The Trial of Sponge Bob
Teachers see The Trial of Sponge Bob as a reading lesson where kids practice using evidence from the text to support their ideas. Kids see it as FUN!
The week before Spring Break is a difficult week in an elementary school. As the excitement level continues to rise, it’s more and more difficult for the kids to stay focused on learning. This is the time to bring out the most engaging of lessons. It’s time for the trial of Sponge Bob.
My students have been studying mysteries, including ways to solve real life mysteries using forensic evidence. The next step was the lesson, The Trial of Sponge Bob Squarepants, created by Arik Durfee and posted for free download on Teachers Pay Teachers. If you want engaging, this is it!
Arik gives good instructions for teaching this lesson, but I have modified it to fit my students and our schedule. The first day, we read the evidence aloud and talked about the words that were unfamiliar. The kids began to buzz about the evidence and their ideas about their “friend” Sponge Bob’s guilt or innocence. The conversation was intense as kids had already formed opinions.
The second day, I assigned students to either the prosecution or defense randomly – not based on their preference. Each student worked with a partner to find the evidence in the case that supported their side. The discussions were rich as they highlighted the text and summarized their ideas. Isn’t this the skill we teach over and over and over? Making inferences from text and finding evidence to support ideas. During the next part of the lesson, the kids on the prosecution side met together and the kids on the defense met to develop their presentation for the judge.
On the day of the trial of Sponge Bob, the kids entered the classroom buzzing with excitement. They were speculating about who the judge would be and how the trial would go. The room was arranged with the prosecution on one side and the defense on the other. The kids rehearsed for a few minutes. They were ready.
Everyone settled in to their places and I dialed up the judge on a Google Hang Out. My sister, Julie Smith, presided over the trial as “Judge Smith” and played the part remarkably well. My students were perplexed – this was not what they expected! Julie entered the trial knowing nothing about the evidence, relying on the kids to explain it – and they did.
As the trial began, the kids all introduced themselves to the judge. Then, the students on the prosecution side presented their evidence to the judge, standing up in front as they would in a real court room. Judge Smith asked questions and engaged the students to further explain. Next, the defense presented their case to the judge, explaining their evidence. Each side presented their closing arguments and answered more questions from our judge. The conversation was heated at times, with the kids’ passion on display.
In the end, “Judge Smith” told the kids she would need more information before deciding, citing that she still had questions about the evidence and the motive. She provided feedback about their passion and their knowledge of the case. I think the kids were satisfied that there was no real answer and that they had all practiced our favorite standard: CCSS RL. 4.1 “Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.”
Thanks a million to my sister for helping me bring this lesson to life. She made it much more compelling than presenting their case to me, the teacher. She did reveal her true identity at the end!