Thursday, September 11, 2008

English in Action

As a teacher, one of the most rewarding experiences is seeing your students use their English in a situation that they might never experience in their own countries. For example, most students would have no opportunity to speak in an American courtroom.

To give students a flavor of how our legal system works, a fellow teacher and I worked together to prepare our students to perform a mock trial of a real case (this is a great lesson idea from A Different Angle by Michelle Buehring, JAG Publications, 1998, Ch. 15 "Given Half a Chance," pp. 82-94) involving the shooting death of Yoshihiro Hattori, a high school foreign exchange student from Japan.

In preparation for the trial, two advanced ESL classes watched the film 'Philadelphia,' starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, both of whom played lawyers. Although the movie covers the weighty topic of discrimination against gays and all the ramifications of society's fear, abhorrence, and misunderstanding of homosexuality, it also gives students a chance to see some of what can take place in an American courtroom. In addition, students read about the case of Yoshihiro Hattori (see above reference).

The two classes were divided into jury members, judge, witnesses to the shooting, a defendant, and two legal teams, one for the prosecution and another for the defense. The two instructors who were present observed, and only at the end, after the jury made its decision, did the teachers intervene by informing the students of the outcome of the real court case.

Below is a video excerpt of the trial and a photo of both participating classes and their instructors. All the students gave outstanding performances and took their roles seriously, and there was a sense of suspense as we awaited the jury's verdict. Bravo! Encore!

No comments: