Putting book characters on trial is an excellent way for older primary pupils to explore their motives, and also to consider some of the more complex themes in a story - good vs. evil, sacrifice, injustice, etc.
Having established how to introduce your class to the concept, Ruth Baker-Leask highlights why it’s important to choose a character who is ambiguous in some way - either in their character traits or actions, so there is plenty to deliberate in the trial.
To support you in using this technique in your classroom, Ruth provides a list of crimes that could be committed and a list of book characters who may be guilty of committing these crimes - abduction in the BFG, for example.
We see how to structure a trial, including making decisions such as which other characters might be called for the defence or prosecution, leading up to a verdict and sentence. It’s recommended that children first watch a real court in session so they better understand how the process operates.
As with many of the drama activities in this series, we’re shown how putting characters on trial has many benefits when it comes to helping children access a text on a deeper level.
Presentation Slides - Download
Former headteacher Ruth is now an independent education advisor, supporting schools, trusts and other organisations across the UK. She is currently chair of the National Association of Advisors in English (NAAE), an associate consultant for the National Literacy Trust (NLT) and a member of The United Kingdom Literacy Association's (UKLA) awards and members committee.
About the Course
Ruth demonstrates a range of drama and role-play teaching approaches for Year 1-Year 6, showing how important drama is in connecting children to narrative by eliciting personal responses as well as supporting children in developing a deeper understanding of the relationships between characters, making inferences from their actions.