Salem Witch Trials: Web Supported Lesson Plan
Critical Thinking, for grades 5th -8th
Upon completion, students will be able to understand what happened in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, and that laws were changed to protect the innocent.
Preparation: With your students, prior to teaching this lesson, review the Puritans and their beliefs. Also bring out the beliefs they brought with them from Europe about how the legal system should work, with courts, judges, witnesses, testimony, and the law of perjury. The Puritans
Individual Student Activity: Instructions:
Group Discussion: Ask for volunteers willing to compare their answer to the answer given by curators at the Salem Witch Museum (click on the question to see their answer.) Be prepared to briefly discussion the questions chosen with the class. Agree? Disagree? Who do you think had a better answer and why. (For teachers: If these sites disappear, you will need to replace the information they provide with handouts. But, while they are online, they do the job wonderfully for you.)
Back in the classroom: Small group activity: Break up into small groups of 4-5 students. Have each group write 3 quiz questions that they think are important for people to know about the Salem Witch Trials. Give them some time.
Class Discussion: Tell students they must raise their hand to have a chance to be chosen to answer any quiz question. Using the round robin system, have each group quiz the rest of the class, one question per group at a time because you will be running into duplication. Have each group select someone from the class to answer their question. Then, with a show of hands - how many students agree this is an important fact to remember about the Salem Witch Trials? How many disagree? Make sure every group has a chance to ask at least one question.
Close Class by telling students that after the Salem Witch Trials, and the truth came to light about the damage done by the lies told in court, laws were changed to clarify Due Process. In a court of law, you are innocent until PROVEN guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt. Say: Later this year, we will be studying the United States Constitution and the laws that affect us all in this country. When the Constitution was written, people remembered the Salem Witch Trials. Right in the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, they created laws to make sure something like the Salem Witch Trials would never happen again. And it never has. (New Teachers: Make sure the kids understand this. They can get pretty scared and worried about happenings such as this.)
New Teachers: If time permits, another use of this lesson is to discuss that people must not believe everything they read on the web without investigation - consider the source, compare sources, even then be a little skeptical. (Some websites paraphrase other websites and regurgitate the same information without checking the facts before they do. Other sites try to be accurate, but that does not mean they are always accurate.) For example, using this lesson you could ask: Is there such a place as the Salem Witch Museum or is that simply a great name for a website?