U.S. history classes studying the westward expansion of America’s white settlers used the mock trial format to interrogate the legacy of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, putting him on trial for driving Native Americans off their lands.
Preparing and conducting opening statements, direct examinations, and closing arguments, students took on the roles of historical figures who were involved in the real-life accusations centuries ago, arguing their cases before teacher Paula Etheridge.
The format requires that students evaluate perspective and corroboration, which are key elements of the study of history. They learn to evaluate contemporary primary source documents, which are used as evidence, and get the opportunity to collaborate in teams to evaluate evidence and construct strategy.
It also provides an especially good forum for students who learn best through role-playing activities, allowing them to deepen their knowledge of concepts, people, and periods that were discussed in class.