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The Crucible Pre-Reading Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

''The Crucible'' is a complicated play with a great deal of nuance. The activities in this lesson will prepare students by activating and supplementing their prior knowledge about relevant topics.

Why Pre-Reading Activities?

When taking on a complicated classic text such as Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, it is important to do pre-reading activities, which have a variety of purposes. They may be designed to activate students' prior knowledge and help them feel confident and prepared as they encounter a text. Pre-reading activities may also supplement students' prior knowledge. For instance, since The Crucible takes place during colonial America, pre-reading activities may add to students' historical knowledge base and give them background information that will help them make better sense of the play. Pre-reading activities can also be designed to familiarize students with reading strategies suited to a particular genre. In the case of The Crucible, this means getting students ready to read a play. This is especially important if students have not had much previous experience with reading drama. The pre-reading activities in this lesson will help you get as much as possible out of reading The Crucible with your class.

Pre-Reading Activities

What Do You Know?

This simple activity gets students thinking about the context of The Crucible by asking them to talk about what they already know. Choose three subtopics relevant to the play, such as colonial life, the Salem witch trials, gender roles in Colonial America, or slavery in Colonial America. Ask students to choose the topic they feel they know the most about and write a list of everything they know about this topic in their journals. Then, have students share their lists. Make a master list of contextual knowledge that you can refer back to during your reading of the play.

McCarthyism Research

One of the reasons Miller wrote The Crucible when he did was to create an allegory for the McCarthy period and the way the trials recapitulated the Salem witch trials. Have your students do online or library research on the McCarthy period to familiarize themselves with that time period. Some students may even make connections to contemporary issues, such as the way Muslims get stigmatized by particular policies. Having this background information will help students understand the point Miller was attempting to make through his play.

Read a Few Scenes

To prepare students for reading a dramatic work, choose one or two scenes or short excerpts from the play and have students read them out loud, taking turns acting out different parts. Ask students to reflect on what it feels like to read a play, and how this is different from reading prose or poetry. Have students practice rereading the same scene silently, and make a list of strategies they discover for helping the characters and their voices come alive in their minds.

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