Lesson of the Day: ‘She Was Declared a Witch at Salem. These Middle Schoolers Want to Clear Her Name.’

Lesson Overview

Featured Article: “She Was Declared a Witch at Salem. These Middle Schoolers Want to Clear Her Name.” By Neil Vigdor

In 1693, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., a younger girl dwelling in what’s now North Andover, Mass., was convicted of witchcraft. Unlike the overwhelming majority of different individuals who had been wrongfully convicted at the Salem witch trials, Ms. Johnson’s conviction was by no means overturned. This yr, an eighth grade civics class set out to clear her title.

In this lesson, you’ll study the Salem witch trials and the way a group of center schoolers put their civics expertise to the take a look at in an effort to exonerate Ms. Johnson. Then, you’ll write a letter supporting or opposing a invoice that might rewrite historical past.


Jot down what you realize about the Salem witch trials. What had been they? Where did they occur? Why did they occur? Who was typically accused of being a “witch”? How had been the accused handled?

Then, watch this two-minute video from NBC Learn and add at least three extra key information about the witch trials to your record:

Questions for Writing and Discussion

Read the article, then reply the following questions:

1. Summarize the life of Elizabeth Johnson Jr. in a few sentences. Based on the article, why would possibly she have been convicted of witchcraft? What does that inform you about the fears or prejudices held by folks throughout that point interval?

2. Carrie LaPierre, the instructor of the eighth grade civics class at North Andover Middle School taking over Ms. Johnson’s trigger, mentioned they had been studying about “acceptance” at school. Why would possibly studying about acceptance be necessary in a class about authorities? How would possibly it relate to the Salem witch trials?

three. In what methods did the witch trials have an effect on the communities of Salem and the surrounding cities? What impact did it have on Ms. Johnson’s household?

four. According to Emerson W. Baker, a historical past professor at Salem State University in Massachusetts, what are some of the causes that folks had been so afraid of the thought of witches?

5. What efforts have been revamped time to proper the wrongs of the Salem witch trials? Do you assume these actions are sufficient? Why or why not?

6. How was Ms. LaPierre’s class ready to be taught from the course of of attempting to exonerate Ms. Johnson? Would you be fascinated about studying about the authorities via a mission like this?

Going Further

In March, State Senator Diana DiZoglio, who had been working with Ms. LaPierre’s class, launched a invoice to clear Elizabeth Johnson Jr.’s title. You can learn it right here.

Do you assist or oppose the exoneration of Ms. Johnson? Why? Write a letter to Ms. DiZoglio explaining your place. In your letter, make a clear case for why you assist or oppose the invoice and use examples from the featured article or your individual analysis to assist persuade the legislature to take your aspect. Then, if you happen to like, you possibly can ship your letter to Ms. DiZoglio’s workplace.

Additional Teaching and Learning Opportunities

Analyze major sources. Read the two unique examinations of Ms. Johnson, and use these questions to aid you analyze them and take into consideration their significance in the present day.

Consider the which means of historic, and modern, “witch hunts.” What does that time period imply to you? What do you assume of if you hear it? Watch this video on the historical past of witch hunts. Then, take a look at any of these three examples of modern-day “witch hunts”:

“What a Witch Hunt Really Looks Like,” a visitor essay on former President Donald J. Trump’s invocation of the time period throughout the investigation into Russian interference

“Fighting Modern-Day Witch Hunts in India’s Remote Northeast,” a four-minute video about accusations which have led to violence in opposition to ladies

“Memories of a Real ‘Witch Hunt,’” one girl’s story of her father, who was swept up in the anti-communism sentiment of the 1950s, which many thought of a “witch hunt”

What connections are you able to make to the origins of witch hunts or the Salem witch trials? What different examples of modern-day “witch hunts” are you able to provide you with? What additional questions does the time period elevate for you?

Learn about the reclamation of the “witch” label. Read an article about witches in standard tradition, an interview with a Brooklyn-based witch, or a private narrative on what it means to be a witch. Do you establish with being “witchy” in any manner? Are there folks in your loved ones or neighborhood who’re proud of the methods they’re ready to heal or assist others with witchcraft or supernatural powers?

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