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The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Novel Study

Subject Area: Language Arts

Grade Level(s): 7-8

Duration of Activity:

2-3 weeks, depending on the amount of research and the number of activities and that are done. Many of these activities would best be done prior to the reading of the novel, but several would work well to give a break from the reading, or to add variety from the traditional teaching of a novel. These activities would also work well when giving students choices for completing required projects leading to products that can be shared and/or displayed in class. The activities chosen, of course, would depend on the time allowed, the technology available, and the teacher's willingness to allow students to experiment and present.

Description of Activity:

This is a unit to be used both before and during the teaching of the historical fiction novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. These activities are designed to stimulate interest in reading rich literature. A good book can touch our lives like a good friend. This book has won many awards for young adult literature including the coveted Newbery Medal. Historical fiction is a genre which many students do not choose on their own, but one which most enjoy once they are exposed to that type literature. In reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, adolescents can relate to the character, Kit, who has not yet found her place in the world. This book also offers the opportunity for many writing responses. In this unit, students will research the time period and respond to a wonderful piece of literature.

Objectives:

The activities below work well with this novel. Teachers can select the activities that they wish to use. Individual objectives have been provided for each activity. The activities may be chosen to meet the needs of particular classes based upon what the teacher sees as necessary. A list of the activities might be given to the students to allow them to pick and choose which they would like to do. These activities also may be assigned as individual or group assignments.

Activity 1

  • Upon completing the unit of study, the students will have an idea of the major colonial events that led up to the Salem Witch Trials by working in pairs to create a timeline in which they arrange dates and events in correct sequence and in an artistic way by using Microsoft PowerPoint software or other appropriate software such as Inspiration.
  • Through inductive reasoning, the students will come to the conclusion that to some degree the events leading up to the Salem Witch Trials all involved intolerance, prejudice, extreme punishment, or hysteria.

Activity 2

  • Using the Web sites listed in the URL section of this lesson, the students will work in pairs to research the historical events of the Salem Witch Trials.
  • The students will be able to recount the basic story line of the Salem Witch Trials
  • The students will present the results of their research using presentation software, word-processing software, or other software of their choice

Activity 3

  • The students will imagine the feelings of the accused witches.
  • The students will identify the causes of the witch hysteria.
  • The students will rewrite the lyrics to the song "Witchy Woman" by the Eagles. They will create a music video using their version of this song.

Activity 4

  • To help the students better understand the locations and travels in the novel, the students will identify the following locations on the map: Barbados, Connecticut Colony, England, Jamaica, Massachusetts, Wethersfield, and the West Indies.
  • Using a map and research materials, the students will compare and contrast Barbados and Connecticut in the late 1600s.
  • With a partner, the students will determine the distance between Barbados and Connecticut.
  • The students will better understand the locations and travels in the novel.
  • The students will create a presentation using computer software, the information they have found, and maps downloaded from the World Wide Web.

Activity 5

  • The students will respond creatively and critically to the story via an online reader response journal set up by the teacher. Homestead.com and Blackboard.com offer Web pages where student responses can be posted.

Activity 6

  • The students will research the Connecticut charter and match the facts with the political events of the novel.

Activity 7

  • The students will realize that prejudice and intolerance were the reasons for Hannah Tupper's mistreatment in the novel.
  • Using current events news stories found in newspapers, magazines, or on the World Wide Web, the students will relate the mistreatment of Hannah Tupper to the way that some people are mistreated today.
  • The students will work cooperatively to produce a dramatic monologue, one-act play, or newscast that shows prejudice or intolerance.

Activity 8

  • The students will research the symbolism of the Jack-o'-lanterns as used in the novel.
  • The students will create Jack-o'-lanterns using paint/draw programs or other appropriate software.

Activity 9

  • By replicating the trial in the novel, the students will understand the judicial system today through a "mock trial."
  • The students will understand that evidence is a must for proving someone guilty in the American judicial system.
  • The students will work cooperatively to produce trials that compare and contrast the ludicrous nature of the Salem Witch Trials with trials as they should be conducted. Groups can videotape their presentations and share them with other classes. This activity could be done cooperatively with the social studies teacher.

