Before “The Hunger Games,” there was “The Lottery.”
I remember reading it back in the day (6th grade, maybe?) and thinking it was awesome. For whatever reason, I’d never taught it. I’d never even read it again. Due to a class switch for the next school year, it looks like I’ll be teaching it.
So I read it.
It’s kind of boring.
Let’s start with “The Lottery” summary.
(Or if you don’t want to read the summary, watch the movie. I even included a lesson plan.)
On June 27, in a village of 300 people, the townsfolk gather. The kids gather stones before gathering. Other gatherings are gathering in other towns, where one can presume kids are also gathering stones before the gathering. Not all towns continue to hold these gatherings on June 27, leading to much scoffing from the folks in this village gathering on what apparently is an annual gathering day.
At this gathering, there is a lottery—as made obvious in the title. Apparently the lottery that takes place during this annual gathering requires the presence of the entire town. They gather, apparently, so they can draw slips of paper from an old box.
There’s a lot of talk at the gathering about rules and who draws for whom and whether or not a new box is needed and whether or not to get rid of the lottery and its necessary gathering on the annual gathering day because other towns have done so.
Right as the reader is about to stop reading the tedious dialogue of the townspeople and reread The Hunger Games, a winner of the lottery is declared.
It’s Tessie Hutchinson.
The townspeople grab stones and kill her.
“The Lottery” Analysis and Lesson Ideas
- Setting. Understanding the theme of the story requires an understanding of setting. The story takes place in a small (seemingly) peaceful town on a beautiful summer day. Everyone in town knows everyone else. The story’s setting contributes significantly to the ironic shock at the end.
- Irony Speaking of ironic shock, this story is full of irony, most of it situational, although I’m sure you could find some dramatic and verbal irony if you looked hard enough.
- Characterization. Although there’s not a whole lot of depth to any of the story’s characters, it is probably more than a coincidence that the only person to show up late and show irreverence to the lottery is the one who is killed. And what’s up with Old Man Warner and his superstitious clinging to the town’s barbaric tradition? And why is Mr. Summers given so much power?
- Symbolism. There is a deeper meaning to the eerie tale of a small town tradition. Some claim the story is an attack on small town America and its values; some claim it’s anti-religious; some say it’s a warning about blindly following traditions. Perhaps the stones represent gossip? Mr. Summers, perhaps, represents the dangers of big government; Old Man Warner is the embodiment of the status quo. The lottery must represent something, right? Use a symbolism chart to help students think through and analyze symbolism in “The Lottery.”
- Themes. Themes in “The Lottery” include the dangers of blindly following tradition, the randomness of persecution, and the randomness of life.
- Suspense. Jackson creates suspense through foreshadowing and pacing.
Some of you are here for my world famous “The Lottery” Lesson Plan. It’s so famous, in fact, it’s on the world wide web.
If you care about common core standards, they’re listed below. When it comes down to it, all you really want is something that’s ready to use NOW! Here’s a handout: Analyzing Irony in The Lottery.
Just make copies, hand them out, and let the magic begin. You’ll feel like you’ve hit the lottery.
Tired of getting hit in the head by the rocks of bad internet lesson plans? If you liked the irony handout, you’ll love these “The Lottery” lesson plans and teaching guide. It contains everything you see on this page, several lesson plans aligned to the common core, numerous graphic organizers, answer keys, rubrics, and a quiz. It’s a weeks worth or more of lesson plans and activities for just $4.50.
Analyzing Irony in “The Lottery” Lesson Plan
- RL 9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- RL 9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
- RL 9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
- RL 11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
- RL 11-12.6 Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
This lesson is best done after you read “The Lottery.”
- Discuss irony. The graphic organizer handout (Analyzing Irony in The Lottery) lists the basics of irony and is sufficient for successful completion of the lesson’s objectives.
- Find examples of irony in “The Lottery” and copy them in the chart.
- Identify the type of irony and write it in the chart.
- Interpret the irony and explain its significance to the overall meaning of the story.
- Discuss student discoveries with a small group and/or full class discussion.
- Optional: Write an analysis of irony in “The Lottery.”
The chart is an excellent opportunity to practice and discuss the lesson’s stated objectives. In most cases it should be considered a formative assignment. Advanced students may write an irony analysis as a summative assessment.
Here’s a nice attention grabber to get class started.
It’s called the “10 Unluckiest Lottery Winners.” I’d recommend showing one or two of these “winners” at the start of class each day of your lottery unit.