Trials of Superstition: The Salem Witch Trials
An Internet WebQuest on Salem Witch Trials

created by Heather Neal
Wright State University

Introduction | The Task | The Process & Resources | Conclusion | HyperText Dictionary


Travel back in time to 1692, the year of the Salem Witch Trials. A mysterious illness has left several young girls hallucinating and convulsing, and the town is desperately searching for answers. When the doctors are unable to find a medical cause for these illnesses, there is speculation that the girls have been bewitched. This Puritan community believes in a literal devil who uses witches as his agents of evil. After witchcraft is suspected, the girls are interrogated and the Salem Witch Trials begin. You will be present as this drama unfolds, and will attempt to be the voice of reason in a town wrapped up in hysteria and fear.

The Quest

Your job is to argue for the rights of the accused in the Salem Witch Trials.

The Process and Resources

In this WebQuest you will be working together with a group of students in class. Each group member will work on the task. As a member of the group you will explore Webpages that include different perspectives on the Salem Witch Trials. Because these are real Webpages we're tapping into, not things made just for schools, the reading level might challenge you. Feel free to use the online Webster dictionary or one in your classroom.

You'll begin with everyone in your group getting some background before dividing into roles where people on your team become experts on one part of the topic.

Phase 1 - Background: Something for Everyone

Use the Internet information linked below to answer the basic questions of who? what? where? when? why? and how? Be creative in exploring the information so that you answer these questions as fully and insightfully as you can.

Phase 2 - Looking Deeper from Different Perspectives


1. Individuals from your larger WebQuest team will explore one of the roles below.

2. Read through the files linked to your group. If you print out the files, underline the passages that you feel are the most important. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying / pasting it into a word processor or other writing software.

3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point.

4. Be prepared to focus what you've learned when completing the task based on what you have learned from the links for your role.

Researcher: History of Salem Witch Trials

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to the History of Salem Witch Trials:

1. What are the most significant events of the Salem Witch Trials?

2. What is the outcome of the trials?

3. On what basis were people convicted of witchcraft?

Researcher: People of Salem Witch Trials

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to the People of Salem Witch Trials:

1. What patterns do you notice about those people convicted?

2. How were suspects named?

3. What do you notice about the accusers of the witches?

Researcher: Culture of Salem in 1692

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to the Culture of Salem in 1692:

1. How did the religious views of the Puritans fit into the Salem Witch Trials?

2. Was poverty or wealth a factor in the trials?

3. What was daily life like for a person living in Salem in 1692?

Phase 3 - Debating, Discussing, and Reaching Consensus

By now, all group members have looked into a specific part of the Salem Witch Trials. Now, it is time for you to act! You are present in Salem the night before the trials are scheduled to begin. You must find a creative way to argue for the accused in writing. It is far too risky to verbally speak out against the crimes--you would probably be accused of witchcraft yourselves!!! You must create a bold, persuasive, decorated flyer that you will post around Salem. Keep in mind that your audience is the people of Salem in 1692. You'll need to show sensitivity to their religious and cultural views or your writing will not be effective. You have read about what the outcome of the trials will be if you are not successful. You have the chance to save innocent lives and change history for the better!

Criteria for Evaluation:

1) Strong, vivid, persuasive language.
2) A clear understanding of the audience you are writing for.
3) A persuasive argument with supporting details.
4) Excellent grammar and spelling.
5) Excellent organization.
6) Bold illustrations and/or decorations.

Good luck!

Phase 4 - Real World Feedback

Congratulations! You have completed the task and possibly convinced the people of Salem that a trial without evidence is unfair and unethical. You can either email your final copy to me through the following link, or you can present your findings to me in class.

Your Contact is: Mrs. Neal


You have just used one of the best methods of bringing about change in the world--your voice. You have experienced a time period in which basic human rights were in question. The Salem Witch Trials were indeed a great tragedy, but they set the stage for a future American court system where the accused are considered 'innocent until proven guilty.' I applaud your efforts in bringing about justice and equality, even before others could see their importance.

 created by Filamentality Content by Heather Neal,
Last revised Sun Mar 7 18:40:13 US/Pacific 2004