Archive Page 3

Enjoying Teaching the Mock Trial

download (3)By Nick McDaniels – This year I have enjoyed teaching the law in high school.

I have been afforded so many opportunities to engage with students around real-time relevant issues, but there are no more fun topics to teach than the mock trial. My students are preparing now for their spring mock trial competition (we fell just a few points short of a victory in the winter competition), and they are preparing to win. We started our preparation a week earlier than we did in the winter, and our structures for talking about the trial are more familiar, more put together. I’ve created teaching materials, templates for opening statements, structures for practices, and it is helping, but I’m still struggling with a few things.

When only a few students will be actually participating the mock trial, how do you keep thirty others engaged to be working on it in class? Does running a mock-mock trial in class solve this problem? If not, how do I generate buy-in? How do I maintain order in my courtroom as a judge when we practice, while also grading and providing feedback to participants at the same time?

The answers to all of these questions are important and will appear with time, as I teach more and more mock trials, as I become more comfortable with the parts that engage students and the parts that do not. I do know, having taught three different mock trials, that I am starting to notice some structures and processes that are effective for students and their preparation.

These are the steps I follow and I have tried to create templates, organizers, worksheets to accompany each step:

1) Teachers and students should together review the entirety of the stipulated facts, witness statements, evidence, and relevant statutory and case law.

2) Then students should parse information from each of those sources to find which is helpful for the defense, and which is helpful for the plaintiff/prosecution.

3) From this, they can begin building a theory of the case for both sides.

4) Students should then construct opening statements for both sides of the case, being sure to include a theme, a clear call for a verdict, and a walk through of what the jury will hear at trial.

5) Students should then be assigned (or allowed to choose) roles, everyone being either an attorney or a witness (no jurors, bailiffs, or deceased victims as will be requested roles by students).

6) Students assigned as witnesses should begin writing direct and cross-examination questions for themselves as would be asked by attorneys as the attorneys polish their opening statements.

7) Students should then be placed in to teams so that attorneys can practice questioning the witnesses.

8) Practice, Practice, Practice the mock trial in its entirety. And grade students based on a variety of measures including written, oral, and collaboration measures.

While I know that mock trial uniquely fits into my curriculum and program and is not a possibility for all teachers, I highly encourage teachers to try a mock trial unit or sponsor a club that does mock trials (a number of great mock trials are available online). I have seen such dedication from students for trial prep work that I am inspired and encouraged in all other aspects of my teaching.

Word Power! How quotes helped save my student

images (4)By Sabrina Bong — When I first started as the sixth grade counselor, I went around to each of the sixth grade classrooms to introduce myself.

In true sixth grade tradition, I did a “paper bag” speech to help my students get to know me. The bag contained a number of items: a coffee mug from Marquette, a cookbook, and most importantly, my high heel tape dispenser (for the record, this was probably the favorite item and the one my students remember the most. To this day, when new students meet me, my kids excitedly say, “Miss Bong has a high heel tape dispenser! Go see it in her office!”)

The reason I brought the coffee mug was not because of my love of caffeine. On the mug is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” To me, that is one of the most powerful quotes a person can hear. We all wish for something in life: more money, more happiness, less war and destruction. But if we do not stand up and attempt to change what we are unhappy with, we will get nowhere. We will stay stagnant, waiting for change and seeing nothing new.

I shared that quote because I love quotes. When I lived in my undergrad apartment, I made over twenty hand-decorated notecards with quotes on them. Some of them were funny, some were serious, but all of them had meaning to my roommates and I. Sometimes, I think those quotes were the reason we all kept our sanity. Whenever we needed to be reminded of who we were, what we wanted to accomplish, or those important life lessons, we looked at those quotes.

Recently, one of my students came to me in tears because she had started cutting herself again. She had been engaged in a long battle with depression, and she was upset that she had “given in” to her urge to cut. Her arms and shins were covered in angry red slits from a razor blade. When I asked why, she said that she was exhausted from trying to live up to who everyone wanted her to be: the “perfect” daughter, sister, student, and friend. I don’t remember exactly what I told her, but I remember that somewhere in the conversation, I quoted Charles Swindoll: “There is only one you. Don’t you dare change just because you’re outnumbered.”

She giggled, but seemed to really enjoy the quote. I offered to write it down for her, and she accepted. We called them her little “positive affirmations.” A few days later, she asked if she could have another quote, since she was again struggling to resist the temptation to cut herself. This time, I wrote a little affirmation that said, “You hold the pen, you control the outcome of your story.”

Yesterday, I saw this student. She told me about all the struggles she was having, but said she was proud of herself for not cutting in three days. I told her I was so incredibly proud of her too. As she reached out to give me a hug, I saw that she had writing on her wrist. When I asked her what it was, she smiled and showed it to me.

