Book Review: Order in the Court Mock Trial Simulation

Here is my review of this
junior high courtroom mock trial simulation published by Prufrock Press in Waco, TX

Teachers who are introducing their grades 6-8 students to the U.S. criminal justice system will benefit from this thorough guide to putting on a classroom mock trial. The showcase trial covered, based on the story of the three little pigs, is amply supplemented with other case briefs and details to ensure that the emphasis remains on analysis and not just on the potential theatrical opportunities.

There is substantial education support within the guide, detailing the educational theories behind the simulation. Each of the seven lessons identifies how long it is estimated to take, and provides thorough explanation of what might take place and tips on how to vary the program. Although the cover states it’s for high ability learners, there are analytical tools geared towards those at or below grade level as well.

The book consists of a significant number of prepared worksheets and other content that is ready to use. From a lawyer’s perspective, some of these would make decent additions to a basic trial notebook. I liked the helpful hints for each of the roles, and also the inclusion of a lesson solely focused on case analysis.

The few quibbles I had with the book include calling the closing argument a closing statement. In fact, the book calls it both things but more frequently a statement. Since this is geared as a soup-to-nuts simulation, the same term (closing argument) should be used consistently throughout. From an educational standpoint, it helps to differentiate the opening statement (factual) from the closing argument (persuasive). There is a typo in this edition on the direct(ion) witness definitional round robin worksheet title that teachers will probably want to fix. The instructions for witnesses in chapter 3 was confusing to me, since it was directed to the defendants and not towards non-party witnesses, and so may not be as useful for the Little Red Riding Hood & Dr. Wolfgang.

A teacher will have a different perspective and better appreciation of the value in the additional features focused on implementing the course. I would feel confident that, if my children participated in this simulation, they would get a solid understanding of the skills required to operate in a courtroom as well as having a fun experience.