English - Law in their hands

27th April 2012 at 01:00
A courtroom setting will liven up formal letter-writing lessons

The 12 members of the jury are restless for proceedings to begin. I can tell because it's the third time their foreman has thrown screwed up paper at the counsel for the defence.

"Would the Right Honourable Miss Carriage like to call upon the prosecution to outline their case?" I hiss. Miss Carriage adjusts her wig, replaces her glasses at the end of her nose and in a surprisingly imperious voice declares that the case of Smith versus Eddison should begin.

We have been studying formal letter writing in class this week, which has taken the form of solicitors' letters representing - and seeking hefty damages for - children who have been ill-used by their teacher. In this case, me.

If you think I'm putting ideas into children's heads, I would argue that we can't ignore reality. We live in a litigious age where a click of the mouse reveals several legal firms willing, on a no-win no-fee basis, to pursue compensation for children who have been harmed at school. Has your child been injured after falling from dodgy PE equipment? Did Britney twist her ankle tripping over a tree root at the teddy bears' picnic?

But learning to write formal letters, using polite language, a formal tone and a passive voice, can be boring if you have spent the past three weeks learning to write wildly thrilling adventure stories. Dramatise them, however, in the form of a court of law and the whole process becomes tense and exciting.

Jake Smith instructs his barrister (Ryan) to read out the formal arguments before a judge and jury. The counsel for the defence makes notes. Witnesses for both sides prepare to give evidence. The public gallery becomes hushed as our courtroom drama begins.

Ryan, in a fair imitation of veteran TV lawyer Perry Mason, opens the case for the prosecution. "Your Worship, it is hereby declared that during the course of a lesson on the Vikings that took place at Arbourthorne school on 3 February 2012, a class teacher known as Mr Eddison instructed my client, Mr Jake Smith, to bang a drum repeatedly while the rest of the class were forced to sit in lines on the floor pretending to row a longship across the North Sea. Since that time - and as a consequence of Mr Eddison's negligence - my client has developed impaired hearing, a repetitive strain injury and scurvy."

Just as we are getting into it, the head interrupts. Apparently she would like me to accompany her to her office to meet 12 angry parents and a representative from sueyourschool.co.uk

Steve Eddison is a KS2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield


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Share your ideas for creative formal-writing tasks.

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources032.

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