CTRL+F & “The Lottery”

This is a pretty simple point, but sometimes I’m surprised by how helpful CTRL+F (or Command+F on a Mac) can be when you’ve just got one computer and one projector in a classroom. My friend Joelle showed me this article, via EdTechSandyK, that says 90% of people don’t know about it.

I find it especially useful when discussing a short story, or any text that’s available online (like Shakespeare). When leading an activity that requires students to find textual support, it’s great to be able to instantly project that line on the screen so all the students can see it and copy it into their notes. I also enjoy showing off my mastery of a text when, within seconds, I can find the exact line a student is trying to paraphrase.

(Yes, I realize I just admitted feeling proud about something that most people would consider freakishly nerdy, but that’s okay.)

I was doing this the other day with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” I love how many short stories are available online, by the way. And while I’m mentioning the lottery, I’d like to recommend the following (no tech) activity for anyone who might teach it.

[Don’t read this if you haven’t read the short story yet. And go read it! It’s so good.]

It happened spontaneously last year when a student asked, “Can we act out our own lottery?” They were joking, of course, but I thought about a “safe” version, using crumpled up paper as stones, and we went ahead and did it. This year, I was prepared for it, with tiny slips of paper all counted out and ready to go. I sat at a table at the front of the class, calling students up by their last names, just like in the story. They become wonderfully anxious during this, making nervous jokes, again, just as in the story. At the end, we all unfold our papers to see whose has the little black dot. That person stands in the center of the room and withstands a barrage of paper “stones.” Then I guide the students through a written reflection on the experience and how it may have generated a new understanding of Jackson’s purpose.

Here are some highlights from the reflections of one of my classes, which I typed into a 280Slides presentation to share with them tomorrow.

Funny postscript: I was observed by an administrator during this lesson, and I asked him if he wanted to participate when counting the slips of paper for the mock lottery. He agreed. Guess who pulled the “winning” ticket?

(It was the administrator.)

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