The Trial of Mark Twain

Diane Walker, English
University High School
Illinois State University
Normal, IL 61790-7100
(309) 438-2828

SUBJECT: The activity presented below is best used after completion of a unit on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Skills incorporated into this lesson include critical listening, critical thinking, argumentation, impromptu speaking, extemporaneous speaking, small group discussion, research, character analysis, literary analysis. This activity could be easily adapted to fit other issues in the study of literature, social studies, science, etc.


The Trial of Mark Twain

Mark Twain has been accused of promoting racism in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This class will try the author and determine his guilt of innocence.

Each person in the class will participate in the trial

Mark Twain
Must research court procedure and preside over the trial
Court Clerk:
Must research court procedure. The clerk will run the courtroom on the days of the trial
Defense Team:
Two/Three Students
Prosecution Team:
Two/Three Students
Characters from the novel, authorities on Mark Twain, Authorities in racial matters, civil rights (i.e., representatives from the civil rights movement, NAACP, etc.,), Authorities on Twain's era or the era of the novel, etc. All students not assigned to another role in the trial will serve as the jury.

Witnesses will be for either the defense or the prosecution. To determine which students will portray witnesses, the defense and the prosecution must present a list of needed witnesses the second day of preparation for the trial. The witnesses will then be assigned from the class. The remaining students will serve as jurors.

The assignment is worth 50 points. Grades will be based on how well the student carries out his/her part in the trial including evidence of preparation and research, knowledge of the novel, strength of presentation, reasoning skills employed.

The jury, in addition to serving during the trial, must also write a two-page paper explaining how they reached their verdict.

Day One:
Basic Planning
Day Two:
Assignment of Witnesses-Library research-Defense and Prosecution interviewing of Witnesses and Case preparation
Day Three:
Continued research/preparation
Day Four:
Continued research/preparation
Day Five:
First day of trial. Prosecution and Defense present opening statements. Prosecution calls and examines witnesses, Defense cross exam.
Day Six:
Defense calls and examines witnesses, Prosecution cross exam
Day Seven:
Closing statements, Deliberation of the jury, Verdict, Sentencing

NOTE: It is a good idea to have additional assignments (Perhaps assigned reading in the next unit) during the planning days for jurors who may not be actively involved in the trial preparation.

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