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Lesson Plans
Which of You Is a Witch?
The Salem Witchcraft Trials and The Crucible
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Load the Flash plug-in onto each computer as well. Instructions for downloading the free Flash presentation are available at http://school.discovery.com/
schooladventures/salemwitchtrials/story/index.html
.
Make sure speakers are connected to one computer for the audio component of the Discovery School Flash presentation and that the audio component can be heard clearly by the entire class.

Prepare the hands-on elements of the lesson by:
  1. Copying the following sheets, one per student: "Is There Honor in the Honor Code?," "Which is a Witch?," and "Student Profile."
  2. Making three copies of the "List of Suspected Cheaters" sheet.
When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Distribute the attached document "Is There Honor in the Honor Code?" to your students. The document provides a hypothetical school scenario in which students are coerced into turning in fellow classmates and friends who they believe cheated on an exam. Ask your students to carefully read over the document, paying particular attention to the investigation questions and imagine how they would feel during the investigation proceeding. Then ask them to have a brief discussion with a student next to them to determine the fairness of the investigation. Ask for volunteers to share key points. (Most students will probably agree that the students in the scenario are being coerced by the school and that they may find themselves in a "catch 22" situation.) Ask them to imagine different results stemming from the investigation. (Some students might feel pressured into accusing fellow classmates, even with no or little evidence. Other students might lie and hope that the truth does not emerge. Others might refuse to incriminate themselves or anyone else. Help students realize that this kind of investigation can turn friend against friend and breed mistrust. It can also create mistrust toward the teachers and administration, destroying the very code of honor they try to maintain. Fear can prevail over reason so that fact and opinion become confused.)

Step 2:

Ask your students to respond to the initial question aloud: How would they feel during the investigation proceeding? (Most students will respond that they would feel great pressure, fear of not graduating, and intimidated by the panel. Others may believe they would remain steadfast in their reticence and not incriminate anyone.) Explain to your students that they will be reading a play by Arthur Miller called The Crucible. Ask if anyone knows what a crucible is (a container that produces tremendous heat, so that metals inside can be melted). Help your students understand the metaphor of a crucible as it relates to intense, high-risk situation depicted in the cheating scenario. People who are interrogated may feel as if they are within a crucible.

Step 3:

Collect the "Honor Code" sheet from each student for redistribution in the Culminating Activity.


Learning Activities

Step 1:

Explain to your students that The Crucible was written in 1953 about true events that took place over 250 years before, in 1692. In a village called Salem in the state of Massachusetts, over 150 people were accused of witchcraft and about 20 people were convicted and hanged.

Write "1692 New England" on the board and ask your students what New England was like back then. (Answers will vary and should include rough, untamed wilderness, cold winters, no modern comforts and conveniences, colonies under British rule.) Record these responses on the board under "1692 New England."

Ask them why the first colonists came to America (religious freedom). Explain to them that the Puritans fled England in search of religious freedom. Tell them that these people were called Puritans. Ask them what word they recognize in "Puritan" (pure). Explain to them that the Puritans were Christians who were unhappy with the changes in the Church of England and wanted to purify it. They were persecuted for their beliefs in England and eventually settled in New England, including Massachusetts Bay. Write the word “beliefs" on the board and explain to your students some basic religious principles Puritans held. Explain to your students that the Puritans of Salem believed in strict interpretation of the Bible. They were also superstitious and believed that witches and demons could do evil works through human beings. They believed that human beings were inherently sinful and corrupt and had to live according to strict interpretation of the Bible.

Ask your students to imagine what it must have been like for children living under these strict religious principles. (Answers will probably include fear of hell, restrictive atmosphere, lack of freedom, boredom, feelings of guilt, etc.) Explain to them that in order to understand why this happened and how the accused felt, they will be examining different Web sites.

Step 2:

Ask your students to log on to The Salem Witchcraft Papers Web site at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft/texts/. Tell them that they will examine an oil painting called "The Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692." Tell them that George Jacobs was accused of witchcraft and put on trial. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify Jacobs and discern what is happening in the painting. Allow students a few minutes to study the painting and discuss it with a partner. (Guide your students to understand that Jacobs is being accused of witchcraft. He is on bended knee, pleading in front of the judges. The young women are pointing at him – accusing him – and seem to be fainting. The judges look confused and upset. A woman spectator is being held back. She seems to be angrily trying to get the attention of the judges, possibly in an attempt to protect Jacobs from the accusations of the young women.)

