Copies of "from A Key Into the Language of America" and "from The Bloody Tenet of Persecution," available in the Pearson Anthology of American Literature: Volume I, Ninth Edition; pens, pencils, and paper. The "Bloody Tenet of Persecution" is also available online. This lesson deals with tenets 1-12.

Objectives (based on the North Carolina Standard Course of Study):

  • The student will reflect and respond expressively to texts so that the audience will:
    • discover multiple perspectives.
    • consider cultural or historical significance.

1. Ask students to discuss or free write about the following questions: "What do you think the phrase 'separation of church and state' means?" "How do you feel about the idea that religion and government should be separated?" "How does this question apply to current events in our country?"

2. Give a brief overview of Roger Williams, emphasizing that he:

  • Lived in from 1603-1683.
  • Immigrated to the United States from England because he did not agree with the Church of England.
  • Called for "soul liberty," arguing that the state should not compel its citizens to subscribe to one religion.
  • Was banished from Massachusetts in 1635 and went on to settle Rhode Island.
  • Established the "Rhode Island Way,"in which the rights of Native Americans were protected, religious diversity was respected and church and state remained separate (source: "Roger Williams." Anthology of Literature, Volume 1, Ninth Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2007.)
3. Introduce "A Key into the Language of America," explaining that Roger Williams wrote the text as a dictionary of the Narragansett Indians. The writing also served to revere the Indians in contrast to the European settlers.

4. Read "A Key into the Language of America" as or ask for a student volunteer.

5. Ask students to reflect upon their own customs in terms of the subheadings Williams introduced: Of Salutation, Of Eating and Entertainment, Of Sleep and Lodging, Of The Family Business, Of Their Persons and Parts of the Body, Of Earth and Fruit Thereof, Of Beasts, Of Nakedness and Clothing, and Of Their Government. Ask students to compare and contrast their own values with that of the Native Americans described in the text, using the Compare/Contrast Chart.

6. Introduce "The Bloody Tenet," by explaining that Williams wrote the text in 1644 in reaction to the push for religious conformity. It was his most famous work.

7. Read the text as a class, or ask for a student volunteer.

8. Discuss these tenets with the class, making connections to current events.

9. Ask students to work in groups to formulate twelve rules that govern their own lives. These rules can be posted on chart paper or illustrated with crayons and markers.

10. For homework, ask students to write a one-page reflection on what they learned about their own beliefs or values during this exercise.


The Contrast/Comparison table can be graded for accuracy and completion. Students' own tenets of belief can be graded for completion. The reflection can be graded for form and completion.

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