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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Crucible

A world of Puritan imagination.

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Everyone's familiar with witch trials in one way or another, whether it’s from Monty Python, Hocus Pocus, or that time Winona Ryder got busted for shoplifting. The Crucible goes deeper, and we’re prepared to help you brave the fire.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity about Arthur Miller’s writing process and his inspirational underwear. (No, we lied. It’s about lying.)
  • a list of crucial Crucible terms, a hearty remedy for students quailing about the text.
  • more historical resources than you can shake a flaming torch at: McCarthyism, the Cold War, Colonial New England, and more.

It’s not witchcraft, just our magical teaching guide.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: You know what would have been helpful to the folks accused of witchcraft in The Crucible? A good defense attorney. So let's give them one.

In this activity, your students will explore character, the theme of justice, and the process of constructing an argument by writing—and performing—a closing argument for one of the condemned characters in The Crucible

Length of Lesson: You can expect to spend about a week on the assignment, including one class period to introduce the project and another one or two class periods for students to perform their closing arguments.

Step 1: Introduce the assignment. Let your students know they'll be taking on the role of a defense attorney for one of the characters who is condemned to death in The Crucible.

Step 2: Watch an example of a closing argument from a movie or television show. Here are some possibilities:

Step 3: Lead a class discussion isolating the effective argument techniques found in the speech you watched. One technique might be refutation, acknowledging the other side and deconstructing it. You might also point out the speaker's appeals to both reason and emotion.

Step 4: Give students a night to pick a condemned character and to write a closing argument in his or her defense. Arguments should include refutation, appeal to reason, appeal to emotion, and, above all else, have a clear thesis, which is supported using these techniques.

Step 5: Students perform their closing arguments for the class. Allow the students to act as the jury and vote on whether or not each closing argument is convincing. If you like, go Gladiator style: thumbs up to acquit, thumbs down to convict.

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade Reading 3.4, 3.5; Writing 1.1, 2.4; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.6, 2.5. 11th and 12th grade Writing 1.1, 2.2; Listening & Speaking 1.6.)

Instructions for Your Students

You know what would have been helpful to the folks accused of witchcraft in The Crucible? A good defense attorney. So let's give them one.

You.

Take some time to channel your favorite lawyer. Is it Atticus Finch? Henry Drummond? A character from Law and Order? Your mom or dad? 

Whoever it is, get ready to step into that character's shoes, because it's going to be your job to take on the role of a defense attorney and to try and liberate one of the alleged witches in the play. And in a couple days, you will deliver a closing argument speech to the class in which you which try to convince us exactly why we should believe that your client is innocent.

Step 1: First, you need to get inspired. In class, watch an example of a closing argument from a movie or TV show. Here are some possibilities:

Your teacher might show you one of these, but if not, feel free to watch one or more on your own for additional inspiration.

Step 2: Also in class (the bell hasn't rung yet), take some time to discuss the closing argument you viewed. What techniques did the attorney use to try to persuade the jury? Which of these techniques seemed most effective? 

Some strategies you'll want to make sure you understand are:

  • refutation;
  • appeal to reason; and
  • appeal to emotion.

If you aren't clear on these by the end of class, get your hand in the air and get some clarification. 

Step 3: For homework, pick a condemned character in The Crucible and write a closing argument in his or her defense. (Check out Shmoop's The Crucible characters if you need help getting started.) Your argument should include refutation, appeal to reason, appeal to emotion, and, above all else, have a clear thesis, which is supported using these techniques.

Step 4: Don your white wig! (Okay, fine. White wigs are optional. They seem like they'd be scratchy anyway.)

With or without a wig, go ahead and perform your closing argument for the class. And when you're not delivering your argument, listen to your classmates' closing arguments and vote on whether or not to convict or acquit their defendants.

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE CRUCIBLE?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Photos    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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