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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Lottery

AKA The Hunger Games 1.0

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Congratulations! You haven't won the lottery.

As a consolation prize, we offer you this teaching guide for the classic short story, "The Lottery."

In this guide you will find

  • a reading quiz to be sure students know what the "prize" for this lottery really is.
  • an activity about scary small towns like the one in the story.
  • discussion questions exploring the themes, symbols, and setting of the story.

And much more.

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  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: It's always interesting to find out where authors get their ideas. Turns out Shirley Jackson's inspiration for "The Lottery" was (at least in part) the unassuming village of North Bennington, Vermont, where she was living at the time she wrote the story. 

Your students will read the article "Monstrous Acts and Little Murders" to find out more about the personal sources of inspiration for Shirley Jackson's short story. They'll answer critical questions about the article, participate in classroom discussion, and produce their own autobiographical or fictional narratives about a "monstrous act" they witnessed, explaining the source of their inspirations. 

Length of Lesson: 2-3 class periods; one class to discuss the article and introduce the writing assignment; one to two more class periods for students to present original work.

Materials Needed:

Step 1: In class, either read the article "Monstrous Acts and Little Murders" by Jonathan Lethem aloud with your students, or give them 15-20 minutes to read it silently. Either way, make sure students have their own copies (paper or digital) so they can read along and refer back to the article. 

Step 2: After everyone has read the article, lead your class in a discussion. You can use the questions below to help guide the discussion.

  1. What was the response of many New Yorker readers after the magazine made the bold decision to publish "The Lottery"?
  2. Why do you think that readers responded so strongly to the story? Draw on your knowledge of the story's themes, setting, narrative, literary devices, and other elements in order to answer this. Be reflective and provide specific examples.
  3. Where did both Lethem (the author of the essay) and Shirley Jackson live?
  4. Describe Shirley Jackson's family and social life while inhabiting the town.
  5. How did Jackson's childhood and adolescence contribute to her becoming the author who would pen "The Lottery"?
  6. According to Lethem, what events from Jackson's life influenced or directly figured into "The Lottery"?
  7. Why is this article titled "Monstrous Acts and Little Murders"?
  8. Have you witnessed any "monstrous acts" in your community or school? 

You can let students talk a bit about question number eight—they're sure to have a few things to say—but really, just a couple of examples should be enough to get them primed for the next step. 

Step 3: Assignment time. Your students are going to write autobiographical or fictional narratives based on a "monstrous act" that they witnessed. Here's a prompt:

Pick a "monstrous act" that you've witnessed (either big or small) in your life and write an autobiographical or fictional narrative based on that experience. Your narrative must contain a clear point of view, setting, defined themes, literary devices of your choosing, and a few developed characters.

If you think it sounds like a good idea, go ahead and illustrate your story. You can use photos, collages, artwork, magazine clippings—whatever works. But whether you illustrate or not, please make sure your story is in final copy format (edited, revised, and as error-free as possible) when you're done.

Step 5: Before you collect your students' stories, give them some time to present their work and get some peer feedback. They can do individual presentations describing their stories, read them aloud for the class, or share entire stories or excerpts in small groups. 

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade Reading 1.1, 1.2, 3.1, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.11; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.9, 2.1, 2.2; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.9, 1.11, 2.4. 11th & 12th grade Reading 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 1.9, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3; Listening & Speaking 1.4, 1.11, 2.1, 2.3.)

Instructions for Your Students

Does your hometown remind you of the town in "The Lottery"? We hope not, but the town Shirley Jackson was living in at the time she wrote "The Lottery" was, in fact, part of her inspiration. (Sorry, neighbors.) 

Don't get us wrong. Jackson's no Gossip Girl, but she did create her stories by drawing from the people, places, objects, and events around her. 

You'll find out more about Jackson's inspirations for "The Lottery" and other stories and then take a page from her book and see if you can use one of your experiences to inspire a story... just as long as it's not a story about someone getting stoned in an annual lottery by all their family and friends. That one's been done.

Step 1: In class, read the article "Monstrous Acts and Little Murders" by Jonathan Lethem to learn a bit about the people, places, and events that influenced Shirley Jackson's writing.

Step 2: After reading the article, take some time to chat with your class. (The following questions could come in handy.)

  1. What was the response of many New Yorker readers after the magazine made the bold decision to publish "The Lottery"?
  2. Why do you think that readers responded so strongly to the story? Draw on your knowledge of the story's themes, setting, narrative, literary devices, and other elements in order to answer this. Be reflective and provide specific examples.
  3. Where did both Lethem (the author of the essay) and Shirley Jackson live?
  4. Describe Shirley Jackson's family and social life while inhabiting the town.
  5. How did Jackson's childhood and adolescence contribute to her becoming the author who would pen "The Lottery"?
  6. According to Lethem, what events from Jackson's life influenced or directly figured into "The Lottery"?
  7. Why is this article titled "Monstrous Acts and Little Murders"?
  8. Have you witnessed any "monstrous acts" in your community or school? 

Step 3: According to Letherm, Jackson wrote about "people colluding absently in monstrous acts." Now it's time for you to give it a try. 

Pick a "monstrous act" that you've witnessed (either big or small) in your life and write an autobiographical or fictional narrative based on that experience. Your narrative must contain a clear point of viewsetting, defined themes, literary devices of your choosing, and a few developed characters.

If you think it sounds like a good idea, go ahead and illustrate your story. You can use photos, collages, artwork, magazine clippings—whatever works. But whether you illustrate or not, please make sure your story is in final copy format (edited, revised, and as error-free as possible) when you're done.

Step 4: Before you hand in your story, take some time to share it with your classmates. You may do an individual presentation describing your story, read it aloud for the class, or share the entire story—or an excerpt from it—in a small group. Your teacher will let you know which format you'll be using.  

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE LOTTERY?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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