Ask your students how this trial can be compared to a crucible. (Jacobs is in a situation of extreme pressure.) Ask them how they think Jacobs feels at this moment. (Answers may vary: terrified of being hanged, desperate to prove his innocence, confused at the charges against him.)


Learning Activity ll

Step 1:

Explain to your students that they will be viewing and listening to a Web site that will provide some background information to help them understand how the witchcraft hysteria began. Explain to them that it all began when two young girls started exhibiting strange behavior that didn't have a medical explanation, so the local officials deemed it witchcraft. The two girls were Betty Parris, the daughter of the local minister, and Abigail Williams, Betty's cousin.

Step 2:

Ask your students to log on to the Discovery Web site at http://school.discovery.com/schooladventures/salemwitchtrials/story/story.html. The audio component for this presentation should be provided by one set of speakers loud enough for the class to hear clearly. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to watch and listen to the first segment of the video clip and explain the forbidden activities Betty, Abigail, and the other girls were engaging in. START the video clip when you see a black screen with Salem, Massachusetts Winter 1691-1692 and hear ominous music. STOP the clip when you hear the narrator say, "...such activities were strictly forbidden by Puritan code," and see a black screen with January 1692. CHECK for comprehension. (The girls were listening to Tituba's tales of magic and participating in fortune telling).

Ask your students to speculate what the consequences might be for the girls if the officials found out what they were doing. (Answers may include beatings, threat of damnation, loss of any privileges.) Teach vocabulary by asking them to recall the narrator's line, "...such play was a sign of idleness." Ask them to define idleness (a state of inactivity or non-productivity). CHECK their understanding of Puritan culture by asking them why the Puritans avoided idleness. (If they were not constantly working and keeping busy physically and mentally, they could get themselves into trouble.)

Ask your students what consequences Tituba could face for entertaining the girls in this way. (She could be beaten, killed, sold, accused of being a witch.) Ask your students if they think Tituba considers what she is doing is wrong. (Answers may vary.)

Step 3:

Tell your students that they will be watching and listening to the next segment. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the strange symptoms the girls were exhibiting. PLAY the clip when you see a black screen with January 1692. STOP the clip when you hear the narrator say, "The townspeople begged the girls to identify their wicked tormentors," and see a picture of one girls holding another, who is pointing. CHECK for comprehension. (The girls screamed, twitched, rolled on the floor, threw fits, barked like dogs, flapped arms like birds, and made choking sounds.)

Ask your students how the girls went against the rules of their religion and the reaction they had after doing so. (All should agree that the girls' listening to the tales of Tituba was a form of rebellion against the strict religious code of the community.) Why the girls exhibited such strange behavior is a more complicated question. (Students might suggest that they did so to gain attention or to avoid the severe consequences they would have suffered for breaking the rules. More astute students might suggest that their fits, contortions, and acting out were a result of the repression they suffered.)

Ask your students why they think Betty Parris might have exhibited this behavior in the middle of her father's sermon. (Answers might include to embarrass her father, gain attention for herself, play a trick on the congregation.)
Ask your students to study they picture of the girl holding another, who is pointing. Ask them to interpret the picture. (Answers may include that the girl is accusing someone of being a witch as she is being comforted by the other. More sophisticated students may infer that in this cold emotionally cold and distant community, the kind of physical and emotional support shown in the picture was rare, and the girl relished the closeness.)

Step 4:

Tell your students that they will be watching and listening to the next segment. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify what the three accused women had in common. PLAY the tape when you see a black screen with March 1692. STOP the tape when you hear the narrator say, "...sparked a wave of paranoia and accusations," and see March-April-May 1692. CHECK for comprehension. (The women Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osburne, were all social outcasts.)

Ask your students why the girls chose to accuse these three women. (Answers may vary. Guide your students to understand that the townspeople would easily believe that these despised women were witches and, therefore, the girls didn't have to worry about being punished for lying. Accusing respected townspeople would have been too risky for the girls.)

Ask your students to predict whether Tituba will be treated differently from Good and Osburne because she confessed while the others maintained their innocence. (Answers will vary.)

Step 5:

Tell your students that they will be watching and listening to the next segment. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to explain how the accusations began to change. PLAY the clip when you see a black screen with March-April-May 1692. STOP the clip when you hear the narrator say, "...including the most prominent villagers," and see a black screen with June 1692. CHECK for comprehension. (Even respected townspeople were being accused, including Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor. Guide your students to realize the fervor the witch-hunt took on as even small children were imprisoned.)

Ask your students what effect these new accusations might have on the function of the village. (Answers will vary. Guide your students to understand that when landowning people were put in jail or hanged, no one tended to their fields and livestock. Therefore, farms were not productive; animals wandered away or died. Families were separated as children were left without one or both parents.)

