Janey Figueroa
U.S. History
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Interactive
Middle School
Creative Commons Attribution
Media Formats:

The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem Witch Trials


Witches are arguably the most iconic symbols of Halloween but where do they originate from? In this lesson, we will briefly learn where they oringiated from and how they were percieved by the masses in colonial Massachusetts with the use of primary documents, interactive online games, and an activity. 


Brief History

As All Hallow's Eve draws near, spooky ghouls and spirits become frequent topics of discussion. In this lesson we will be exploring the history of the holiday's, arguably, most iconic figure, the witch. 

The earliest records of the existence of witches can be found in the Bible, which was written sometime between 931 B.C. to 732 B.C. It wasn't until several centuries later that more documentation of the existence of witches emerged from all across early modern Europe and colonial America. 

During the mid 1400's, a witch hysteria took over in Europe. Many people, primarily single women such as widows, were accused of being in cahoots with the Devil. These women often confessed under the pressure of torture and were sentenced to be executed either by being burned at the stake or hanging. 

After some time, the witch hysteria in Europe bagan to calm down but was beginning to take a hold of the American colonies. Early America was filled with tension that had come from an ounslaguht of infectuous diseases and wars wihch was worsened after two young Puritan girls began to exhibit peculiar symptoms. These symptoms included uncontrollable outbursts of screaming and bodily contortions. Medical doctors and community religious figures were unable to find a medical explanation for their odd behavior. Eventually, betwitchment was considered to be the cause of the symptoms and behaviors people were experiencing. 



Prior to the witch hunt, students will click on the resources attached in order to gain an understanding of what went on during the Salem Witch Trials. The first resouce will direct students to a website that has archived documents about the trials. Students are encouraged to read court records, personal letters, and view the historical maps. The second resouce will direct students to an educational game by national geographic. In this game, students are given the opporunity to make decisions as a participant of the Salem witch hysteria.  

After about 20 minutes of this, students will then get into groups of five. Each person in the group will be given a character sheet. (the names of characters and who they are attached below) Students will be tasked to: 

1. Figure out who is the witch based off of the infromation they've learned and their character sheets. 


2. Provide an argument, with evidnece, as to why they belive that person is a witch. 

Keep in mind that the witch trials were based on suscipion so there wasn't really any "concrete" evidence. At least, in modern times we don't consider it concrete. Liken your reasoning to those who were alive during the witch trials.