Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Activities

Instructor: Jaclyn Scotto

Jaclyn is a high school English teacher and college professor. She has a doctorate in Education.

'The Lottery' by Shirley Jackson is a short story with many interesting themes. Because of this, there are a myriad of activities you can use in your classroom when you teach this story in your class. Read on for activity ideas for 'The Lottery.'

Writing Activities

'The Lottery' gives students lots to think about in regards to themes like conformity, rule-following, and tradition. Having students write about these topics can also make for great class discussions. Here are some writing activity ideas.

Journal Topic

Encourage students to engage in some honest reflection. Would you engage in the lottery because it is a town tradition? Why? Or if not, how would you go against it?

You could also use this writing topic as a jumping off point for discussing the dangers of the blind following of tradition.

Essay Topic

The black box is an important symbol in the story. How is the box described? Why is it so important to the town and the lottery process? What theme(s) does the box represent?

For more advanced students, ask them to use quotes/citations from the story to support their claims.

Creative Topic

Pretend you are Tessie Hutchinson, and write a diary entry explaining your feelings about the lottery system. Be sure to focus on the fairness aspect.

Speaking Activities

'The Lottery' is a story that often causes a lot of debate among students about right versus wrong. Use this to your advantage and allow students to argue about the purpose and function of the lottery. Here are some speaking-based activities.

Speech Topic

Pretend you are the new mayor of village and you have decided to do away with the lottery. Prepare a speech you would give to the town to convince them why this is the right decision. Keep in mind that a lot of the village will not agree with your choice. Be prepared to present your speech to the class.

Debate Topic

Divide your class into two sides for a debate. One side should defend the lottery and the other should go against it. Have the two teams debate each other, each trying to prove their point. Ask students to focus on the purpose of the lottery in addition to its place as a town tradition.

Visual Activities

This short story is based on a dystopian society. There are lots of Hollywood blockbusters that also take place in dystopias. Two very similar films are The Hunger Games (originally a book by Suzanne Collins) and The Giver (originally a book by Lois Lowry). Here are some ideas for how to incorporate these films into your teaching.

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