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The Crucible Act 1 Activities

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

When students read 'The Crucible', they usually understand the plot and characters, but they miss the historical connections and the play's themes. This lesson provides activities for Act I to help students understand those more difficult topics.

Teaching Act I of The Crucible

While some of the language is antiquated, the witch hunt and dramatic interactions between characters make this play one that students usually find accessible. The difficulty with The Crucible comes from the fact that the story is so compelling, students may not look beneath that engaging surface level. Here are two activities that will help students think about the major ideas of the play.

Building Background

The Crucible is often interpreted as a play about the abuse of power, or more specifically, as an allegory for McCarthyism. Students will start to see the connections once they have more understanding of the McCarthy hearings and the Salem witch trials. This activity will build background knowledge in a student-centered way.

Start by creating expert folders - paper folders containing printed articles, graphs, pictures, quotes, or any other material you want students to read. You can also include QR codes to link to video content, or if you have the resources you can build the entire folder digitally. Divide the class into working groups and distribute one folder for each group. The groups will split up the articles so that each member gets some choice as to what he reads, and they can play to their strengths. Some will be better at comprehending the more academic pieces, while others might excel at interpreting the data given in a graph or chart. As students read through the selections, they will add ideas to a piece of chart paper. Draw a margin around the outside of the paper for students to use as a place to add questions, and leave a circle blank in the center. When they have worked through the expert folders, they'll fill in that center with their interpretation of the main idea of the folder.

Finish this portion of the activity by having students within the group explain what they learned to the other members of the group. In this way, everyone is exposed to all the texts in the folder without each student having to read them all. Next, use roving reporters; one student from each group goes to the other teams to see what they added to their notes. This reporter brings back any new ideas and adds those to the group's note-catcher. Display these note-catchers around the room and refer to them often as you continue reading the play. Students should start drawing connections to historic events now that they have the necessary background knowledge to do so. This activity can be used before reading Act I or at any point during the Act.

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