Jury Trial

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Lesson At A Glance

This project comes at the end of my first history Unit, which deals with the beginnings of America through 1763.  This project will take place after a study of government before our independence.  Students will have learned about some of the rights our founders included with their foundations being from the Magna Carta.


  • Students will analyze the value of trial by jury as well as the importance of jury service as a part of civic responsibility.

Standards Addressed:

History Social Science

8.1.4 Describe the nation’s blend of civic republicanism, classical liberal principles, and English parliamentary traditions.

8.2.1 Discuss the significance of the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the May-Flower Compact.

8.2.6 Enumerate the powers of government set forth in the Constitution and the fundamental liberties ensured by the Bill of Rights. (Note right to jury by trial 7th Amendment)

English Language Arts

2.4  Write persuasive compositions: a. Include a well-defined thesis (i.e., one that makes a clear and knowledgeable judgment). b. Present detailed evidence, examples, and reasoning to support arguments, differentiating between facts and opinion. c. Provide details, reasons, and examples, arranging them effectively by anticipating and answering reader concerns and counterarguments.

Common Core State Standards for ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading Grades 6-12

Key Ideas and Details

1.  Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

2.  Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

3.  Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing Grades 6-12

Text Types and Purposes

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Big Ideas:

  1. E Pluribus Unum
  2. The Strength of a Democracy is Equal to the Strength of its Citizens

Essential Questions/Issues:

  1. Is justice served through the jury system?
  2. What are the benefits and possibly the downfalls to being judged by your peers?

Higher Order Thinking Questions:

  • Would you prefer a trial by jury or by a judge alone if you were accused of a crime and why? (Evaluation)


Final assignment and summative assessment: a letter to the judge explaining student’s preference to trial by jury or trial before the judge with persuasive arguments justifying preference. 

Once assignments and letter to the judge are complete students answer five final questions.

Quality Criteria:

Students must include pros and cons to both a jury trial and trial by judge.  Argument must be persuasive for their point of view.  Argument includes evidence of understanding regarding civic responsibility in terms of jury duty.

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

  1. Review the Magna Carta (Website provided in references)
  2. View Painting of the signing of the Magna Carta and use aesthetic scanning: asking questions regarding what the students see in the painting, (what else do you see?)  Ask students what they perceive to be the thoughts of the characters at the signing based on analysis of the artwork.
  3. Complete Analysis of a Primary Source (part of 2nd lesson) Attached
  4. Complete Citizenship today page 1-2 (Homework after 2nd lesson) ISBN13-978-0-618-55951-0
  5. Give Students scenario with questions to discuss in small group (part of 3rd lesson)Attached
  6. Complete Four Square on Jury vs. Non Jury trial (part of 3rd lesson) Attached
  7. Write a letter to the judge explaining to the judge if you would like to have your case tried before a jury of your peers in peer court or before the judge. (Homework after 3rd lesson)
  8. Peer review letters (4th lesson)
  9. Complete Conclusion Questions (4th lesson) Attached
  10. Turn in Final Draft of letter

Day 1
Read about the Roots of Representative Government and discuss citizenship, responsibilities and importance related to juries.

Day 2
Briefly Review the Magna Carta especially as it pertains to trial by jury

View a painting of the Magna Carta being signed and complete the primary source chart in small groups then review as a class

For Homework Read Citizenship today handout about The Importance of Juries complete the attached worksheet about Teen Court

Day 3
Give students scenario about being arrested with questions to discuss as a group
After discussion in small group complete as a whole class discussion the 4 square on pros and cons of trial by Jury versus Trial by judge

For Homework students need to write a letter to the judge explaining their reasoning for wanting to appear before the judge or go to teen court and appear before a jury of peers. Students need to weigh the arguments on both sides and think about each situation.

Day 4
In small groups students share their letters and help each other with revisions
Students are given assignment conclusion questions to work on their own
Homework finalize letter to the judge

Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

Students are given the chance to work from the adopted curriculum reading aloud together as a class. Students have a chance to view some primary documents as a class on the projector.  Students work together in small groups to discuss the activities.  The activities are then discussed as a class with notes provided on the overhead.  Students then have an opportunity to take the reading, primary source, group work, and whole class work to complete an independent project, a letter.  Students then share their letter and have an opportunity to get feedback before their final product is complete.

Extension Ideas:

Students became very interested in the judicial system and conversations branched off in many directions.  Students requested a chance to go and visit a court.  The importance of fair trials will come up when we begin our novel unit on Let the Circle Be Unbroken.

Students Handouts:

Download student handouts here