The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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The Crucible Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Crucible Include:

The Crucible is a play with many allegorical references. Written during the 1950s but set in the 1600s, Arthur Miller used the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts to represent the figurative witch hunt for communists in the United States, commonly known as the 'Red Scare'. Using actual court manuscripts and primary documents, Miller brings to life the people of Salem, and the atrocities the occurred there, in this heart-wrenching play.

The Crucible Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Five Act Structure - The Crucible Summary

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A common use for Storyboard That is for students to create a diagram showing the five act structure of a play. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of plot, but it also reinforces major actions from the play, helping students develop a greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of the Five Act Structure by making a five-cell storyboard, like the one below. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.

Example The Crucible Five Act Structure

Act 1: Prologue

The play takes place in Salem, MA

A young girl, Betty, is in a coma-like state. Her father, Reverend Parris, is minister to the town of Salem. It is revealed that a group of young girls led by Parris' slave, Tituba, were dancing and doing voodoo in the woods. A townsman named John Proctor enters; it is clear that he can see through the lies of the girls, who are now claiming they know who in town has signed the Devil's black book. The audience is made aware that Proctor once had an affair with Abigail (Parris' niece). Parris decides that he should call Reverend Hale, a witchcraft expert.

Act 2: Conflict/Rising Action

Reverend Hale begins to place anyone who the girls name on trial for witchcraft. It is clear to the audience that no one is conspiring with the Devil in town. Instead, it is Abigail who is controlling the younger girls so that they do not get in trouble. Abigail speaks to Proctor again, in hopes of rekindling their relationship. Proctor snubs her. Abigail accuses John's wife Elizabeth and goes as far as having evidence planted in their home.

Act 3: Climax

In an attempt to uncover the deception of the young girls, John Proctor brings Mary Warren to testify that Abigail is lying to the court. However, the girls turn on Mary and say that she is being bewitched by Proctor. Both he and his wife are then arrested.

Act 4: Falling Action

Parris, Hale, and Judge Danforth attempt to get the prisoners to confess. Some do so to avoid death, while others firmly deny that they are not witches to preserve their reputation. Abigail has robbed Parris and run away. In a final attempt to uncover the truth, Proctor confesses his adultery to the court. However, when they ask Elizabeth Proctor, she lies to protect her husband's honor and she says it's not true. This results in John Proctor's death.

Act 5: Denouement

In the end, Parris is voted out of office. A rumor that Abigail became a prostitute in Boston circulates throughout Salem. Elizabeth Proctor remarries, and the farms of the executed go untended for years.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of The Crucible.

  1. Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Crucible Themes

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the play, and support their choices with details from the text. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities for themes, symbols, and motifs.

The Crucible Themes to Look For and Discuss

Fear / Paranoia / Hysteria

Fear and suspicion can cause normal and peaceful people, neighbors and friends, to turn on one another. Throughout the play, it is fear that drives the lies and deceit and ultimately cause the downfall of many.

Witch-Hunting / Intolerance / Prejudice

When people make judgments, it is often irreversible. This is why prejudices are so lethal. In the play, each condemned person is only offered their freedom after they sell someone else out. For some, this is easy and for others, they know that what they are doing is wrong. Those who are different become easy targets. Naming people becomes an effective way to get revenge. Many people were seen giving false testimony about their neighbor, just to inherit their neighbors' land once they were hanged.

A Person's Reputation

Throughout the play, each person's reputation in town is mentioned. On several occasions, the people act a certain way solely to keep the up appearances. For example, Parris often is worried that Abigail will tarnish his reputation and with the antics in the woods, he begins to fear for his job. He attempts to protect his reputation by choosing to believe that Abigail has seen people consorting with the Devil. By helping to point the finger, no one is pointing it at him. Parris's reputation is exactly the opposite of John Proctor's. Proctor's reputation in town is fair. However, he is willing to tarnish it by exposing his adultery to ultimately save all in town who are accused. In the end, he refuses to confess to witchcraft; he asks Judge Danforth to take his soul, but leave his name. Rebecca Nurse's reputation as a good Christian make some question the validity of the accusations when she is named.

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The Crucible Characters

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While students are reading, it is often helpful to use a storyboard that creates a character reference log. A character map allows students to recall relevant information on characters. When reading a play, it is often little attributes that later return and become an important detail in the plot.

You can click on this map and create a copy to your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or tailor it to student abilities! The simplest way to use this character map is to print it out and use it as worksheets for your students to complete while reading!

