Using Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" to Teach Vocabulary

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“The Lottery” Vocabulary List

When creating a vocabulary list for “The Lottery”, you need to keep in mind that I selected these words based on my students’ abilities. I teach the 8th grade, so you may find that you will want to delete a few words on this list if you are teach a high school English class. Like I mentioned in my “Tell-Tale Heart” lesson plan, the best way (that I have found) to teach vocabulary is in the context of the actual story. To do this, I run paper copies of the story for each student so that they may make notes on the actual story. Here is a link to a good pdf copy of “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. You can copy and paste it into a Microsoft Word document and bold the vocabulary or print it from the site and underline the words before you make copies for your students.

“The Lottery” Vocabulary List (words are in the order that they appear in the story):

  1. assembled - gathered
  2. boisterous - rowdy, loud
  3. reprimands - punishment, repercussions
  4. surveying - viewing
  5. reluctantly - unwillingly
  6. jovial - jolly, joyful
  7. scold - a person who is constantly scolding or reprimanding with loud and abusive speech
  8. paraphernalia - personal belongings, items associated with a specific activity
  9. shabbier - fallen into disrepair
  10. perfunctory - performed merely as a routine duty
  11. interminably - unending
  12. disengaged - to free from attachment
  13. petulantly - with unreasonable irritation
  14. stoutly - bulky in figure
  15. daintily - delicately, in a lady-like fashion
  16. defiantly - boldly resistant or challenging

Teaching the Vocabulary of “The Lottery”

1. Vocabulary in Context -

Providing students with their own paper copy of the story enables them to analyze and annotate as they read. Writing in the margins, underlining and making notes is what active readers do, and it just isn’t possible to implement those skills when you read the story from literature book. Even if you can only run a class set of the story for students to share, it is still worth the paper. Even though a student in a period before them made notes in the margin, encourage students to add to those notes and extend what they know from the story. They may find that a student before them had a unique and helpful way of analyzing the story that they never thought of, which can also serve as a form of peer tutoring.

While reading the story aloud, stop at the vocabulary word and have students theorize possible synonyms within their groups or individually. The first few words model how to do this by rereading the sentence and performing “think-aloud” with your students. That is, you verbally illustrate how YOU come up with the synonym of a word. Ask your students, “What is going on with the character in this paragraph? What words surrounding are vocabulary word can give us possible clues to the meaning of the word?” Verbalizing the steps that you as the teacher implement to discover meaning, is an effective method of teaching students to do the same with foreign words or phrases. Only after students have done their best to analyze and identify a definition using context clues only would I allow them to use a dictionary.

2. Vocabulary Games: After you have analyzed the entire story and identified the definitions, you may want to review students with this fun STICK IT TO VOCAB lesson plan

. This is much more effective than simply memorizing the word. Since I do this activity several times a year, I require two packages of sticky notes per student. Sticky notes are part of their supply list and will enable you to do this lesson four or five times a year.