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Lesson Plan

From Dr. Seuss to Jonathan Swift: Exploring the History behind the Satire

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From Dr. Seuss to Jonathan Swift: Exploring the History behind the Satire

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Begin your class study of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels by reading Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book to illustrate the use of satire in a very accessible way. After reading the picture book, students discuss the historical allusions as a class. They are introduced to the concept of satire and identify the main satirical theme of the book. Students then work in small groups to find additional background information and present this information to the class. They chart details from the book and link each one to the historical information they have discovered. Students then use apply this process to a passage from Gulliver's Travels. Finally, students research and report on relevant historical information as the class reads the novel. Once the reading is complete, students draw on the historical allusions that they have discovered to determine the overall message that the text communicates about society.

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Satirical Techniques Definitions: This resource provides definitions of satirical techniques.

Gulliver's Travels Resources: Students can use the Web resources in this student interactive to gather background information on the historic events satirized in Gulliver's Travels.

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In her article, "Using Children's Literature to Spark Learning," Diana Mitchell explains, "When picture books appear in a secondary classroom, students behave differently. They paw over the books, oohing and aahing at the illustrations, the colors and the topics. Enthusiasm creeps into their talk" (94). Beyond this excitement and engagement, why are picture books appropriate in the secondary classroom? Mitchell asserts that children's literature "is one genre so accessible to all of our students [that] the payoff in terms of what they learn is usually great" (94). In other words, because the literary elements and genre conventions are typically more obvious in these texts, student readers frequently recognize the literary techniques quickly and easily. In short, children's literature provides a great resource for introducing and building upon issues that are explored more fully in other texts in the secondary classroom.

Further Reading

This lesson plan is based in part on: Simmons, Eileen. "Jonathan Swift and Dr. Seuss." Classroom Notes Plus 15.4 (March 1998): 5-6.

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Mitchell, Diana. "Using Children's Literature to Spark Learning." English Journal 87.2 (February 1998): 94-97.

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