Written over her scars were the words, “You hold the pen, you control the outcome of your story.”

She then told me that the reason she was not cutting was because every time she picked up the razor, she saw the words. She knew she controlled her destiny. As a result, she would put the razor down.

I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that my simple act of writing and sharing quotes with her would be so powerful. I know that this is not the cure for her depression, but it is something that is helping. And at that moment when she explained why she wasn’t cutting, another quote struck me, “Be the difference.” Marquette had instilled this in me from Day 1, and finally, I was living up to that motto.

March Madness

march madnessBy Matthew Olinski – I have to give some recognition to my undergrad alma mater, UW-Milwaukee for making the NCAA tournament as the Horizon League champions.

Sorry Marquette, you did not make it this year, even to the NIT, and as an alumnus if the graduate program, I was equally disappointed by this. As I’m writing this, UWM was just eliminated from the tournament against a very tough matchup. UWM was seen as the underdog by the majority of the nation.

So what does this have to do with anything other than basketball? Quite a bit actually. First and foremost, UWM was picked to finish dead last in the preseason predictions.  Instead of accepting their fate as a foregone conclusion, they went out and won the Horizon League championship.

UWM was given a 15 seed in the NCAA tournament. For those who do not follow college basketball, 16th is the worst seed, a 1 seed is the best. Usually the matchup is strongly in favor if the lower numbered seed.  Again, UWM could just have packed up and headed home, but as those of you who watched the game saw, they played tough against a very difficult opponent, including a minute and a half period where a player had no shoe on for UWM.

Throughout the game, UWM was not afraid to stand up to Villanova. There are so many comparisons that can be drawn from this game and from the others, because several other schools offered upsets. Dayton beating Ohio State is just as significant.

The message could be that although you may not always “win” in the final score, people will see what you stand for and how hard you fight for it.  When people (in general) count you out, how hard are you willing to stand up against the naysayers?

As someone who graduated several years ago from my undergrad program, the maturity that many of the college athletes show and the examples they set are very powerful. As teachers, counselors, custodians, school lunch workers, or anyone else who works in a school, we are also role models and must often figuratively tackle a situation that may be larger than we are used to.  How hard are we willing to fight for what we believe in?

And with that being said, as our last entrant into the NCAA tourney: Go Badgers!  (I know  – that is sacrilegious on this campus). But we also need to stand together as a state.

Thank You, Milwaukee Academy of Science Fourth Graders

MAS lesson.jpgBy Bill Henk – Years ago my wise old dad told me “Never make a promise unless you intend to keep it.”

Well, last week I told a class of fourth graders at the Milwaukee Academy of Science (MAS) that I would blog about my visit with them the following Thursday.  And by goodness, I’m a man of my word.  So here goes.

The story begins with several professionals around the city being invited to do a little guest teaching by colleagues in our Teach For America Milwaukee (TFAM) office.  After all, it never hurts for outsiders to get a feel for the realities of classroom life.  At first, I was hesitant, because my regular schedule and workload are ridiculous this time of year, and oddly enough, the thought of working directly with kids again both over-excited and scared me.

I mean, let’s face it.  Although I’ve always loved interacting with kids, which is what drew me to the profession in the first place, it would look pretty bad for a dean of education (as well as her/his college and university) to crash and burn while teaching.  Worse yet, I knew that there would be observers including the classroom teacher, Blake Shultice (a TFA corps member who is also a graduate student at Marquette no less), and Maurice Thomas, the Executive Director of TFAM, again no less.

In other words, bad lesson — so long credibility.

But when I heard I could do my guest spot at MAS, a school I know quite well since I’ve been on its Board for a decade, I decided to man up.  Besides, I was pretty much just supposed to read a book to the kids and call it a day.  And for that matter, I’d done a small amount of teaching at my daughter’s Catholic elementary school not long ago, and not only survived, but left feeling like I still kind of “had it.”

Can you say, “Wake-up call?”

Oh, I did everything I could to get ready.  Familiarized myself intimately with the book, a very good one by Patricia Polacco called “Thunder Cake,” that Blake had recommended.  I practiced my oral reading of it over and over again for dramatic effect.  I identified vocabulary words that the kids might find challenging and prepared to teach them.  I made a pre-reading activity about children’s fears that fit the theme of the story.  I did a deep content dive on thunder and lightning, so I’d be a font of information — armed with insightful commentary, answers to their questions, and some astute comprehension probes of my own.  I even did some hefty research on the author, and came up with some pretty interesting facts about her (if I do say so myself) that I intended to spring on them to create the “Wow” effect.

