English Students Take Part in Monster Trials

By Joanne Liu, Yearbooker

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  • Dressed as Dr. Nefario from Despicable Me, Andrew Yao '21 argues that Gru is the best monster because he was able to steal the moon. Yao tells the class that he planned Gru's evil quests with Gru.

  • Acting as a turtle who is a witness for the humans monster, Rohan Dange '21 puts a mask over his face while he is questioned. Dange complains about the pollution and harm humans have caused in the ocean in an attempt to persuade the class that humans are the worst monsters.

    Photo By Joanne Liu

  • Olivia Bowen '20 dresses as the Area 51 Naruto runner, who is a witness for the green monster drink. Bowen asserts that the green monster drink has taken over her body and that no one else understands the feeling of being possessed by the green monster.

    Photo By Joanne Liu

  • Emilia Adcock '21, dressed up as Professor Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, laughs with the iconic Umbridge creepy laugh. She persuades that Umbridge's double sided personality of looking sweet, but actually being evil, is what makes her so manipulative and the best villain.

  • Riya Shah '20 interrogates Dr. Nefario who is a witness for Gru. Shah emphasizes that Gru was a loving father, so he couldn't have been the most evil monster.

    Photo By Joanne Liu

  • Aaron Slack '20, representing Gru from Despicable Me, confronts Yogeshvar Rege '20, who is representing an attorney. Slack tries to prove that Gru is the greatest supervillain of all because he was able to do horrible things like using his daughters as spies.

  • In an attempt to show how much of a monster the drink "Monster" is, Carson Wang '20 shows his stiff hand. He explains that the amount of sugar in the drink causes crazy things to happen like this.

  • Wearing a demon mask, Yogeshvar Rege '20 disguises as a death eater to act as a witness for Dolores Umbridge. Rege informs the class about Umbridge's strong hatred for muggles and the trauma he has from Umbridge's evil acts.

    Photo By Joanne Liu

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For a creative way to practice arguing and impromptu speaking, Mr. Scott Chalk’s AP TAG English students participated in a Monster Trials Activity. The activity, inspired by Frankenstein, helped students develop their own definition of monsters. Each class formed groups who chose their monster, and persuaded the class that their monster was the most evil. Each monster had witnesses, and the monsters and witnesses each had three trials. 

“The purpose, even though they don’t know it’s the purpose, is to be able to develop an argument, which is [what] they have to do for the AP test,” Mr. Chalk said. “I try to prepare them for the AP test without them knowing that they’re preparing for the AP test. The next thing they’ll write is an argument and they have to defend it with evidence based on what they know.”

The monsters that each group came up with could be anything that exists, from an abstract idea, to famous characters from books or movies. The four monsters that sixth block chose were the human race, Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, the green Monster Energy Drink, and Gru from the Despicable Me series, with the trials taking course over two blocks.

“It was two blocks before [the activity when] we decided our monster and then we had a day in class to prepare,” Emilia Adcock ‘21 said. “And then we had two days in class for the trial. I love Harry Potter and I heard someone suggest Dolores as our monster and I said ‘yes that’s great’ since she’s one of the characters that I would love to play in general.”

The activity started with one minute opening statements from each group. Then, one person in each group dressed up as the monster, and a representative from their own legal team questioned their monster. Following, two other groups sent lawyers to interrogate the monster. The trials for each monster and their witnesses did not happen back to back. 

“Our opening statement, [the humans group], was on the whole, far more concise than those of others,” Arjun Kurkal ‘21 said. “We decided to spend most of our preparation time on the content itself. So, we just made a very basic, rudimentary opening statement to allow for maximum flexibility in the case itself.”

The first monster to be interrogated was the human race, with its crimes being: destroying 80% of the mammals, causing global warming, the 6th mass extinction, and taking pleasure in other people’s distress. One of the arguments against “the humans” was that just because some humans are evil doesn’t mean that the whole species are monsters. The two witnesses of the group were a turtle, who complained about the pollution in the ocean and an alien, who witnessed humans kidnapping them

“I was representing humans themselves,” Kurkal said. “And that job was interesting in that I was able to offer my own take on how I felt like humanity was terrible. We had a fairly easy job, in the case to paint humanity as a monstrosity. And then as a lawyer, I was able to express my take on how the other teams were the less monsters.”

Following the interrogations for humans, Dolores Umbridge was questioned, with her main crimes secretly being evil and manipulative, and murdering people. The main arguments against her being the most evil monster was that she was a bad teacher at Hogwarts, and her actions were restricted due to the fact that she worked in the ministry. The two witnesses for the group were a Death Eater and Harry Potter. 

“I thought it’d be funny [to play Harry Potter] since I’m the least [like] Harry Potter of our team.  It was pretty fun,” Lucy Wang ‘20 said. “I I dreaded talking in front of everyone and I was really scared because there’s a lot of people in our class who have really good questions. So it was hard to answer them.”

Next to be interrogated was the green Monster Energy Drink, whose legal team pointed out that the drink is addictive and contains too much caffeine and sugar. The witnesses were Kyle the gamer, and Naruto runner from Area 51, who showed the crazy side-effects of drinking too many monster drinks. 

“To pick these particular witnesses, we went for the memes,” Olivia Bowen ‘20 said. “I was the Area 51 survivor, who witnessed the aliens. The monster controlled my body so I would go inside Area 51 and put myself in danger, and got PTSD. [To dress up as the witness], I made a tin foil hat to protect myself from the aliens.” 

The Last monster to go was Gru from Despicable Me. Gru’s legal team described Gru as a felonious super villain who almost stole the moon. The other groups questioned his monstrality since he had basically failed most of his evil quests. A comedic point that the other groups made was that Gru was a villain in a PG movie, doubting how evil Gru could be. Dr. Nefario and the moon from the film made appearances in the trials as witnesses.

“I thought it was a very different approach from my previous English classes,” Andrew Yao ‘21 said. “The way class was formatted previously was write essays on paper. It was interesting to have an actual trial. We picked Gru as our monster because we thought it would be funny. I think ours was the strongest argument but unfortunately the results say otherwise.”

After each group gave their closing statements, the students voted anonymously on the most evil monster, but could not pick their own monster. In sixth block, the green Monster Energy Drink won with a vast majority of votes.

“[The students] did a great job,” Mr. Chalk said. “As always, I try to come up with a weird idea and the students make it great.”