|The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Elizabeth George Speare
Theme: Personal Choices
Grades: Grades 7-8
Speare's second novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, is a romantic,
historical tale about a young girl's rebellion against bigotry and her
Puritan surroundings. Kit is a free-spirited sixteen-year-old colonial
girl from Barbados who comes to live with relatives in the solemn, hard-working
town of Wethersfield, Connecticut. Kit feels trapped and lonely in her
new life until the day she finds refuge in the Meadows. There she meets
an old Quaker woman named Hannah, who is known as the Witch of Blackbird
Pond. Uncle Matthew forbids Kit to see Hannah, but Kit persists in visiting
her friend and even helps an abused child named Prudence find solace
there. When an epidemic causes the townspeople to go after Hannah for
practicing witchcraft, Kit helps her escape. Then Kit herself becomes
the subject of the witch hunt. Her incarceration and trial force her
to reexamine her feelings towards two young men and her future. In the
end, Kit must choose the direction her life will take.
- Linking to Today: Personal Choices.
In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the main character moves to
a society in which her choices are much more restricted than they
were when she was growing up. Have small groups of students brainstorm
about and list the kinds of choices they have in their society today,
especially in such areas as education, behavior, occupation, dress,
and the choice of a mate. Then have them consider the cultural factors
that might restrict their choices in some way, and what happens when
someone breaks through the restrictions and chooses a path not sanctioned
by society. Encourage students to think about their conclusions as
they read the novel, and see if their ideas fit the situations Kit
- Group Work: The Freedom Debate.
Freedom and the importance of obeying authority are central issues
in this novel. Have students explore their understanding of these
concepts by debating one of the following statements: 1) Individual
freedom is more important than doing things for the good of the community.
2) A person should follow his or her own heart, even if it means disobeying
rules or going against the rest of the group.
Thanks for the Memories.
Have students work in small groups to role play interviews with
various characters from the novel. Each group can choose one or
two key events in the novel and plan interviews with the characters
involved, asking them about their memories of the event. Students
assuming the roles of the characters should try to adopt their character's
personality for the interview and to speak from that character's
point of view on the issue.
- Growing Pains.
All the characters grow as a result of the events in this novel. Ask
students to select one character and make an illustrated timeline
of that character's life within the scope of the book. What incidents
in their life had the most impact?
- Who's To Blame?
The Wethersfield people blamed Hannah for the epidemic that swept
through the town. Instruct students to find information about another
incident in history of a person or a group being used as a scapegoat
for hard times. Have them write a report about the incident they find
and conclude by showing any parallels they see between this incident
and Hannah's ordeal.
Research the Puritan and Quaker religions as they were practiced in
colonial times. Make a chart comparing and contrasting each religion's
views on such issues as worship services, sin, education, freedom,
holidays, children, and any other issue you would like to include.