Trial Court 'Go Fish'

By applying a well-known and simple game such as “Go Fish” to the different components of a trial court, young students learn about what each person does before, during and after a trial.  This game teaches students about many characters in the courtroom, including the judge, bailiff, prosecutor and juror.  By trying to match people and roles to make pairs, students in groups of 4 or 5 learn what trial participants do both in and out of court.

The images associated with the vocabulary words, such as "bailiff," make it easier for students to remember what they are learning. The first person narration for each card is also interesting and makes this interactive activity a great lesson module. 


How do you use it?

This game has students play "Go Fish" with a write-on courtroom game board and cards that show the people involved in a trial. Because most children and judges are familiar with the game "Go Fish" the set up of the game is simple enough for a judge or other presenter to implement and for the students to understand.  In addition, the iCivics web site gives very detailed instructions for this adaptation, making it a "teacher"-friendly, useable resource. 

This resource is a great way for young students to have fun and learn all at the same time.  A normal turn in the game would have students asking for cards of the four or five students in their groups that by sheer repetition of what they wanted would reinforce the job titles and descriptions of the main players in a courtroom.  So for example, if a student already had a job title card, that student would ask another for a related job description card as so: “Do you have ‘When my judge is not in the courtroom, I help keep things running smoothly in the judge’s chambers?’’  If the student already had a bailiff's job description card, that student would ask for the job title: “Do you have a bailiff?”  

The "Go-Fish" groups also allow for small group discussion after playing "Go Fish."

The website includes a downloadable game board and game cards, instructions and "cheat sheets" which would need to be printed out in advance. 

Who is the audience?

This quiz is primarily geared to primary school students, but with some adaption  — a fast time clock component and the inclusion of more sophisticated vocabulary or other courtroom and/or trial components — older students would enjoy and learn from the exercise.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. A Conversation on the Constitution: Jury Service  Videos and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H, A)
  2. Civil Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  3. Considering the Constitution  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H) 
  4. Court Shorts: Jury Service  Video from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (M, H, A)
  5. Criminal Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  6. Deciding by Group: You Are the Jury  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H)  
  7. Juror Selection  Document from Scholastic (M, H) 
  8. Pathways to the Bench  Videos from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  9. Quiz #3: Civil Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  10. Quiz #4: Criminal Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  11. Texting While Driving  Case study/mock trial from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.