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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


Materials and Technology






  • The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss

  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

  • Reference materials on Gulliver's Travels

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  • This lesson plan can be adapted for whatever portion of Gulliver's Travels that the class will cover. It could be used for a full coverage of all four parts of the text or simply for an individual section. Resources included here focus on Part I, "A Voyage to Lilliput."

  • If possible, collect multiple copies of The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss, so that small groups can refer to the book as needed. As an alternative to reading the The Butter Battle Book, you might show the 1989 television adaptation of Seuss's Butter Battle Book (Point Blank Films/Turner Pictures). Seuss wrote the script for the filmed version, which features Charles Durning as the voice of the Grandfather.

  • Collect reference materials on Gulliver's Travels for students to use as they complete their research. The Gulliver's Travels Resource provides online resources, but your school library and class text can provide additional materials that will supplement students' research. If Internet access is not available, library and classroom resources are essential for this lesson.

  • Make copies of the Satirical Techniques Definitions handout, Gulliver's Travels Analytical Essay, and Gulliver's Travels Essay Rubric.

  • If desired, make copies or a transparency of the passage from Reformatted Big Endians and Little Endians Passage from Gulliver's Travels. The reformatting breaks the text into chunks for easier reading.

  • Create a customized list of historical allusions for Gulliver's Travels. One simple way to create the task is to compile a list of all the names identified in footnotes or glossed in sidebars in your text. For these, students will already have the basic identification information on the historical reference. Their job will be to do the necessary research to determine the underlying significance of the reference. A sample list of Historical References for Part I is provided.

  • Decide whether students will investigate historical references individually or in small groups. If you use the Historical References for Part I, you can combine the references to Harley and St. John or combine investigation of the Tories and Whigs. Some of the investigations require more research and analysis than others, so adjust the options based on students' abilities.

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