NOTE TO EDUCATORS: The movie featured in this lesson plan contains depictions of suffering and punishment endured by innocent victims. Due to the sensitivity of this topic, consider previewing the movies before showing it to the class.

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-12, students explore BrainPOP features and resources to learn about the Salem Witch Trials. Students then write an editorial or produce a video editorial persuading the people of Salem to put an end to the witch trials.  

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm what they know about the Salem Witch Trials.
  2. Watch a BrainPOP movie about the Salem Witch Trials.
  3. Use the Make-a-Map tool to identify evidence for putting an end to the trials.
  4. Write an editorial (or produce a video editorial) persuading the people of Salem to put an end to the witch trials.

Materials:

  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Sample persuasive editorial from local or national newspaper

Preparation:

Preview the BrainPOP movie Salem Witch Trials to plan for any adaptations.  Make copies of sample editorial for the whole class. Assign the Salem Witch Trials Make-a-Map.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Write “Salem Witch Trials” on the board. Ask students what they know, if anything, about this tragic period in U.S. history. Allow time for students to share, jotting their ideas on the board. Younger students may not know anything about it, which is ok. You can ask them to make guesses of what it was about.
  2. Project the BrainPOP movie Salem Witch Trials on the whiteboard. Read aloud, or have a volunteer read the summary of the Salem Witch Trials movie that appears under the player.  
  3. Now show the Salem Witch Trial movie to the whole class on the whiteboard or other large display. Turn on the closed caption option to aid in comprehension.
  4. After watching the movie, distribute the sample editorial you brought in. Ask students if they know what an editorial is, and allow time for them to respond. Follow up by explaining that an editorial is an article written by someone on the staff of a newspaper or other publication that express the publication’s opinion about a current issue or topic, often with the purpose of persuading readers to think or act in a certain way. Point out that for an editorial to be persuasive, the writer needs to support the opinion with evidence, such as facts, reasons, and/or examples. Allow time for students to read the sample editorial, or invite a volunteer to read it aloud.
  5. Tell students that today they will write an editorial (or produce a video editorial) from the point of view of a journalist living at the time of the Salem Witch Trials. The goal of the editorial is to persuade the people of Salem to stop their witch trial immediately.
  6. Remind students that to make their argument persuasive, they need to support it with evidence. Have students open their Make-a-Map assignments, or just open Salem Witch Trial Make-a-Map.  Explain that they will watch the movie again, within Make-a-Map, to identify evidence to support the argument that the witch trials should end. Circulate as students work, helping as needed.  
  7. Once students complete their maps, instruct them to write their editorials, using evidence from their Make-a-Maps to support their arguments. Also encourage them to use the editorials you distributed as a model for how to write an editorial. Alternatively students can use Make-a-Movie to produce video editorials.
  8. Finally, have students swap editorials with someone else in the class and instruct them to edit each other’s articles for clarity, grammar, accuracy, etc. Or, if students have produced video editorials, they can share those with each other.

Extension Activities:

Display the Salem Witch Trials topic page on the whiteboard. Scroll down to the four related topics. Initiate a class discussion about how each of the four topics is related to the Salem Witch Trials topic.
Filed as:  Salem Witch Trials
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