How to make a graphic organizer for the short story "The Lottery?"

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Graphic organizers are visual maps of information where students enter facts that are meant to be organized and categorized. The idea is to be able to analyze the information contained in the story, from a number of different perspectives, by extrapolating the most relevant information that helps students understand the story better. 

Examples of graphic organizers include:

  • timelines, or sequence of events
  • facts versus opinion charts
  • character sketch and character analysis
  • story elements charts
  • word study and vocabulary study charts
  • “The Five W's” chart (what, where, when, who, why)
  • compare and contrast charts

To address the whole story "The Lottery," a good approach would be to use “The Five W's” chart. This type of graphic organizer lets you gather the most important facts from the story and summarize them in one or two sentences. Moreover, you can choose to analyze your story by working backwards, which is a powerful problem solving and analysis tool in many fields of study.

Let’s look at this example of, both, using an organizer and working backwards. To do this, build a graphic 5W organizer and title it “The Death of Tessie Hutchinson.”

That would be your

  1. “WHAT:” (Or, “What is going on?”)

ANSWER: Tessie Hutchinson was selected in the village’s lottery to be stoned to death by her fellow villagers.

  1. “WHERE:”

ANSWER: The decision to stone Tessie Hutchinson takes place in an unnamed village, which is described as one

          “where there were only about three hundred people”

A 5W organizer can also have an “additional detail section.” Notice how it would apply to the “WHEN” category.

  1. “WHEN:”

ANSWER: The events take place during ”a morning of June 27th,” where the weather “was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day.”

ADDITIONAL DETAIL: The setting is described in a way that elicits beauty and comfort, which makes the plot all the more morbid, considering that a savage killing is about to take place.

  1. “WHO:” (Or, “Who are we talking about?”)

ANSWER: Tessie Hutchinson is a resident of a village that keeps alive an ancient and barbaric practice of using a lottery system to sacrifice one of their own residents via stoning. She is a wife and mother.

ADDITIONAL DETAIL: Tessie is late to the lottery. She seems uneasy from the start.

These villagers are entirely accommodating to this practice, do not question it, and carry on with their lives as usual before, during, and after the brutal killing has occurred.  

  1. “WHY” is Tessie Hutchinson being killed by the villagers?

ANSWER: The villager whose name is drawn is put to death through stoning. Tessie’s name was ultimately selected on the day when the story takes place, and this is why it is her turn to be stoned.

Answering the essential questions also invites students to gather even more information from the story to draw further conclusions.

For example, upon answering the basic “WHY” questions, you could look back in the story and see that there is much more to just “having a lottery.” Therefore a further point could be:

ADDITIONAL DETAIL: “According to the story, the lottery has an ancient origin related to the growing of crops. While the villagers cannot pinpoint the exact details of the original lottery with clarity, they continue to practice it with no other purpose than that of continuing its tradition. The cause for the practice of the lottery at this point in the history of the village is null. Nobody really seems to know why there is still a lottery taking place. However, the eldest and more conservative members of the village insist that it continues to be carried on.”

When students are able to summarize each of the W’s, there is more information that they can make inferences and draw conclusions from.

Students can come up with further “why” questions. Why would there be a need for a lottery, at this point and time in the village? Why don’t the villagers feel any compassion toward the selected? Why can’t the villagers just change the rules? Why do they abide by a cruel and barbaric act?  Why does Tessie feel that her selection is “not fair” if she, herself, has celebrated the village’s traditions, too?

If you can get all of this from a 5W, imagine what you can do with more graphic organizers applied to the same story!