By Noah B., 7th Grade, Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation
“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee ends with a cliffhanger. Is Arthur Radley (Boo) guilty of murdering Bob Ewell? The seventh-graders at Krieger Schechter Day School wanted to delve deeper into this question. To do so, under the leadership of middle school English teacher Kelly Platzke, they conducted a mock trial to determine whether or not Arthur “Boo” Radley was guilty.
Platzke’s students served as the defense team, the prosecution, and witnesses. The witnesses included Arthur “Boo” Radley, Jeremy “Jem” Finch, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, Sheriff Heck Tate, and Atticus Finch. Students of Vered Nusinov, English department chair, assumed the role of the jury members.
Students in Platzke’s class had about a week to prepare. The defense and prosecution teams gathered evidence from the book, generated questions, and wrote opening and closing statements. The witnesses, on the other hand, also had a week to review the book and study the details carefully. To make the trial more realistic, the jury (Nusinov’s class) finished the book but had not yet unpacked its ending in a classroom setting.
Rachel K., a seventh-grade student at KSDS who played the part of Jeremy Finch, enjoyed the mock trial. “I really enjoyed learning about the character I had to portray,” shared Rachel, who liked learning more about how a trial works and felt that the trial was a good way to expand the students’ knowledge. “My favorite part was seeing how everybody had prepared well and how authentic the trial was in comparison to a real trial.”
The trial judge was Platzke. When questioned about her inspiration for the trial, Platzke responded, “It was mostly my students. Ever since the Tom Robinson trial, they had been asking to do their own trial. So, I came up with an idea of how we could pull that off.”
Platzke also had a thoughtful way to choose teams. “I actually ended up assigning them contrary to the kids’ personal opinions about what they believed about the case,” stated Platzke, who is excited to continue this trial activity in future years.
After three long days, the jury reached a verdict, deciding that there was not enough substantial evidence that pointed to Arthur’s guilt. However, even though only one side won, every student stepped up to the challenge and presented an amazingly realistic end to one of the greatest novels of all time, “To Kill A Mockingbird”.