Materials/Equipment:

  • Internet access
  • Paint/draw software, presentation, desktop-publishing software, and/or Inspiration software (will vary with the activity selected)
  • Samples of various outlines
  • A list of historical dates/events
  • Maps, globe
  • Classroom set of The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Handout 1: List of The Witch of Blackbird Pond Reading Assignments
  • Handout 2: List of Events Leading to the Salem Witch Trials
  • Handout 3: Questions for an Internet Research Activity
  • Handout 4: Lyrics to "Witchy Woman" printed from the Web or other source
  • Handout 5: Rubric for Cooperative Group Work
  • Handout 6: Rubric for Evaluating Student Oral Presentations

Prerequisites (skills or background needed):

  • Students will need experience using the World Wide Web for research.
  • Students and teachers should be familiar with paint/draw programs, Inspiration, or other timeline software.
  • Students should be able to create simple presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint or other appropriate software.

    Note: Prerequisite skills will vary depending on the activities selected.

Procedure

Teacher Component:

The teacher will distribute Handout 1: Witch of Blackbird Pond Reading Assignments at the beginning of the class discussion of the Salem Witch Trials. If the students read two to three chapters nightly, they will finish reading the book in approximately two weeks.

Activity 1

  1. Give each student a copy of Handout 2: List of Events Leading to the Salem Witch Trials

    Explain what a timeline is and show various kinds of timelines. Introduce the students to How to Make a Timeline http://www.dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/timeline.html, which explains timelines and demonstrates how to make them.

  2. Show some creative icons to use in the timelines that might spark the students' own creativity.
  3. Ask questions leading students to conclude inductively that, to some degree, all of the events during Colonial America involved prejudice, intolerance, extreme punishment, or hysteria.

Activity 2

  1. Give each student Handout 3: Questions for an Internet Research Activity.

Activity 3

  1. Create an eerie atmosphere in the classroom by using candles and other assorted props.
  2. Play "Witchy Woman" recorded by the Eagles as the students are gathered and settled in the classroom.
  3. Provide each student a copy of Handout 4: Lyrics to "Witchy Woman" recorded by the Eagles. The lyrics can be found at "Witchy Woman" Lyrics / http://www.purelyrics.com/index.php?lyrics=fwtmsgvl
  4. Lead a discussion by asking the following questions:
    1. How does the music set the mood?
    2. What words in the song describe witches?
    3. What kinds of things set witches apart from the rest of the people?
    4. What are people's general feelings or reactions to witches?
    5. How did the New England colonists' belief in witchcraft terrorize the town of Salem?

  5. Have cooperative groups of students re-write the lyrics using at least three historically accurate descriptions or events in their lyrics.

Activity 4

  1. Discuss the locations in the book using maps, Web sites, and a projection system (if available) to help the students better understand the locations and travels in the novel.
  2. Assign cooperative groups who will compare and contrast Barbados and Connecticut in the late 1600s and determine the distance between the two places.
  3. Ask each cooperative group to create a presentation using computer software, the information they have found, and maps downloaded from the World Wide Web.

Activity 5

  1. Provide a means by which the students can respond to the literature. This can be done by establishing an account with Homestead.com and Blackboard.com, providing diskettes, or setting up a shared file on the school's network drive.

Activity 6

  1. Direct the students to The Avalon Project : Charter of Connecticut - 1662 /
    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/states/ct03.htm
  2. Lead the class in a brainstorming session to list the political events recorded in the novel.
  3. Divide the students into cooperative groups and ask them to find the facts in the online version of The Connecticut Charter.
  4. Lead the class in preparing a word-processing table listing the facts found in The Connecticut Charter and the political events of the novel.

Activity 7

  1. Direct the students into a discussion that causes them to realize that prejudice and intolerance were the reasons for Hannah Tupper's mistreatment in the novel.
  2. Ask the students to locate current events that will relate the mistreatment of Hannah Tupper to the way that some people are mistreated today.
  3. Lead a discussion on prejudice and mistreatment.
  4. Assign students to cooperative groups to produce a dramatic monologue, one-act play, or newscast that shows prejudice or intolerance.

Activity 8

  1. Ask the students to research the symbolism of the Jack-o'-lanterns as used in the novel using library materials and Internet resources.
  2. Work out a schedule that allows the students to create Jack-o'-lanterns using paint/draw programs or other appropriate software.
  3. Make arrangements to display the students' finished products.

