Teacher Page

Die or Lie: A WebQuest on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Created by Amanda Lentino, November 2013
Designed for a 10th grade remedial English class.


Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, raises many questions regarding the morality of America’s judicial system and the Puritan beliefs. While the play is based off of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, students will research the witch hysteria to understand how collective fear affects people’s actions, and causes them to think and behave irrationally. The students will create a six-page newspaper with numerous articles to fully understand the background of the Salem witch trials, and to evaluate the though process of the individuals involved in the trials. At the end of this assignments, students should understand the reasoning behind those who chose to lie by admitting to the use of witchcraft and those who chose death while being falsely accused.

Performance Objectives:

In preparation for this assignment, the students will:

  • Understand the basic format of a newspaper

  • Know the difference between types of news articles

  • Research the Salem witch trials, the Puritan religion, and/or mass hysteria.

During the assignment, the students will:

  • Provide accurate facts about the trials and the Puritan religion

  • Make judgements about the trials and the morality of the judicial system

  • Communicate ideas clearly

  • Write coherent and cohesive news articles that adhere to MLA format

After the assignment, the students will:

  • Understand how the Puritan religion contributed to the absurd belief in witches and their relationship with the devil

  • Know how collective fear causes people to think and behave irrationally

  • Assess the morality of America’s judicial system during the time period

Desired Outcomes:

  • Using MS Publisher or Pages, students will construct an organized and well-developed newspaper with various articles regarding the Salem witch trials

  • Using the Internet, history textbooks, and Miller’s play, students will evaluate the judicial system, the Puritan beliefs, and the townspeople’s reactions during the witch trials.

  • Students will write cohesive and coherent news articles that accurately depict the Salem witch trials.

  • Determine whether or not integrity and dignity are more important than personal survival

After this webquest, students should be able to easily navigate the Internet for information, and they should be able to accurately assess a source’s credibility. They will also become more familiar with MS Publisher or Pages, and they should be able to easily construct a newspaper. These skills can be applied to any other classes, particularly those that require students to conduct research.

Essential Questions:

  • Does a governing body have the right to dictate morality?

  • How does collective fear affect a group of individuals?

  • Is hypocrisy a natural human flaw?

  • How did the Puritan religion contribute to the belief in witches?

  • Is personal integrity more important than survival?

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Level Activities
Remembering Recall information from the play and information from history class about the Salem witch trials.
Understanding Report on the Salem witch trials and explain the causes and effects. Explain how the Puritan religion and mass hysteria led to the trials.
Applying Apply the Puritan beliefs and values to the idea of witchcraft.
Analyzing Relate religious beliefs and values to the accusations and trials. Analyze all the research gathered and draw conclusions about the possible causes of the belief in witchcraft.
Evaluating Critique the Salem witch trials and the people involved. Assess the morality of the judicial system, judge Internet sources, and assess the validity of the research.
Creating Construct newspaper articles that present information about the Salem witch trials, the Puritan religion, the 1692 judicial system, and mass hysteria.

Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence Activities
Linguistic Writing news articles and reading the play along with information from the Internet
Logical-Mathematical Evaluating sources and making judgements about the trials based on information found
Musical Students can listen to music with their headphones while working in class
Bodily-Kinesthetic Using the computer to conduct research
Spatial Designing the layout of the newspaper and looking at images from the Salem witch trials
Interpersonal Working with others to construct the newspaper and sharing ideas and information.
Intrapersonal Individual research and writing

Mind Styles

Concrete Sequential Using the Internet for research, looking at all the facts, setting up the newspaper and writing articles one at a time.
Concrete Random Creating the newspaper layout, brainstorming with group members and bringing insights to them.
Abstract Random Understanding the thought process and feelings of those on trial, explaining and teaching to other group members, writing an editorial/opinion piece.
Abstract Sequential Reading the play and analyzing the text, conducting research and evaluating that research.

Standards Addressed

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Key Terms

McCarthyism The practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence
Mass Hysteria
A condition in which a large group of people exhibit similar physical or emotional symptoms, such as anxiety or extreme excitement
Puritans Puritan society was a theology, meaning that religion and government were connected and therefore the rules of the church were the rules of the society
Editorial An opinion piece written by the news staff/editors
Obituary News article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person’s life and information about the upcoming funeral


Students will emotionally connect to this webquest, as they have probably all been falsely accused of something during their lifetimes. Everyone experiences false accusations, whether it is falsely accusing another individual of something or being the one who is falsely accused. This makes the webquest relevant, as the students will have some type of connection to the topics addressed.

