Made to accompany a unit on the English Civil War, puritanism and religious extremism, this is my all-time favourite role play. Students read the "Practical guide to identifying Witches" from the 17th century, and note how many ways there are to identify a witch (A good idea to point out that none of these would be used as "valid" investigation tools today or evidence today. It also makes a good introduction to more controversial critical thinking topics such as the use of torture for acquiring evidence or what constitutes real proof.)
2. If you know the game "Alibi", this activity is similar to that game. The class is broken into teams of 4-6 students. One team is the inquisitors (or lawyers), whose job it is to formulate questions based on the 4 different accusations made to the groups of "witches". This team needs to determine which questions they will ask which group of witches.
3. All students work within their groups to find logical explanations to explain the accusations laid against them. They have to formulate and share with each other an "alibi" that all the group members can recount when it is their turn on the stand. They must NOT share details of this story with any other groups. They must all learn the SAME story and have the SAME explanations.
4. The first group of witches all go into the hall. Put a couple of chairs out there. The inquisitors call in 2-3 group members only, leaving the others in the hall out of earshot. They then "examine" these students with their pre-prepared questions. When they're done, the students switch and the group that had been questioned goes into the hall, which the other half comes in for their questioning. Inquisitors must note down any "inconsistencies" between the testimony of the two groups - this may or may not be used as proof of guilt, depending on the severity of the differences.
A more detailed lesson plan is included in the document. It's really fun, and a huge critical and creative thinking lesson. Works with BC's revised curriculum for Grade 8 or 9 Social Studies.