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Courtroom gives gripping evidence

I used a laptop and projector with a key stage 3 class to combine ICT and history to study President Kennedy. We looked at a website (http:halesowen. digitalbrain.com - click on "shared subjects" then "history") and then were ready to come to our own conclusions about his assassination.

We watched some of the 1991 film JFK directed by Oliver Stone. For one lesson we re-enacted a courtroom scene, projecting the film onto the whiteboard via the computer's DVD player. Pupils worked in groups to discuss how the scene had been shot and how it manipulated the evidence - in short, how biased the source was. We analysed the music, the language and the camera work. We then watched the scene again, without sound.

Pupils had to write their own courtroom speech. They already had some knowledge of the shooting and were told to include information which they were to manipulate to present their case.

Some groups chose to present the Warren Commission report's lone gunman theory, while others chose to address the possibility of a conspiracy. When the groups had written their speech they performed it in front of the projected courtroom, effectively placing themselves in the movie as the main characters. Pupils played the role of Jim Garrison, the DA who questioned the FBI official account, and other characters, including key witnesses. Some buttoned up their blazers and wore sunglasses, looking very cool and FBI-like.

This activity ran over three lessons and provided some quality work. They knew what style was expected (grandiose and overblown, a style of acting that teenagers prefer) and the content, and had a clear idea of how long they were to perform (four minutes). They also enjoyed dissecting the original film and trying to make their own, superior, script.

Stephen Fessey

Teacher of history at Windsor High School, Halesowen

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