a sophomore in English III, played a Second Chair Lawyer on the prosecution side in this class. "I was so surprised when we won," he said. "Both teams worked really hard, and I think the trial could have gone either way."

English II Honors also did their Mock Trial for the first time. The jury took the defense's side in both classes, but Mr. Cook stated that for one of the cases, he was on the side of the prosecution.

Arden Montjoy, a freshman in the class, played the part of a First Chair Defense lawyer and expressed her opinions on the trial: "I learned how to really think critically about someone's situation, build an argument well, and get your point across without being disrespectful. I think it went well, and it went even better when people were invested in what they were saying."

When asked if he thought the English II trials went well, Mr. Cook said this: "Yes. Obviously, there were some mistakes, but that's part of the learning process. On the second day of each trial, the teams got much better and showed real improvement."

Obviously GMC's English classes aren't only doing this for fun or because the teacher didn't come up with a lesson plan. Mr. Cook says he has many reasons for assigning the project. "I have so many hopes for my students with this project. For one, I want them to understand how English is about transferable skills. I want them to improve on skill-sets which will benefit them for life, like analyzing text, finding and using evidence, communicating clearly and concisely, understanding rhetoric, managing time wisely, and speaking publicly. To me, it does so much more than a test would ever achieve. I don't care as much about standard comprehension as I do a wealth of skills which will benefit students in the future."

The students interviewed agree that the mock trial helped them with their ability to analyze text, use evidence, and understand rhetoric, as well as time management skills and speaking publicly. Mr. Cook gave his overall opinion of this year's Mock Trials: "This was a good year for the mock trials. The students got competitive, which made the questioning more dramatic." The mock trial has been proven by students to be an effective way of learning the text along with other skills.