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Lesson Plans Library 9-12 > U.S. History
Colonial America
Colonial America
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Three class periods
 



lesson plan support
Objectives
Students will
  • Understand basic facts about the Salem Witch Trials and different theories for the hysteria.
  • Explore primary source documents to understand the stories of various people involved in the trials.
  • Write a fictional first-hand account as if living in Salem Village in 1692, which reflects one or more of the theories.
  • Describe characteristics of Puritanism and its role in 17th-century Salem.
Materials
  • American History: Colonial Americaprogram
  • Computer with Internet access
Procedures
  1. After watching the video, review basic facts about the Salem Witch Trials with the class. Where and when did the trials occur? What were the accusations? Who were some of the accusers and accused? What was the outcome of the trials? Students will find a six-minute movie that summarizes the events at the following Web site:
  2. Next, talk about how the witch trials were different from a typical court trial today. (People were accused and convicted based on evidence that only the accuser could see, such as apparitions or ghosts.) The great mystery of the Salem Witch Trials is how an entire town believed this evidence, triggering mass hysteria. Have students discuss the different theories for the Salem Witch Trials that were presented in the video:
    • Chemical poisoning from ergot
    • Fear of devil inflamed by the Indian Wars and distrust of those opposed to war
    • Group psychology or the power of suggestion
  3. Tell students that these are just three possible factors in the mass hysteria during the witch trials. Have students work individually or in pairs to explore other factors at the Web site below.(Emphasize that none of these theories is meant to offer a single explanation for the witch trials.)Have them take notes as they read, paying close attention to the characteristics of Puritanism and its role in 17th-century Salem.
  4. Explain to the class that they?ve been exploring theories presented by modern-day experts. Now they will turn their attention to some of the actual people who experienced the witch trials. There is a wealth of documents from this time period, including extensive transcripts from the trials. These primary sources provide a first-hand account of the events that are invaluable to historians today. Divide the class into six groups and assign each group to one of the people highlighted at the following Web site:
  5. Have each group read the biography and the primary source excerpt for their assigned person. Then have them give a brief presentation to the class, first describing the person?s role in the witch trials, then reading aloud from the primary source. After each presentation, ask the class to consider the person?s feelings or beliefs at the time of the trials. What might have been the motivations behind his or her actions?
  6. Finally, have students consider some the stories they just heard in light of the theories they explored in the beginning of the lesson. Their final assignment is to write a fictional first-hand account as if they were living in Salem Village in 1692. They could write from the point of view of an accuser, an accused, or a supporter or critic of the trials. Their accounts should reflect one or more of the possible theories for the witch trials. They should also describe Puritanism and its role in the lives of 17th-century Salem colonists.

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Evaluation
Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students shared several facts about the Salem Witch Trials and possible theories for the hysteria; gave an accurate and complete presentation about their assigned primary source; wrote a thorough, engaging first-hand account that reflected at least one theory for the witch trials and clearly described Puritanism and its role in the lives of 17th-century Salem colonists.
  • Two points: Students shared some facts about the Salem Witch Trials and possible theories for the hysteria; gave an accurate and complete presentation about their assigned primary source; wrote an acceptable first-hand account that reflected one theory for the witch trials and clearly described Puritanism and its role in the lives of 17th-century Salem colonists.
  • One point: Students did not share any facts about the Salem Witch Trials or possible theories for the hysteria; gave an incomplete presentation about their assigned primary source; wrote a vague or inaccurate first-hand account that did not clearly reflect any of the theories for the witch trials or describe Puritanism and its role in the lives of 17th-century Salem colonists.

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Vocabulary
colony
Definition:A country or area that is ruled by another country
Context:The English colony of Jamestown was established in 1607, and it endured much hardship in its early years.

ergot
Definition:A toxic fungus that infects rye; contains toxins that cause tingling in the fingers, hallucinations, and convulsions
Context:Ergot poisoning may have inflicted some girls early on, perhaps even triggering the hysteria.

hysteria
Definition:A state of uncontrollable and exaggerated emotion
Context:The hysteria in Salem began with convulsions in a handful of teenage girls.

pharmacologist
Definition:Someone who studies how drugs are produced and used to treat diseases and their effects
Context:The team contacted a pharmacologist to learn how the poisonous chemicals in ergot might have affected the girls in Salem.

Puritans
Definition:A group of Protestant colonists in 17th-century America who believed in strict religious discipline and followed a strict moral code
Context:The Puritans believed that before they arrived in America, America was the devilís territory.

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Academic Standards
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL?s Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • U.S. History - Colonization and Settlement (1585 ?1763): Understands how political, religious, and social institutions emerged in the English colonies
  • U.S. History - Colonization and Settlement (1585 ?1763): Understands why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies and how Europeans struggled for control of North America and the Caribbean

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • People, Places, and Environments
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Power, Authority, and Governance

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