Explain to your students that the Puritans believed that evil spirits sent out by witches could take the shape of different animals and pay unwelcome visits to people. Introduce the vocabulary word specter (an evil spirit). Many of the villagers who claimed they were being tormented by witches had no evidence to support their claims except spectral evidence, which the accused had no way of refuting.

Step 6:

Tell your students that they will be watching and listening to the next segment. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to explain what happened to George Burroughs during his trial. PLAY the clip when you see a black screen with June 1692. STOP the clip when you hear the narrator say, "...four others died in jail," and see a black screen with October 1692. CHECK for comprehension. (George Burroughs was hanged despite the fact that he flawlessly recited the Lord's Prayer, something a witch could not do.) Ask your students why they think this proof of innocence was disregarded by the court. (Answers will vary.)

Step 7:

Tell your students that they will be watching and listening to the last segment. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to infer what finally put an end to the Salem witch trials. PLAY the clip when you see a black screen with October 1692. The clip will automatically STOP after the last list of executed villagers is displayed. CHECK for comprehension. (It seems that only after very prominent citizens were accused, including the governor's wife, the trials ceased. Guide your students to understand that the end of the trials and executions had more to do with politics than religion.)

Ask your students how life changed for those who were eventually pardoned? (They lived lives of poverty and never regained their reputations.)

Step 8:

Ask your students to speculate what might have been going on in Salem to spark the accusations and subsequent trials. (Answers will vary. Explain to your students that there was a lot of unrest in Salem just prior to the witch trials.)


Learning Activity lll

Step 1:

Tell your students that they will be examining a map of Salem that shows where the accusers and the accused lived. Ask your student to log on to the Discovery School link at http://www.discovery.com/stories/history/witches/map.html. Tell them that only the map should be visible on the screen. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to study the map and make an observation about where the accusers and the accused lived. CHECK for inferences. (The accusers lived in the western part of the village, while the accused lived mostly in the eastern part of the village.)

Ask your students to speculate why they think the accusers and the accused were separated geographically. (Answers will vary.)

Step 2:

Explain to your students that at the end of the 17th century, Puritanism was losing its strength, and many villagers who lived in the east had business dealings with Salem Town. Some eastern villagers turned away from farming and toward trades and began to gain wealth. However, the farmers of western Salem Village struggled economically while supporting Salem Town with their produce. In addition, the western villagers feared that the Puritan ethic of community and selflessness was disappearing. The pastor of the village, Reverend Parris (father of accuser Betty Parris), tried to turn the people of Salem Village against Salem Town, saying that the town was evil and not doing the work of God.

Ask your students how they think the western villagers felt toward the eastern villagers. (Answers will vary and may include resentful, threatened, jealous, betrayed.)

Step 3:

Explain to your students that they will take a few minutes to reflect on what they have learned and synthesize it. Ask them to spend a few moments thinking about the Salem witch trials and jotting down some factors that influenced them. When they are finished, asked them to share their reasons with a partner and discuss what they have determined. Ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class. Record the responses on the board. (Reasons should include oppressive environment; religious fervor; fear of change in way of life; threat presented by Salem Town.)

Step 4:

Ask your students to log on to Secrets of the Dead Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_salem/interview.html. Ask them to click on the "Interactive/Explore Salem" icon in the upper right-hand corner. Explain to them that they will be viewing a map of Salem Village. The red dots on the map represent the Salem residents who lived in that area and had a part in the witch trials. Provide and opportunity for sharing and paraphrasing. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to click on any red dot they choose and read the biography that appears for the individual that will appear in the box at the left. Ask your students to briefly share in their own words the biography they read with a partner.

Step 5:

Distribute "Which is a Witch?" worksheet. Explain to your students that the names on the sheet are not only real people who experienced the Salem witch-hunt, but many are also characters they will meet when they read The Crucible. Explain to them that they will examine the timeline that appears below the map and work with a partner to answer some questions. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to click on each month-by-month box of the timeline, beginning at January 1692 and ending at May 1993, and read each month's occurrences. When they encounter a name that appears on their worksheet, ask them to click on the name and fill out the information on the sheet associated with that individual.

