Salem Witch Trials

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The lesson introduces students to the Salem Witch Trials and the hysteria that went along with them.  Many students have heard the term “witch hunt”, but may not understand the history or background of its use.  Most students will find the information interesting since it involved young people of the same age.  Teachers are reminded to use sensitivity during the lesson, as some students’ families may believe in superstitions and other related concepts.  The lesson may be used in conjunction with other lessons related to the same era in history.

Salem Witch Trials Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about the Salem Witch Trials
  • Hands-on homework activities
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 5-6 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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Description

The fascinating lesson introduces students to the Salem Witch Trials and the hysteria that went along with them. The lesson provides definitions for witch and witchcraft, and then discusses the belief in their prevalence in Massachusetts in the late 1600’s. The Puritans are discussed, as well as some of the more famous women accused of being witches, such as Abigail Williams and Sarah Good. The tests used to determine if someone was a witch are also described. The lesson can be used in conjunction with lessons about Puritans, or other events from the same era.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction:  

  1. Display the words: Witch Hunt.  Ask students its meaning and to use it in a sentence.
  2. Allow for responses and discussion. Next, ask students to define witch, what is it and what would it mean to be a witch.
  3. Allow for responses and discussion. Finally, ask students if there have ever been witches in America.
  4. Allow for responses and discussion. Introduce Salem Witch Trials.
  5. Distribute Salem Witch Trials content pages. Read and review the information with the students.  Use the additional resources to enhance understanding.
  6. Distribute Activity page. Read and review the instructions.  Pair students.  Distribute paper to be used for the “Front Page” news stories.  Remind students to use a variety of stories. Allow students time to work on the rough draft and to complete the activity.  Encourage creativity and allow access to the Internet for additional information if necessary.
  7. Once completed, students will share with other students in the class, either meeting with each other or reading some of the stories aloud to the class.
  8. Distribute Practice page. Check and review the students’ responses.  Ask students to correct the false statements.
  9. Distribute the Homework page. The next day, check and review the students’ responses.  Allow students to read their letters aloud to the class.
  10. In closing, ask students: Describe a time when you were falsely accused of something and felt like you were part of a witch hunt. How did you feel?  If this has never happened to you, how do you think a person would feel?
  11. Allow for responses and discussion. Also, ask about another person they may know who was the focus of a “witch hunt”, treated unfairly and falsely accused of something.

Common Core State Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1, 1.C, 5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6.4, 7, 10

Class Sessions (45 minutes): at least 2 class sessions

Additional Resources:

Many more teaching resources in Download!

Want more social studies resources? Check out our other Social Studies Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

5th Grade, 6th Grade

Subject

Social Studies