Why use Mock Trials in an ESL Classroom?

Immersion role playing, such as mock trials have proven to enhance students’ critical thinking skills giving them the ability to have passionate and logical discussions (White, 2007). These logical discussions help to motivate language acquisition while providing a deep intercultural immersion dimension (Leon-Henri, 2012). Using a piece of literature or a popular podcast students can bridge the often separated skills of reading, listening, and speaking. Throughout the mock trial process students are dynamically shifting skills through reading, researching, acting, and actively listening. Presented with a historical, intriguing, and unsolved murder mystery, students become engaged in a multi-dimension reading platform.  Students delve into court-case transcripts, testimonies, descriptions of evidence, videos, and  biographies of the characters that students will be assigned for role-play.  Prior to the trial, students will also learn courtroom vocabulary, how the US court system works, and are given the role play assignments such as jury member, judge, and attorney.  Critical thinking skills, debate, and collaborative learning both inside and outside the classroom are all developed in this project.  Pivotal to this experience is the web-based site that pulls all of these together.  Providing links to videos and listening exercises further enhances the multi-disciplinary aspects of the lesson.