Salem Witch Trials Mini-Lesson Reflection

After the delivery of this lesson, I was very pleased that generally it seemed like all of my participants enjoyed the activity. This makes me very hopeful for the potential success of this lesson if I were to implement this into my future classroom. There are definitely things that I added from my previous lesson that I felt made the whole activity a lot more streamlined. One example of this is that in this activity I added guiding questions for participants to ask one another in order to find out who the witch(es) were in the classroom. I felt as though this was useful for people to start a conversation with their peers and investigate who among them was not a “pure Puritan.”

I also thought that my personal goal for the lesson – to have students get a feel for the social climate of the time and connect that to themes of modern day – came across very well. I was happy to see at the end of my activity that my participants were a little surprised at the fact that no one in the class was a witch, because that is exactly the sort of reaction I want students to have when I use this lesson in my future classroom. I felt as though this really emphasized to participants that the Witch Trials were largely fueled by fear and paranoia. This I felt helped build a stronger connection between this time and history and the present.

This was further emphasized in my close on the mini-lesson since I attempted to have participants connect this paranoia that was rampant at the time of the Salem Witch Trials and connect it to events happening in modern day. My peers did a wonderful job connecting past events with the present, since they offered many great examples of people that have been or are persecuted due to fear, including: immigrants, the LGBTQA+ community, and police brutality against Black citizens. This did exactly what I hoped and had my participants see that persecution based off of fear is by no means something that we as a community have left in the past. With that being said, in my future classroom I want this closure of the lesson to encourage students to show empathy to these marginalized groups since they made these connections of past and present through the activity. Therefore, all in all I think my second mini-lesson was a very successful one and I hope my students get as much enjoyment out of it as my classmates did.

Salem Witch Trials Role-Play

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it would be fitting and fun to do a lesson focused around the subject of the Salem Witch Trials. I had this in mind as being an end-of-unit activity that would have students use what they’ve learned about this time in history. Considering the subject matter, this lesson would most likely come into play with 9th or 10th grade students. This lesson will focus around the essential questions of: What was the social climate of 17th century Salem? What connections can we draw between 17th century Salem and today?

With that being said, I plan on briefly summarizing main events of the Salem Witch Trials at the start of the lesson in order to set the tone for my class. Then, I will explain to my students that they will be using what they’ve learned to try and place themselves at that point in history. Students will then draw slips of paper that determine whether they will be a “towns person” or “witch” in this activity. I plan to explicitly make an announcement to students that the purpose of this activity is to try and determine which one of their classmates was a witch and it is up to the townspeople to find them. In order to assist students with their investigation, I will display guided questions on the board that students may ask one another to help them determine the role their classmates are playing. During the next ~10 minutes, students will be questioning one another and participating on a classroom witch hunt.

The purpose of this lesson will be to give students a better idea of what the social climate was at the time of the witch trials, as well as teach students about how mob mentality ran rampant at this time in history through their reenactment of this concept in the lesson. Furthermore, students will directly be addressing the essential questions of this imagined unit in this lesson since they will be placing themselves at the time in history we would have been learning about. The purpose of this is to have students build a deeper connection with what they are learning through their performance from a specific point of view. I hope this will be a fun and engaging lesson that I can use in my future classroom in order to show students that things that were present in 17th century Salem – like paranoia and mob mentality – still show themselves in society today.

Federalist/Anti-Federalist Mini-lesson Reflection

After completing my miniature lesson that was meant to introduce potential middle school students to the topics of federalism and anti-federalism, I have a better idea of things I can do to improve my overall lesson. The purpose of my mini-lesson was to get students more involved in this part of history through participating in a debate where students unknowingly were supporting the views of federalists and anti-federalists. At the end of the lesson, each “side” of the argument was revealed and students were able to see what side of history their political views placed them on. My intention for this mini-lesson was to have students engage with viewpoints that were shared by major historical figures to introduce them on an intended following lesson on federalism and anti-federalism. This activity was mainly student-led (since they developed arguments and debated with one another with little interference from the teacher), which I preferred for this lesson because I felt the students would find more meaning in the material since they were interacting with one another during the whole process.