The Crucible Characters

Abigail WilliamsThe major antagonist. She is the niece of Reverend Parris and coerces the girls of Salem to lie about seeing members of the community consorting with the Devil. She was once a servant in the Proctor's home, but was dismissed after an affair with John Proctor.
Reverend ParrisThe minister of Salem, MA. He is a father, uncle, and the servant to the Lord. He is often paranoid about his reputation and, at times, power-hungry. His reputation throughout the town is not high. The people of Salem believe he has priorities out of order since he cares more for golden candlesticks than for his parish.
John ProctorA hardworking man in his early 40s who is level-headed and wise. He stands up for what he believes and knows from the beginning: that Abigail is lying and using manipulation to get what she wants.
Reverend HaleReverend Hale is an expert in witchcraft. This is ironic because there were no real witches in Salem. In the end he begins to see through the hysteria and attempts to undo the damage he's caused.
Elizabeth (Goody Proctor)Elizabeth is a good Christian, wife, and mother. She is married to John Proctor and because of this, is accused of witchcraft by Abigail.
The NursesTwo highly regarded members of Salem, who are accused of witchcraft by the Putnams. It is clear that their jealous enemies have something to gain.
Judge DanforthHe is the deputy governor of Massachusetts and the judge who oversees the witch trials. He is overzealous and believes he is a crusader against witchcraft. This clouds his judgment.
TitubaParris' black slave from Barbados who was the only one practicing any form of 'sorcery' by using voodoo magic.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in The Crucible and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "1600s to 1800s" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Traits, Reputation, and Accuser or Accused.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Crucible Allegory

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When studying allegoric texts, it is important that students understand the concept of allegory as a foundation for the reading. Since an allegory's purpose is to add a deeper, symbolic meaning to the text, students must be able to define the term and spot the references in the work. Allegories like The Crucible hide a moral or political meaning, so it is important that students know the background before starting the play.

In The Crucible, Miller uses the mass hysteria and finger-pointing during the Salem Witch Trials as a comparison to the 'witch hunt' of the McCarthy Trials in the 1950s. In the play, Miller creates many parallels between the hunt for witches and the hunt for communists. For example, during the McCarthy Trials, the accused person would be shown leniency if they gave the names of other conspirators. This meant they often would give up names of people who weren't communists, just so they could escape harsh punishments and fines. In 1692 during the Salem witch trials, people also gave false witness to escape being punished. Those who confessed had their lives spared. Miller expounds his viewpoints through the use of these parallels.

Ask students to create a storyboard that shows the multiple parallels between the text and its allegorical reference. Be sure to check out our lesson on allegory!

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows examples of allegory in The Crucible.

  1. Identify instances of allegory in the text.
  2. Depict and describe the example of allegory from the text on the left side.
  3. Depict and describe the reference to the larger issue or event on the right side.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Crucible Vocabulary Lesson Plan

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Another great way to engage your students is by creating a visual vocabulary board that uses words from the play. Many students struggle with the meaning of common terms; getting them to use them in context before reading is an excellent way to cultivate the comprehension of vocabulary. Here are a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the book and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Example The Crucible Vocabulary Words

  • crucible
  • persecute
  • heathen
  • hysterical
  • prodigious
  • purge
  • creed
  • ordinance
  • predilection
  • conjure
  • maraud
  • calumny
  • afflict
  • enrapture
  • grapple
  • apparition
  • guile
  • transfixed
  • gaunt
  • penitence

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in The Crucible by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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The Crucible Summary

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is an account of the Salem Witch trials, which took place in Massachusetts during the 1600s. The play centers on a community of Puritans who lose their righteousness as they fall victim to the spreading of lies and deceit. Abigail Williams, the reverend's niece, starts the hysteria of witchcraft to get revenge on her lover’s wife, Goody Proctor. Written in the 1950s, Miller used the witch hunt as a metaphor for the 'Red Scare', the growing threat of communism in the United States during the 1950s.

In the play, good Christians are accused of witchcraft by Abigail and many other young girls in the community. They lie to save themselves. When others in town see their accusations are being taken seriously, they begin to use accusations to settle old feuds, to gain land or power, and for vengeance against those they dislike.

John Proctor, Abigail’s former lover, becomes the martyr, refusing to sign a decree stating he consorted with the Devil. He refused to save his life through a lie, which would make him no better than his accusers. He also realized that signing would ruin his family name for centuries to come. In the end, he is hanged as a witch.

Essential Questions for The Crucible

  1. How important should someone's word be in testimony?
  2. How do secrets hold power over people?
  3. Is it ever okay to lie?
  4. How far would you go to defend your honor?

Check Out These Other Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Use a storyboard to show precise causes and effects of events in the play.
  2. Use a storyboard to depict one act or scene at a time.
  3. Create a T-Chart storyboard with the theme of choices and consequences.
  4. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

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