Four defendants, four lawyers, 13 jurors, and one judge decides a 1700 year old Roman court case. Students played their roles perfectly. The case wasn’t simple. A slave went to the public square to get a shave from a barber. There were two people playing catch near by. One of the players didn’t catch the ball and it struck the barber. This startled the barber and caused him to cut the slave’s throat. The slave survived, however, he did rack up a considerable medical bill. Who will pay? Is it the fault of the Barber, the slave, the thrower or the catcher? Things the jury had to consider and know about Roman life before starting this lesson:
- Public squares were a place to conduct business and trade.
- Rome didn’t have public parks so the town squares doubled as parks.
- Can’t stress this enough: No one was breaking any Roman law at the time.
This was no easy case. The lawyers prepared for trial by creating their arguments with their defendants. Each lawyer gave opening statements, called two witnesses, and gave closing arguments. Roman jurors could ask questions of the witnesses. This allowed members to stay engaged during the case. Kids loved their roles, the story, and its connection to real life. I highly recommend creating or recreating a trial. Students pushed themselves further in this real world lesson than if I had just lectured about Roman law. By participating in the court case, they learned about the law of the 12 tables of Rome, had rich discussions, and stayed motivated beyond belief.
Setting up the room differently is one way to pull students into an activity like this one. I put a defendant and their lawyer at a desk, I made the jury sit close together and the judge, me in this case, sat at a huge table with a gavel, which made all the difference. Kids love to pretend they are adults. They dress up in their parent’s clothes that are packed away in the attic. They like to imagine themselves on hunting expeditions in the backyard. Why not pretend in the classroom? Their power of imagination is at full charge. Why not make a lesson that taps into that energy? Once again, using the simulation model coupled with elements of gamification, I saw my students soar! I will keep plugging away at making everyday in class as engaging as I can.
If you want to try running this in your class consider picking up a copy of the lesson from Teachers Pay Teachers from Mark Aaron! His lesson is one I do every year now and it is a must for your world history classroom… Get your copy today!
As always, my students and I would love to hear from you guys. Please consider posting below…