Largely, I feel as though my lesson was successful in the small setup we had in the classroom. For example, I was lucky enough to have each of my debate teams be of equal size with the students choosing their own side to defend. This, however, is something that is unlikely to happen in a regular classroom setting. One suggestion that I found to be very valuable in improving my lesson would be to divide the class into smaller groups to make a debate more manageable. I feel as though this method of having 4-5 smaller groups developing their arguments then debating with one another has the potential to make my lesson successful in the general education classroom by minimizing the chaos that could potentially ensue with a group of 30+ children debating one another.

Another piece of feedback that I found to be especially valuable was my classmates’ suggestions to provide a printout that summarized the arguments of the federalists and anti-federalists so students would have a resource to refer back to when developing their arguments. This made me realize that it could be inconvenient on both myself and the class if I constantly had to go back and forth on the slideshow to display a specific piece of information. Therefore, I think a printout with bullet points of each side of the argument would make it easier for students to observe the information I give to them.

Finally, after completing my lesson I can also see where the debate itself in my lesson could have been improved by giving the students specific questions that they would be debating before they delivered opening statements. This would give my students the opportunity to develop their argument further based on the questions I gave them. Also, while it did work successfully in the mini-lesson, giving students specific questions may encourage my students to speak (since they will know exactly what is being asked of them) and participate in the debate. I know with my target audience of middle schoolers, getting them to participate can sometimes be a struggle. However, providing them with the “essential questions” for the debate and having them perfect their argument in small groups with peers has the potential to make students more confident in the arguments they produce and make them more likely to share their ideas.

After going through this mini-lesson in class, I feel as though I am clear on the ways it can be improved to the level that I think I would be incorporating a similar lesson with my students when they enter their unit on government. Some of these issues I hadn’t seen through my own development and test-run, so it was extremely useful to have a test run with my classmates and receive feedback on ways I can improve in my lesson moving forward. However, I was also able to see where my lesson was already strong as well, which gave me a little more comfort in my ability to create my own lessons (which will be extremely useful moving forward in my teaching career).

“Envisioning a not-so-imaginary government” Mini Lesson

This lesson is meant to be an introduction to a unit centered around early America, specifically federalism and anti-federalism. I will start the lesson by asking the class to imagine that we as a group just settled a new country where we need to establish a government. Then, I will introduce the two possible “sides” students can take when they construct their opinions on what type of government would be most beneficial to our new country (not mentioning specifically that these “sides” reflect the views of the federalists and anti-federalists). Students will then choose sides, develop two groups based on the side they chose, and have a debate with one another on why they decided their form of government would work the best with the teacher serving as a moderator. At the end of the lesson, I will reveal which groups’ views – either federalist or anti-federalist – the students were defending.

I developed this lesson keeping in mind the students I have in my 8th grade social studies classroom. I believe this lesson has students interact with history through taking roles that reflect the sentiments of early Americans (even if they don’t know that until the end of the lesson). Since students can choose their own side to defend, they can see how their opinions may have been reflected by Americans in the late 18th century. This also gives students an opportunity to express their viewpoints and defend their stance from the opposing side, which can give students a deeper understanding of how a decision like what form of government is best for a developing country is made. This is mainly meant to be a student-led lesson (since most of the time will be dedicated to students talking in their groups and debating among one another) with minimal interference from the teacher. This puts the students in charge of their own learning rather than relying on the teacher for “the right answer.”

Keeping that in mind, the only direct resource I will be using in this lesson is a short Google Slides presentation meant to introduce the activity of developing a form of government for our “imaginary” country and describing the viewpoints of side A and side B (one representing the view of the federalists, the other the anti-federalists).