The Role of Sense and Meaning:

Throughout this lesson, students will activate their prior knowledge as they go through the webquest and read more about the Salem witch trials. This unit should be planned accordingly with the students’ American history class in order to allow for cross-curricular learning. Prior to the webquest, students should have learned sufficient information on the Puritan life and values in their history course, and thus, this webquest will reinforce most of the knowledge that they have already acquired. 

By placing the students in roles, they can create sense and meaning from the lesson. They take on these roles and place themselves into situations that allow them to truly connect to the people who lived through the trials. This emotional connection will allow for easy processing of information and easy transferring into long-term storage.

Sense– “This makes sense”
  • The webquest will make sense because it covers everything that has been discussed in the students’ American history class, and it covers the topics discussed while reading through The Crucible during class.
  • This fits because throughout the play, the students had to consider what it would have been like to live during that time period in Salem, Massachusetts. Now they get to experience it by taking on different roles.
  • Students will make sense of the information by taking on roles and applying their research to themselves.
Meaning- “This is how it connects to me”
  • Some students can relate to the accusations in terms of modern-day prejudices (i.e. terrorism and the accusation toward all Muslims in America)
  • All students can relate, as they have probably all been falsely accused of something at least once in their lives or they might have falsely accused someone else.
  • Higher order thinking- research the values and morals of the time period and evaluate them in terms of the trials–look at how these are contradicted through the trials
  • Motivation: they enhance their knowledge prior to their American history and American literature unit tests.

Lesson Outline

1. Focus and Review

Open the WebQuest for the whole class to view. Help students through the activity by showing them the navigation, explain parts of the Webquest, discuss task and procedures, and explain the three roles (reporter focusing on the judicial system, reporter focusing on the Puritan religion, and reporter focusing on the witch hysteria). Show rubric on the evaluation page, and clearly explain the expectations for this project.

2. Teacher Instructional Process

Motivation: Ask students: why is it important to study the Salem witch trials? How can knowledge about the trials be useful to society? (These can be “do now” journal questions)

After a brief discussion on this, tell students that they will be working on a webquest dealing with The Crucible and the Salem witch trials.

Open the introduction page and read through it with the students.

  • At this time, the students will either choose their group members or the teacher can choose to assign the groups. The students will also choose their roles within the groups, or the teacher can assign the individual roles.

Open the task page

  • Ask students about the type of information that is included in a newspaper. How do reporters judge the importance of events and issues? How do reporters decide which facts and details should be included in an article?
  • Explain to students that as reporters, they want to give the readers vital and interesting information. When it comes to journalism, readers want the information right away. They do not want to read half an article until they get to the important and interesting information. Therefore, the very first paragraph of each article should address the 5Ws and H (who, what, where, when, why, and how).

Open the Process page.

  • Remind students of their individual roles and responsibilities.
  • Read through the first three steps, and tell students that when they are done with step two, they will click on their individual role and view the sources listed on the page. They should download and print the “Cornell notes” that appears on their individual pages to help them organize all the information that they read.
  • Explain the final outcome–the newspaper. Discuss the requirements of the final project (can click on “newspaper requirements” tab listed under “Process 2”), and direct students toward the evaluation page to discuss the rubric.

3. Guided Practice

During the group activity, prompt students to stay on task and refer to the questions in the webquest.

4. Independent Practice

During the Individual role activity, prompt students to explore, research and take notes. The teacher should serve as a facilitator and help students who are struggling.

5. Closure

Have students present their newspaper to the class and give brief overviews of each article.

Alternate Outline – Accommodations

  • For non-remedial classes, students do not need the guided notes on the video provided on the first Process page.
  • English Language Learners will only be required to write one article as opposed to three. If there is more than one ELL student, have those students work together in a group. They will only need to create a front page of a newspaper displaying their three articles (one written by each student in the group). ELL students should be provided with a written translation of the task and procedures. They should receive some extra support from their ELL teacher. The English teacher and ELL teacher can collaborate on this project to give the ELL students support in both classes.

Suggested Follow-Up

If students need more practice on skills, visit https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/735/05/ (Tips for journalistic writing)