Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A good--high level, complex--unit of work

We're in the midst of the annual "Witch Hunts" week, which I do to support my social studies neighbor doing Salem.  Here's the question that we're working with all week:

What is a witch hunt?  When we speak of witch hunts today, do we mean the kind of events that occurred in Salem, MA in 1692?  Drawing on several of the cases we have examined, define what a witch hunt is, and explain some of the main or important reasons you think they occur.  Be sure to illustrate your points with examples.  

We do some introductory work (reading) about what happened in Salem, then move onto a brief overview of McCarthyism (quick reading, some video watching).  Then we come up with a definition of what a witch hunt is, which allows us to discern that when people say someone is being witch hunted today, they're usually saying it to deflect blame off themselves and make their antagonist look wicked and dim-witted.

You can find most of the material here.  We also watched some short clips on anti-communism and McCarthy.  Here, here and here.  Then we figure out (by some degree of inferential reasoning) what we think a witch hunt is.  Here are what some students have come up with:

An investigatoin carried out supposedly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.

The searching out and deliberate harassment of those (as political opponents) with unpopular views.

A rigorous campaign to expose and discredit people considered to hold irregular views on the pretext of safeguarding public welfare.

We added to these that witch hunts usually involve bad process, bad evidence and bad logic applied in pursuit of the explanation for some inexplicable event.

Then we Google News search "witch hunt" to get current cases.  Students get very good at being able to separate blame deflection from real cases of possible targeting of people.

Along the way, we use some very specific organization charts to collect the material:

Witch Hunting



Unexplained Event

Target of Blame

Person Blaming

Witch Hunt?

KWLC—Witch Hunts

What do I Know?
What do I Want to Know?


What Did I Learn?
Comparable Cases?




Case Nameà



Who is
“witch hunt”?


Who is “hunted”?

Why claim “w.h.”?
Explain the inexplicable

At the end of the week, they find it relatively easy to write this essay that most found somewhat daunting at the beginning.

In doing this, we cover almost all of the CCSS writing standards.

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year!

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