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.