Even so, I was nervous, because it’s not easy to go in as a stranger and connect with kids in ways that will gain and keep their attention, let alone result in them actually learning something.  But I knew it could be done, and I felt up to the task.  Yessir, Blake and Maurice were going to say, “Hey, that old geezer can really teach; he hasn’t missed a beat.”  And most importantly, the kids wouldn’t detect so much as an ounce of instructional rust.  On the contrary, they’d come to regard me as cut from the same cloth as the very skilled MAS teachers they enjoy every day of the school year.


In fairness, the lesson didn’t sink nearly to the level of a disaster.  It was what I’d call decent, respectable, adequate, acceptable, or OK — nothing to write home about.   Put differently, it fell well short of the scintillating pedagogical phenomenon I had hoped to deliver.

At points I struggled to get my rhythm and to think on my feet.  Instructional decisions that used to come easily and naturally weren’t there for me like they used to be when I was in my teaching prime.  Thankfully, I eventually settled in pretty well and started to manage my time and make adjustments to the activities (that I had overplanned) fairly well.  Even so, I never felt like I was orchestrating the classroom in the way I’d expect of an exceptional aspiring teacher or a seasoned veteran.  It was just barely “good” enough, not the lesson the kids deserved.  They may not have known; but I sure did.

And believe me, the children had nothing to do with the instructional episode’s mediocrity.  On the contrary, they could not have been more welcoming, friendly, and cooperative.  And almost all of them stayed with me as much as I had earned.  Most were very eager to learn and volunteered to answer repeatedly.  And I’m pretty sure that some of them hung in there long enough to learn something, a real credit to them.

So, I want to end by thanking the class for receiving me so warmly, being patient, and giving me much more than a chance.  They gave me the benefit of the doubt for the full hour I spent with them.  By the way, a mere 60 minutes of being at the front of the class left me exhausted.  If the goal of the guest teaching was to give visitors an appreciation for the work of a teacher, then this experience qualified as hugely successful — even for someone who already knew.  Let’s just say that my appreciation is fully renewed.

Thank you, MAS fourth graders, for reminding me how much I love and miss teaching, how incredibly gratifying it is to help shape young, beautiful minds, and how important it is that you be taught by knowledgeable, skilled, passionate, energetic, determined  teachers.


*Photo courtesy of Adam Schmidt, TFA Regional Director of Recruitment. He and Jody Dungey, MAS Director of Development, were also witnesses to a literacy lesson that left a lot to be desired…

Tuesday Trivia: Win a collectors edition of Insurgent

We’ve got two collectors editions of “Insurgent,” the second book in the Divergent Trilogy to give away.  And since it’s Tuesday, we thought a trivia question might be the appropriate way to give you a chance to win it!


For your chance to win a copy of “Insurgent,” post your answer to the following trivia question in the comments!

What is Four’s real name?

Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 6pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers after the close of business and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

Technological Time Travel

future-medical-technologyBy Elizabeth Turco – In today’s day and age, an abundance of technology in the classroom is the norm.

From smart boards to iPads, my Marquette education has taught me how to incorporate all aspects of technology into my lessons. In my previous semester’s field experience, I have mastered the smart board and have become an expert at bringing all pieces of media into my classes. I started my student teaching ready to show the world how technologically relevant I could make my classroom. After all, technology makes the lessons better, right?

As I entered my classroom, eager to teach my class, (United States history, from the Gilded Age to the present) I had visions of video clips, historical imagery, and beautiful presentations, stimulating and interesting the students for the entirety of the semester. What I was met with, however, was not what I had anticipated. Waiting for me in my classroom, was one of those transparency overhead projectors, with the light bulb and the lenses, projecting simple images or simple text onto a pull-down screen. There was one television, but it was not nearly large enough to be truly seen by all students in the huge classroom. The one computer was not hooked up to any larger screen and was virtually useless in terms of incorporation into lessons. My education courses had done nothing to prepare me for this shock.

In my education classrooms, I was taught that to be the most technological and advanced would help me be a more effective teacher. If I could incorporate more technology, my students would learn better. That is, after all, why so many schools are giving their students iPads and teaching an abundance of computer classes. My education classes were filled with technology themselves, and I could see how the advancements could better student learning. I was not taught how to make the best of a low-tech situation and still teach effectively. Instead of creating beautiful PowerPoints filled with video links, pictures, and easy to take notes, I am forced to adapt.

I have found, however, a bright side. In forcing my students away from technology I am giving them more skills for life. They are able to listen to me talk and take away important points, instead of having it presented to them. It forces me to incorporate more student involved activities, instead of having them simply read a PowerPoint or watch a movie to learn. I find myself growing as an educator. Yes, it is important for students to be trained to keep up with technological advancements, but there is more to life than just technology.  As generations before me have found, there can be teaching and learning without all of the technological hoopla.