Activity 9

  1. Lead the class in a discussion of how evidence is used in a trial in the American judicial system.
  2. Help the student break into two groups, one for the Salem Witch Trials and another for a modern-day trial.
  3. Work with the students to assign parts for the mock trials.
  4. Provide video equipment for taping.
  5. Provide class time for presentation of the trials.

Student Activities: The students will

Activity 1

  1. Explore the Web site How to Make a Timeline /
    http://www.dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/timeline.html
  2. use Handout 1: List of Events Leading to the Salem Witch trials for organizing a timeline of events leading to the Salem Witch Trials.
  3. create a timeline using Microsoft PowerPoint or other software such as Inspiration

Activity 2

  1. work in cooperative groups using the Internet to research the Salem Witch Trials using Handout 3: Questions for an Internet Research Activity and the Web sites listed in the URL section of this lesson.
  2. present the results of their research using presentation software, word-processing software, or other software of their choice.

Activity 3

  1. discuss as a class how the witches felt and identify the causes of the witch hysteria.
  2. listen to "Witchy Woman" and then rewrite the lyrics to fit the Salem Witch Trials.
  3. create a music video by cooperative groups and present them to the class.

Activity 4

  1. identify the following locations on the map as part of a class discussion: Barbados, Connecticut Colony, England, Jamaica, Massachusetts, Wethersfield, and the West Indies.
  2. using a map and research materials, compare and contrast Barbados and Connecticut in the late 1600s.
  3. with a partner, determine the distance between Barbados and Connecticut.
  4. create a presentation using computer software, the information found in books and on the World Wide Web, and maps downloaded from the Web.

Activity 5

  1. respond creatively and critically in their reader's response journal.

Activity 6

  1. use The Avalon Project : Charter of Connecticut - 1662/
    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/states/ct03.htm to research the facts and how they relate to the political events in the novel.
  2. as part of a class discussion, record the facts found in a word-processing table or spreadsheet that will show the comparison between the two lists

Activity 7

  1. locate current events that can be related to the mistreatment of Hannah Tupper to the way that some people are mistreated today and share them with the class.
  2. participate in cooperative groups to produce a dramatic monologue, one-act play, or newscast that shows prejudice or intolerance.

Activity 8

  1. research the symbolism of jack-o'-lanterns using library and Internet resources.
  2. discuss these meanings as a class.
  3. create a jack-o'-lantern a using paint/draw program or other appropriate software.

Activity 9

  1. participate in a class discussion of how evidence is used in a trial in the American judicial system.
  2. break into two groups and assign parts for mock trials.
  3. write scripts for the trials in their cooperative groups.
  4. practice the presentation of the trials.
  5. present the trials in class and videotape the presentations.

Accommodations:

  • Depending on the software available, the teacher can alter the type of product that the students produce.
  • Activities selected can be based on the skill levels and interests of the students.
  • Activities can be chosen based on the learning styles of the students.
  • The size of the student groups and time allowed for activities can vary based on the number of computers available.

Extension Activities:

  • Activities not selected for class assignments can be used as extension activities for students who wish to go beyond the assignments. These could be used as extra-credit assignments.

Integration:

  • Language Arts
  • Technology
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Music

Assessments:

The teacher will use different methods of assessment depending on the activity selected above.

  • For daily evaluation of student performance in cooperative groups, Handout 5: Rubric for Cooperative Group Work may be used.
  • Handout 6: Rubric for Evaluating Student Oral Presentations may be used for activities that involve an oral component.

