Martin Luther on Trial

Illustration Elements

Illustration Sub-competencies:


To demonstrate their understanding of key historical events and figures, eight students participated in a mock trial of Martin Luther.

The students were provided the following outline:

Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation, will be placed on trial at the Diet of Worms for heresy. He will defend himself with the assistance of two defense attorneys.  The prosecution will be conducted by two inquisitors of the Catholic Church.  The structure of the trial is as follows:

  • Opening statements (3 mins.)
  • Examination of witnesses: Direct examination < 4 mins.; Cross examination < 4 mins
  • Closing statements (3 mins)
  • Witnesses for the defense will include Luther himself and the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli.  Witnesses for the prosecution will include Erasmus and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.  Each witness must type up an affidavit of no more than 2 pages providing evidence relating to the charge of heresy.

Students had time to research their characters and prepare to immerse themselves in the character of their choice. They were provided a rubric that outlines criteria related to content, point of view, and presentation.

Students who did not have direct roles in the role-play acted as the jury. They met in a closed room, after all of testimony, and worked together to determine whether Luther was innocent or guilty.


Activity Video

Teacher Reflection

Students were able to effectively reflect the attitudes, beliefs and ideas of various historical figures. They were able to capture the key ideas of the historical figures they researched and were skilled in communicating in the role of their character. The role-play was fun and engaging. 


Profile Analysis

Critical and Reflective Thinking

I can examine evidence from various perspectives to analyze and make well-supported judgments and interpretations about complex issues.

I can determine my own framework and criteria for tasks that involve critical thinking. I can compile evidence and draw reasoned conclusions. I consider perspectives that do not fit with my understandings. I am open-minded and patient, taking the time to explore, discover, and understand. I make choices that will help me create my intended impact on an audience or situation. I can place my work and that of others in a broader context. I can connect the results of my inquiries and analyses to action. I can articulate a keen awareness of my strengths, my aspirations and how my experiences and contexts affect my frameworks and criteria. I can offer detailed analysis, using specific terminology, of my progress, work and goals.



I communicate with intentional impact, in well-constructed forms that are effective in terms of my audience and in relation to my purpose

I contribute purposefully to discussions and conversations. I synthesize, deepen and transform my own and others’ thinking. I can weave multiple messages into my communications; I understand that my audience will use their own knowledge and experiences in making meaning. I show understanding and control of the forms and technologies I use; I can assess audience response and draw on a repertoire of strategies to increase my intended impact. I can acquire, critically analyse, and integrate well-chosen information from a range of sources.