It’s a Girl Thing: My DSHA Experience

whyallgirlsBy Aubrey Murtha – Now, I’m no radical feminist.  However, I must say, if you have not experienced an all-girls education for yourself, you really haven’t lived. 

I will admit that I may be a little biased, but after four years of single-sex schooling at Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) High School, I can honestly say that I would not trade that part of my life for the world.  Contrary to popular belief, most all of us are not spoiled or catty.  We do not have a faculty composed solely of nuns—although we do love our one spunky Sister in the theology department.  Our lives do not revolve around One Direction, Twitter, and Starbucks. 

No.  There is much more to an all-girls education than that.

Every now and then, I am sorry for the world’s male population.  You cannot control the fact that your hormones and a few other unmentionables prevent you from partaking in this gloriously formative experience.  You’ve got your fraternities, your brotherhoods of men, your masculine, testosterone-infused, Jesuit centers of intellectual development (shout out to Marquette High), all of which I deeply respect.  However, you’ll never know the joys of wearing a wool kilt to school on the daily.  You won’t understand how difficult it is to put on makeup when there’s no need for it five out of seven days a week.  You may never experience that amazing realization that you are completely content in your own imperfect skin, that it is self-respect, intelligence, compassion, and conviction that make a woman beautiful—not long locks, luscious lips, or a bodacious body.

A hysterical article by Brianna Wiest about all-girls high schools said, “If you want to cause mass hysteria [at an all-girls school], bring in one of the following things: pizza, cupcakes, a puppy, or a boy.”  The accuracy of this statement frightens me, and it certainly illustrates what sort of school climate we’ve got going over at DSHA.  But all jokes aside (maybe), I thought I would set out to discover the real reasons why we loved our single sex education.  I went a little out of the box for this post and asked my former DSHA classmates to give me some reasons why all-girls high school was and is the best, and this is what I got.

The All-Girls Experience: High School Reflections as Told by My Graduating Class

1.)    “There was always taco dip around.” -Tess Zukowski, St. Norbert’s College

2.)    “I never knew how much I would miss wearing my skirt when I got to college.” -Maddie Schultz, UW-Steven’s Point

3.)    “I loved the teachers… And the principal for that matter! They were encouraging, supportive, and passionate about what they taught. They cared about their students academically, but also personally which makes a world of a difference.”  -Beth Dzwierzynski, The Ohio State University

4.)    “I did not know where my hair brush was for four years.” -Winnie Dresden, UW-Madison

5.)     “I didn’t have to wear pants to school.” –Jenna Kaerek, Marquette University

6.)    “Who needs a shower when there’s deodorant?” -Andrea Muehlenberg, University of Tennessee-Knoxville

7.)    “All teachers and faculty made us understand how important hard work is now and for the rest of our lives.” –Elizabeth Baker, Marquette University

8.)    On what she misses: “Taking naps in the hallway…taking naps anywhere, actually.” –Katie Polacheck, Gonzaga University

9.)    “There was always a reason to bake.” –Sandra Mejia, Milwaukee School of Engineering

10.) “DSHA helped me grow into someone in whom I can be confident. I’ve had more than one person tell me that they’ve never met a girl as comfortable with being herself as I am.” –Elizabeth Kraemer, The University of St. Thomas

11.) “No boys = no drama.” –Carina Belmontes, Marquette University

12.)  “Smiles, waves and laughter were common in the hallway, and overall the atmosphere was positive and happy.” –Laura Rieckhoff, The University of Central Florida

13.)  “No one makes out in the hallways!  Also, getting your phone taken away [in class] meant one less Qdoba burrito you could buy” (referring to the monetary fee DSHA charges to reclaim confiscated cell phones)Jessica Chan, UW-Madison

14.) “Nobody judged me when my locker wouldn’t close and had that whole ant infestation thing. Well, you all judged me, but I’d like to think it’s a testament to my all-girl education that I just didn’t care.” –Molly Young, Fordham University

15.) “There was such a strong support system and every girl genuinely wanted others to succeed just as much as she herself wanted to succeed.  Also being able to roll out of bed and not worry or care about how you looked was a blessing, as was living in sweat pants.” –Jessica Gottsacker, Saint Louis University

Obviously, this isn’t scientific research.  I did not do any number crunching or gather any precise data to prove to you that all-girls education is the way to go; hopefully, however, you can detect the immense level of pride we have in our alma mater through my classmates’ comical sarcasm and brilliant wit.  These girls are the finest around, and they are entirely representative of the caliber of the students and human beings that DSHA and other all-female educational institutions create.

So don’t let the general lack of “Y” chromosomes deter you.  All-girls school is where it’s at.

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