URLs:

Curriculum Frameworks

Mississippi:

Seventh Grade & Eighth Grade

  1. Communicate for a variety of purposes through different forms of writing using processes of reading, writing, listening, and viewing for an expanding audience. (R, W, L, V)
  2. Speak coherently and listen effectively to exchange ideas and opinions for a variety of purposes and audiences. (S, L)
  3. Complete projects and tasks in an organized and coherent manner. (R, W, S, L, V)
  4. Read, listen to, and view multimedia sources to select and use information. (R, W, S, L. V)
  5. Develop self-monitoring skills to work independently and cooperatively. (R, W., S, L, V)
  6. Participate cooperatively while engaging in small group activities to analyze and interpret information, to make decisions, to solve problems, and to produce a given product. (R, W, S, L, V)
  7. Discover the history and inherent beauty of cultural expression in language and literature. (R, W, S, L, V)
  8. Read and use print and non-print media to experience the rhythm, energy, and pictorial qualities of language. (R, W, S, L, V)
  9. Read independently with fluency and for meaning using a variety of strategies. (R, W, S, L, V)
  10. Read, analyze, and respond in written and oral language or other art forms to increasingly challenging literature and other resources. (R, W, S, L, V)
  11. Demonstrate continuous progress toward control of penmanship, grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, and usage of standard English in the context of writing and speaking. (R, W, S, L, V)
  12. Acquire and use appropriate vocabulary and spelling concepts. (R, W, S, L, V)
  13. Use language to record observations, to clarify thoughts, to synthesize information, and to analyze and evaluate language in order to facilitate continuous learning. (R, W, S, L, V)
  14. Construct meaning by applying personal experiences and by reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. (R, W, S, L, V)

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS):

  1. Use content-specific tools, software, and simulations (e.g., environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools) to support learning and research. (3, 5)
  2. Apply productivity/multimedia tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum. (3, 6)
  3. Design, develop, publish, and present products (e.g., Web pages, videotapes) using technology resources that demonstrate and communicate curriculum concepts to audiences inside and outside the classroom. (4, 5, 6)
  4. Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems. (5, 6)

TerraNova:

01 Oral Comprehension (Level 10,11)
Demonstrate both literal and interpretive understanding of passages that are read aloud.

Use writing or other means to respond to literal and interpretive questions about passages that are read aloud.

02 Basic Understanding (Level 10-21/22)
Demonstrate understanding of the literal meaning of a passage through identifying stated information, indicating sequence of events, and defining grade-level vocabulary.

Write responses to questions requiring literal information from passages and documents.

03 Analyze Text (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate comprehension by drawing conclusions; inferring relationships, such as cause and effect; and identifying theme and story elements, such as plot, climax, character, and setting.

Write responses that show an understanding of the text that goes beyond surface meaning.

04 Evaluate and Extend Meaning (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate critical understanding by making predictions; distinguishing between fact and opinion, and reality and fantasy; transferring ideas to other situations; and judging author purpose, point of view, and effectiveness.

Write responses that make connections between texts based on common themes and concepts; evaluate author's purpose and effectiveness; and extend meaning to other contexts.

05 Identify Reading Strategies (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate awareness of techniques that enhance comprehension, such as using existing knowledge, summarizing content, comparing information across texts, using graphics and text structure, and formatting questions that deepen understanding.

Write responses that interpret and extend the use of information from documents and forms, and that demonstrate knowledge and use of strategies.

06 Introduction to Print (Level 10-12)
Demonstrate knowledge of sound/symbol and structural relationships in letters, words, and signs.

Write responses that show knowledge of letters and words.

07 Sentence Structure (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of conventions for writing complete and effective sentences, including treatment of subject and verb, punctuation, and capitalization.

Demonstrate an understanding of conciseness and clarity of meaning in combining two sentences.

08 Writing Strategies (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate knowledge of information sources, outlines, and other pre-writing techniques.

Demonstrate an understanding of the use of topic sentences, concluding sentences, connective and transitional words and phrases, supporting statements, sequencing ideas, and relevant information in writing expository prose.

09 Editing Skills (Level 11-21/22)
Identify the appropriate use of capitalization, punctuation, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverts in existing text.

Demonstrate knowledge of writing conventions and sentence structure through identifying and connecting errors in existing text and in text written by the student.

Link and Feedback to Author(s):

Pam Hammond, Winona Junior High School, Winona, MS
pamhammond@yahoo.com

Handout 1:
Reading Assignments for The Witch of Blackbird Pond
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Handout 2:
Dates and Events for Timeline Activity
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Handout 3:
Internet Research Activity
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Handout 4:
Lyrics to "Witchy Woman" printed from the Web or other Source
Handout 5:
Rubric for Cooperative Work
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Handout 6:
Rubric for Evaluating Student Oral Presentations
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