Step 6:

When the students have completed this activity, ask them to share with the class any insights or conclusions they have drawn. This discussion will serve to synthesize the wealth of information they have gathered from the site. Guide students to speculate on the different motivations people might have had for accusing one another, the reasons they either maintained their innocence or confessed, the reason no official put a stop to the trials, and especially how the unsubstantiated claims of two little girls lead to the death and imprisonment of so many.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1:

After having become familiar with the Salem witch trials, your students will probably have developed a sensitivity toward those who were accused and understand the injustice done to them. For this activity, the class will revisit the "Honor Code" sheet and engage in a mock interrogation where the principal, dean of discipline, and classroom teacher (portrayed by three students) will interrogate fictitious students (portrayed by a self-selected group of your students). These self-selected students will have an opportunity to role-play the parts of a suspected student, while other group members help create the defense.

Step 2:

Distribute the "Is There Honor in the Honor Code?" sheets and the "Student Profile" sheets.

Step 3:

Ask for three volunteers to portray the principal, the dean of discipline, and the classroom teacher. Distribute a copy of the "List of Suspected Cheaters" sheet to each. The panel will have basic information about the students.

Step 4:

Sit these three students away from the rest of the class and ask them to read and discuss the list, and make a list of interrogation questions for each based on the information given about the students on the list. Remind the group that they must be as strict as the witch trial magistrates they learned about. They must root out and make an example of the guilty parties to save the integrity of the school.

Step 5:

Divide the rest of the class into groups of 3-4 students. Assign each group one of the accused students on the sheet, making sure that no student on the sheet is repeated and all are accounted for. Each group should decide on one member to portray the assigned accused student. Each group of students will have detailed information about the suspected students, information the panel may not have.

Step 6:

Explain to your students that each group will read the profile of the student they have been assigned and decide the best way to defend this student when he or she comes up for interrogation in front of the panel. Remind the students that they can choose to plead any way they wish. For example, they may incriminate another student to help exonerate their defendant and avoid expulsion from school; they may choose to plead not guilty without incriminating anyone else; they may plead guilty with or without incriminating anyone else, or; they may choose another defense.

Step 7:

After a few minutes of group discussion, begin the interrogation by asking the panel to sit at the front of the room. Leave one empty chair in front of the panel for the suspect. The panel then calls up one suspect at a time to be interrogated. The suspected student then responds to the panel's questions and pleads his or her case. During the interrogation, only the suspect and the magistrates may speak. Each suspect will get his/her turn to refute previous statements.

Step 8:

After each suspect has been interrogated, allow the panel a few minutes to decide the verdict and sentencing of each student. Remind them that they can convict or exonerate at their will.

Step 9:

After the panel returns its decisions, hold a follow-up discussion with the class in which they offer their feedback to the interrogations. Ask them if they think justice was done in any of the cases. Ask them if the accused students provided ethical defenses for themselves. Extend the discussion by asking them if situations occur today where falsely accused people gain their freedom, but never regain their reputations. (Most students will admit that these situations do occur today. Encourage them to offer examples from the news media or their personal knowledge.) Facilitate your students' awareness of how modern-day witch-hunts can occur.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

ARTS/TECHNOLOGY

Research the paintings of Dutch artist Hironymous Bosch by visiting Olga's Gallery at http://www.abcgallery.com/B/bosch/bosch.html. Compare Bosch's depictions of heaven and hell with the Puritan conception.

Study 17th century music and dance. Groups of students can perform a traditional dance or report on a popular instrument.

MATHEMATICS
Research colonial buildings and ships. Sketch pictures and label their parts. Then construct a model based on dimensions.

Colonial women spent time creating ornate quilts, whose various patterns told stories of their lives. Research colonial quilting and study the geometry of the panels. Then create your own geometric panel and connect it with those of the rest of the class.

SCIENCE
Research the contributions of people in colonial America to medicine, astronomy, and natural history. Create a report on how they stopped epidemics through inoculation.

Bloodletting was a popular treatment for disease in colonial America. Research and report on bloodletting and diseases that plagued the colonists.

Research astronomers such as Galileo and Newton who were living in the 16th and 17th centuries. What effects did their discoveries have on the lives of colonial Americans?

SOCIAL STUDIES/HISTORY/TECHNOLOGY

The McCarthy hearings of the 1950s influenced Arthur Miller's writing of The Crucible. Research the event by visiting the Webcorp Multimedia site at http://webcorp.com/mccarthy/ and the University of Pennsylvania English Department site at http://dept.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/huac-main.html to compile a report on McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS
Create journal entries for those imprisoned for witchcraft.

Write a letter to the governor of Massachusetts asking that the accused be pardoned.

Create a visual tribute to those who were executed as witches.


Community Connections
  • Invite a speaker to speaker to discuss different religions practiced by members of the community.

  • Interview people who remember the McCarthy era Communist "witch-hunts" and give oral reports to the class or invite a speaker into the class.