Crucible Assignments


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Act 1 is always the most difficult for the students to understand, as 13 out of the 21 characters are introduced within this section alone.  After reading act 1 of The Crucible, students create Trading Cards to describe and analyze an assigned character.  Then, they explore portraits of Puritans online to assist them in creating a portrait of the character and present a rationale to explain their work of art.  A “Portrait Gallery” is set up around the classroom, so the students are able to refer to portraits during later acts and better understand the characters' motives and relationships.

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As The Crucible is a play, it is easy to incorporate the dramatic aspect of the arts by including lessons on the social purpose of a play and more practical elements, such as blocking and performing. However, incorporating the visual arts into a unit on The Crucible is challenging, as the Puritans themselves forbade, as Miller writes, "anything resembling a theater or ‘vain enjoyment.'"  This lesson allows the teacher to incorporate a creative activity, in that students create drawings, paintings, or collages of the characters.

Still, Osburg highlights a serious problem that can occur during such imaginative assignments, and one that teachers must keep in mind when instructing this lesson:  students could easily "miss the point of the work or confound the author's intent" (56).  It is the teacher's job, as Osburg argues, to "hold them responsible for actual knowledge of the text and the time period."  Indeed, students must demonstrate creativity and imagination; however, if they do not display close-readings of the text and original paintings, the project will be for naught.

Further Reading

Osburg, Barbara.  "A Failure of the Imagination."English Journal. (May 2003.)  57-59.  Print.

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One of the Best! This movie is on TWM's short list of the best movies to supplement classes in United States History, High School Level.

SUBJECTS — U.S./1629 - 1750, 1945 - 1991; & Massachusetts;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Fairness.
Age 14+; MPAA Rating -- PG-13 for intense depiction of the Salem witch trials; Drama;1996; 124 minutes; Color. Available from

This Learning Guide contains curriculum materials that are helpful in presenting both the play and the film.

Description:The Crucible is a film version of Arthur Miller's classic play about Puritan society, the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, and, metaphorically, the Red Scare during the period 1947 - 1956. Miller wrote the screenplay for the movie, giving the film more credibility than most screen adaptations of theatrical works.

Rationale for Using the Movie: The play is a classic of the American stage and one of the premier works of historical ficion in American literature. The film makes Miller's concepts applicable in terms of metaphor to situations that society faces today. Moreover, the film addresses individual responsibility in terms of honesty, integrity, and forgiveness.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: By studying "The Crucible" students of both American Literature and U.S. History will better understand how a frightened society can ignore fundamental beliefs in justice, as well as its own basic principles of the primacy of law. In addition, with the curriculum materials provided by this Learning Guide, students will look at the underlying causes of historical events. Finally, through discussion and writing assignments, students will sharpen skills associated with analysis and persuasion.

Possible Problems: Minor: There is some violence, but none as graphic or gruesome as the actual incidents that occurred during the efforts to exterminate witches.

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