Instructors’ Teaching Experience

The story is so unsettling that students tend to respond to it very strongly, which makes for great classroom discussion.  They also have really strong opinions about conformity and socialization, to which they often add information they’ve learned from sociology/psychology classes, so its an especially good story to use when you want to talk about the function of literature within the Humanities (and life) at large.  Also, given its ubiquity in anthologies, surprisingly few of them have read it before. [L. Row-Heyveld,]

My students seemed to enjoy reading the story, though they focused mostly on how disturbing they found it. We actually read it aloud in class since they were finishing their first big papers over the weekend, and that was an interesting way to see how they’d handle reading a work and responding immediately, which I’m going to have them do on the final. However, I think it was part of the reason they didn’t really think broadly about the role of community in individual actions/conformity/WWII/etc. They got a little into Jackson questioning the importance of traditions, but it was a struggle to get them to go anywhere else. I was really surprised that only two students had read the story before, but that was nice because it allowed genuine reactions to whether the ending surprised them, which led to a great conversation about foreshadowing and irony. Also, I used the “South Park” clip below, and they loved it. The best part was that the class as a whole laughed loudest when the Mrs. Dunbar-inspired character says she can’t keep up with the Mrs. Delacroix-inspired character. Afterward, we talked about how that line wouldn’t necessarily be funny if you hadn’t read “The Lottery,” but you could have enjoyed the episode as a whole without knowing about the inspiration. It ended up being a good way (I think) to show them that literature is most definitely a part of their lives and that it can enrich their lives in surprising ways. [S. Goehring,]

Classroom Strategies

I hold a lottery.  It takes some guts (and it has to be done early enough in the semester that your students think you might actually do it, although not so early that you haven’t gotten a read on their personalities, since you have to know they can handle this).  Everyone has to draw slips of paper, and one has a black circle.  The person who gets the black circle has to take their things and immediately leave the classroom.  The colder you are when you demand this the better; in fact, it works best if you can somehow imply that they are going to lose all their participation points for the day.  Of course, this isn’t really the case: follow them into the hall, reassure them that it’s alright and tell them to pull out some paper and spend the next several minutes writing about how it felt to get the black spot.  Then go back in and reassure your class that the person isn’t kicked out for the rest of the day, and then ask them to free-write about how they felt when they didn’t draw the black spot, how they felt when someone else did and faced consequences because of it.  In spite of the crudeness of the exercise, students always respond with real thoughtfulness and subtlety and it provides a great jumping off point for discussion of the story, particularly different characters’ motivations for their actions. [L. Row-Heyveld,]

Additional Resources

Here is a link to the South Park video comparing the media’s “sacrifice” of Britney Spears to The Lottery.