Every Witch Way: Learning From the Infamous Trials of Salem

Check out these resources for teaching about this dark chapter in America's past.

Check out these resources for teaching about this dark chapter in America's past.

The Salem witch trials offer rich fodder for social studies lessons. The following Web sites offer ideas for using the events as a springboard for discussing seventeenth-century society, women's roles, tolerance, justice, and more:

Salem Witch Trials Unit

This unit for fifth graders presents a synopsis of the events, two dozen simple activities, and a bibliography for teachers and students.

The Salem Witch Trials WebQuest

On this Web site, kids work in groups of four, playing the role of accused, afflicted, and two judges. They research the events of the day and plead their case. The project culminates with the creation of another site.

Salem Witch Trial Reenactment

In this sixty- to ninety-minute lesson, fifth graders play the parts of historical figures from Salem.

Salem Witch Trials: Lesson Plans

This Web site provides links to numerous lesson plans for grades 5-12, including a unit on Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, a classic dramatization of the events surrounding the witch trials.

This article originally published on 10/8/2008

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Margo Burns (not verified)

Salem

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Although usually when I read Edutopia, I find much to recommend to my colleagues, the article "Stay for a Spell" in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue was a disappointment. I wish the author had at least mentioned the existence of the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive at the University of Virgina's website (http://etext.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft/ ). Much of the content of the article glibly repeats 19th century American myths about the historical event as fact. No primary source from the episode attributes any voodoo or mesmerizing of the village girls to Tituba -- these stories did not appear until two centuries later, in Charles W. Upham's book "Salem Witchcraft" in 1867 (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/17845 ). When the article draws attention to "things you think you know" that are not accurate and gives an example, it might have been better to provide educators with an easily supportable explanation why "burning witches" is a misconception. Instead of invoking yet another historical episode that is further afield of the topic, it would have been more effective to point to easily available primary documentary evidence that specifically states that the method of execution used in 1692 was hanging:

http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft/archives/BPL/B05A.html

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