What do we do with a witch in Salem?

June 03, 2004

To the tune of "Drunken Sailor"

What do we do with a witch in Salem
What do we do with a witch in Salem
What do we do with a witch in Salem
Early in the Semester?

Make the kids read more than a little

Somewhat seriously, the last time I taught US part 1 I decided that I should include the Salem Witch Trials, something I had avoided in earlier years. So far I have handled them poorly twice, in both cases because the kids did not get enough information to understand what was going on. The first time through we used a stock reader that included a brief anecdote about the three girls going into fits and pointing at one of the accused witches. The students simply could not imagine what was going on - the events in that courtroom were so foreign to their experience that they refused to grapple with them. The second time I gave them no reading about the witch trials and instead made a few comments about witch trials as a response to the Dominion of New England - for a while the Court of Oyer and Terminay that was hearing the witch trials was the ONLY active court in all of New England, and so many people took their greivances there in the guise of a witchcraft accusation.

Neither worked well, so this fall I will devote an entire class to the trials, give the kids some reading on the trials, and use the witch trials as a chance both to explore women's history at the end of the 17th century and to immerse the kids in the world of wonders.

So, I am making a stack of primary documents and thinking about what to do with them. My current thoughts are to simply make them write a short homework on the witch trials and then trust to the interest of the subject to keep them going, to have them write a full paper on the trials and give them the resources to do so, or to devote the class to a witch trial, with students playing roles. The latter is the high-risk alternative - I don't know if I have the confidence to pull it off.

But first, to see what I can find in the convenient documentary collections. I suspect that if I assigned all of Cotton Mather's Magnalia Cristos America I would see a rebellion.

Posted by Red Ted at June 3, 2004 05:22 AM | TrackBack

So would I.

Seriously, I am going over a mess of materials this week and giving the kids a reader with primary documents in it. Remind me to share it with you.

Posted by: Red Ted at June 7, 2004 04:35 AM

I'd like to know what your primary reading materials are.

Posted by: Me. at June 7, 2004 12:11 PM
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