Assessment, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Interactions Among Branches of Government, Professional Development

Moot Court Assessments…Beyond Multiple Choice

After I attended the Street Law Institute in 2016, I started to really look at how I assessed my AP Gov kids. Sure, multiple choice is important, as is learning to write FRQ’s but I wanted to really assess what they learned in my class.

Enter Moot Court and changing the way I look at AP.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely use multiple choice and writing for assessing. However, I struggled with giving a final exam that didn’t really match what I wanted to see. I wanted to see the application of the knowledge.

This will be my 3rd year doing it, and I’m already excited for it!

First, I pass out the Supreme Court Mock Trials instructions. I use current cases that I get from Street Law. Last year, we used Carpenter v. USNIFLA v. Becerra, and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I liked being able to use them in conjunction with the oral arguments because of the news stories in current times. It got the students more involved! Even though the sheet requires the lawyers to write a paper, I let them know it’s more of notes for their oral essay in front of the Court. They don’t actually turn anything in.

I give students a choice as to their role. It has worked out in the past because you have students who do not want to speak, but like the social media aspect. You have students that try new things. {I used this letter for my re-certification for National Boards and it still get me every time. As teachers, we wield a power greater than anything, the power to get kids to believe in themselves}

Throughout the course of the time I allot for this project, we listen to oral arguments {yes, we listen to the full oral argument}. I use oyez.org because as we listen, student can read the transcript and see who is talking. We watch news clips that students find. We immerse ourselves in that world and it covers everything we learned. We look at the Constitution, at the amicus briefs submitted by interest groups, and precedent cases. Each year is a bit different as each class is a bit different.

The day of is always the best. I require students to dress up for Court. I take this very seriously. We do it on a block day to allow for full time. Here is the breakdown of the roles:

Chief Justice: This person runs the show. Just like Chief Justice John Roberts, they are in charge of the introduction, the timing, and reigning in any issues. They also get to use the gavel that I got from the Supreme Court.

Justices: Are responsible for asking questions, knowing their stuff, and making sure the lawyers do too.

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The lawyer present their case in front of the Court. They have to be ready for anything, and after listening to the actual oral arguments, they are. This is the only role that does not require a written paper to be turned in because they are essentially giving an oral essay foe 20-30 minutes. Here is an example of what a lawyer wrote up to start off their case.

Lastly, we have the clerks. There are students who don’t want to speak but still want to be involved. The clerks write a paper, but they also live Tweet during the case. We use our class hashtag as well as #scotusintheclassroom to it’s easy for me to find the information. If you don’t use Twitter, it’s easy to adapt this to writing articles for newspapers. One year, I had a conservative media and liberal media. We had discussed the biases each media had on the particular case and it was their chance to apply it.

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This is my TweetDeck that I keep open during oral arguments for easy grading
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We invited our Accelerated Middle School to witness Carpenter v. US

First semester, we have the luxury of doing two because we have more time. Second semester, with the AP test, means we can only fit in one. This is the primary reason I do Civil Liberties and Civil Rights last in my units.

I have also done this with my on-level classes and my accelerated 8th grade class!

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This year NIFLA v. Becerra, lawyers presenting their case.

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