Teaching The Crucible to general-level 11th gradersI'd be interested to hear anyone's experiences with The Crucible--particularly with general-level 11th graders. Do you enjoy teaching it at this...
I'd be interested to hear anyone's experiences with The Crucible--particularly with general-level 11th graders. Do you enjoy teaching it at this level? Do the students enjoy it? How much time do you spend on it?
I love teaching The Crucible. It's always one of my students' favorite works. We teach it to juniors at my school in an American Lit. class. I've tried all sorts of activities with it, and most of them have been successful. I have Crucible flashcards which help my lower level students with the characters. They add information to the cards as we go through the play. I also have a flipchart for a connections activity. One of my students' favorite parts is when I divide them into two Puritan communities. They elect a minister, several councilmen, etc. During the unit, they watch for sins (students come up with a list of sins) or suspicious behavior in their community members and point it out publicly.
I also have a copy of an article entitled "Spellbound" which tells the true story of a high school girl who was accused of placing a hex on one of her teachers. It's a very effective tool in showing students how easy it is for humans to get into "witch hunts."
In reply to #5, I use the film version each time I teach the play. We usually read through and analyze an act and then I show them that portion of the movie. It helps build suspense and for general level students, it provides a great visual. On my copy of the DVD, Daniel Day Lewis gives a brief interview about the complexities of John Proctor's character, and that helps my students with literary analysis.
I've done The Crucible with both general and college-prep junior classes--always a great experience with great results. The kids love this play, for various reasons. At one time I had the play on tape, organized by acts. We listened to the play while reading along. This allowed students to hear a professional reading with the actors in character, to enjoy the sound of the language and experience the pace of the production. This was a great listening skill activity in itself.
Rather than interrupt the flow of the play, I reserved initial discussion for the end of each act, until we finished it. This was also a good time to make predictions about what might happen next.
My unit covered about three weeks, including pre- and post-reading activities, a writing assignment, and a unit test.
I loved teaching it to general and advanced juniors. I used the Day-Lewis film as a companion piece. I prefer using clips that pair with the readings, rather than reading the whole thing first and then viewing the whole thing afterward.
I also team-taught The Crucible with the social studies teacher so that the students got a double dose of history and literature. The SS teacher presented information on the Puritans, the Salem witch trials, and McCarthyism and the Red scare of the 1950s, while I handled the presentation of the play itself.
Students engage strongly with the timeless themes, and teenaged girls in particular respond to the character study of Abigail. Clips of the film Mean Girls are also an excellent pairing.
I've also had success with this play, teaching at both AP and CP (our general level) 11th grade students. As the previous poster mentioned, rooting the text in the political influences often engages the students in a way that wouldn't be possible without the sense of context. I think it would be interesting to ask students to find comparisons/contrasts with the political tone fo the nation today.
I've also found that many students are fascinated by Abigail, and the power she wields over the other characters. I think they're particularly drawn to/repulsed by the idea that a few teenagers holding grudges can tap into a primitive fear of an entire community, and ruin so many lives.
My students always love this play. They are always intrigued by witches and the Salem Trials, which I always give as background information. We normally read on our own before coming to class and then role-play, and consider the characters from different points of view, motives, etc. It is fascinating, and the students--even traditional/regular students--always come up with things I hadn't considered before. You might also let them know about Miller's own version of the "witch hunt" regarding the liberal Communists in Hollywood during the time he wrote this play. It's always good for stirring up opinions and interest.
You're in for a real treat!
One of my best assignments of the year happens in The Crucible. I make kids team up in groups of 5-6 for the reading of Act II. They read the entire act silently but from different points of view. As a reporter, profiler, detective, criminal psychologist, and I have a couple of other roles, they create a crime scene file. What crime has occured? Well, not one yet, but word has it that Abigail and John are on a slippery slope and it's time to investigate. They have a blast with it. If you are interested, I will email you the document. Please send me a message through enotes first, I don't want to post my email right here.
I concur with all the previous posts. This is a great work to create energy and discussion because, of all people, teenagers are most reactive to things which "aren't fair." This play is the epitome of that, and they often get indignant. The comparison to McCarthyism is almost as interesting to them as the actual Salem trials. I always like to remind them this play is on the banned book list and encourage them to explain why they think that might be. The obvious answers are the themes of adultery and witchcraft, yet I always ask them where either is actually done in the play. Makes them think, anyway. Have a great time!!
Great idea there #4! I am going to be teaching The Crucible for the first time to my Grade 11 class this year and I am doing it in the context of American Romanticism and the Dark Romantics, which we have already started looking at. My general feelings about this play is that it is just such an excellent play that everyone will like it. I intend on using the recent-ish film version with Winona Ryder and Daniel Day Lewis after studying it. Has anyone else used this film version to complement study of the play?
I agree with all of the other posters above. The Crucible has always engaged my students and been one of my favorites to teach. The only element of the play I have seen students sometimes struggle with are the historical notes that Miller has added. In my classes, we often read these together and discussed their significance, sometime picking and choosing the more relevant/necessary passages with some of my more struggling students.
My co-teacher and I taught this last spring to a class with kids of various ability levels. They liked it quite a bit, and I think a good part of the reason was that we made the political climate of the US at the time a part of the unit before they even started to read. We did a fair chunk of the play as read-alouds, both with small groups choosing parts, and full class. I'd say we spent ~3 weeks or less on it.
This is my second year teaching, and I am currently studying the Crucible with my Juniors. We are preparing to watch "American Violet" and do a Comparison/Contrast piece. The movie documents a drug raid that occurred in a small, Texas town in 2001 (I believe). There were many coerced confessions because of the alternatives people faced if they chose not to confess. Much of the 'evidence' was questionable, so my hope is to relate this to the incidents in Salem. I also think it's important to discuss with students the impact religion and religious beliefs can have on our political/criminal policies. The Salem incident may not have occurred at all if the territory had not been a theocracy at the time. In the future, I am hoping to include some information from the PBS series "God in America,"so students can discuss the pros and cons of religious influence and the separation of church and state.