Ellen Oveson

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Ellen Oveson > Puritan Webquest

    Life, Lust, and Literature
    in the Puritan Era

    for 11th Grade (English) 


    Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


    Often in literature characters are influenced by the religious and social customs of the period in which they live.  By researching various aspects of Puritan life during the seventeenth century in America you will develop insight into the behavior of particular literary characters in The Crucible. You will also see the parallels to modern day life that makes these works of literature so timeless.

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    The Task
    • In preparation for reading Arthur Miller's The Crucible, you will be expected to research various  events and aspects of Puritan life in the 1600s.  You will also explore the authors' biographies and relate them to the literary themes to be studied.
    • You will use the Web to obtain information on the following topics:
        • Daily Life in Salem in the 1600s
        • Puritanism and Government
        • Witchcraft
        • Witch-hunts (both 17th century and modern)
        • Witch trials of 1692
        • Biography of Arthur Miller
    You will be assigned to a group that will plan a presentation to instruct your classmates about your particular topic of study. Your presentation may include role playing, costumes, panel discussions, Power Point, or any other effective method.

    Your group will also be responsible for submitting three questions that can be used on a quiz about your topic.

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    The Process

    Group 1 Daily Life in Salem
    Answer the following questions about daily life in the 1600s in Puritan New England.

    1. Describe the clothing worn by men and women in Salem.  What types of fabrics were used?
    2.  How did their clothing support their religious views?
    3.  Describe the types of homes that probably existed in Salem. Explain what a palisade is and why it was necessary.
    4. Describe the family life of Puritans?
    5.  Describe a Puritan meal.
    6.  How did their food and eating habits support their religious views?
    Life in Colonial America
    Family Life
    Pilgrim Village
    Baked beans

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    Group 2  Puritanism and Government
    Answer the following questions about Puritanism.

    1. What are the basic Puritan beliefs?  List at least five.
    2. What is predestination?
    3. How would Puritans view those of other faiths?
    4. Why did Puritans come to the New World?
    5. List five forces undermining Puritanism in the 1600s.
    6. What is a theocracy and how would it affect the view of Salem residents toward witchcraft? 
    Attitudes toward other faiths

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    Group 3 Witchcraft
    Answer the following questions about witchcraft.

    1.  Describe maleficium and theological witchcraft.
    2.  Explain the early legal concepts of witchcraft.
    3.  Which type of person was most likely to be considered a witch?
    4. How did property ownership contribute to accusations of            witchcraft?
    5. Explain ergotism and its relation to  the unusual behaviors displayed by those possessed.
    6. Explain how stress and clinical hysteria could account for some of the unusual behaviors observed.
    7. In what forms does witchcraft exist today?
    8. How are modern day witches treated?
    Witchcraft in the past
    Modern witchcraft
    More modern witchcraft


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    Group 4 Witch Trials of 1692 in Salem

    1.  Who were these people and what happened to them in 1692?
      Giles Corey   Martha Corey  John Proctor   Sarah Osbourne
      What was especially bizarre and unfair about the accusation of Rebecca Nurse?
    2. What tragedy befell Ann Putnam to make her suspicious of Rebecca Nurse? (text p.88 Understanding the Crucible)
    3. What personal goals did Thomas Putnam have in accusing others of witchcraft? (text p.83 Understanding the Crucible )
    4. Look at the timeline.  What behaviors started to appear among the villagers?
    5. Who were Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Tituba?
    6. Who was the first person officially  executed?  How did her station in society (tavern owner) influence her fate?
    7. What happened on October 8, 1692?
    The accused
    The trials
    FAQs about the trials
    More about the trials
    Rebecca Nurse

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    Group 5 Witch-hunts

    Answer the following questions about witch-hunts.


    1. Define witch-hunt.
    2. Who was Joseph McCarthy and what did he investigate?  Why were Americans concerned about Communism during the 1950s? 
    3. What was the House Un-American Activities Committee? How were those brought before this committee affected by their appearance there? 
    4. What happened when the McCarthy hearings were televised and he began to accuse Army officers of being Communists?
    5. How was McCarthyism a witch-hunt?
    6. How might the events in the 1692 witch-hunts be compared to those of the McCarthy era in the 1950s?
    7. Describe some international incidents that could be considered witch-hunts. (For example, the Japanese internment)
    Joseph McCarthy
    Japanese Internment
    Personal account of internment

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    Group 6 Biography of Arthur Miller
    Answer the following questions about Arthur Miller.
    1. Give some details about Miller's early life and family.
    2. What were his major achievements and awards?
    3. Describe Miller's appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee. 
    4. Describe the effects of the investigation on Miller's writing of The Crucible.
    5. How did Miller's social conscience affect his work?
    6. What common theme or themes appear in his works?
    Miller's life
    More on Miller
    Awards and more

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    Your presentation will receive a group grade based on the following: 

    •  Your presentation must answer all the questions your group has been assigned. 
    • Your answers must be accurate and complete.
    •  You should also show some creativity and maintain the interest of your classmates. 
    • You will be graded on a scale of 20 points.
    Your presentation is worth 15 points and your submission of three quiz questions is worth 5 points.

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    When you have completed this assignment you should have some insight into Puritan society in New England during the seventeenth century. You will understand the background that leads to the action of the characters in The Crucible and The Scarlet  Letter.

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    Credits & References

    Ms. Lisa Paschitti, Tech Goddess
    Ms. Denise Ryder, Cybrarian Extraordinaire
    without whose support this WebQuest would not exist
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    Last updated on August 15, 1999. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page