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Seeking Social Justice Through Satire: Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”
|Grades||10 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Unit|
|Estimated Time||Nine 45–50 minute class meetings, plus additional class meetings for students’ presentations|
Cedar Falls, Iowa
- Enhance their comprehension of an edited and footnoted text of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” through multiple readings: guided, collaborative, and independent
- Identify Swift’s use of specific literary techniques in “A Modest Proposal” through collaboration
- Collaboratively identify a contemporary social problem, analyze it, and develop an outrageous satiric solution to resolve it
- Write the script for a fake newscast—supported by a PowerPoint presentation as a substitute for the blue screen graphics seen in broadcasts—as a means of presenting a satiric solution for a social problem to an audience
- To introduce the idea of guided reading to students, begin by presenting a copy of the single-panel cartoon of two deer from Narrative Magazine: Literary Puzzler: Famous Last Words, and work through the first section, “Analyzing a Single-Panel Cartoon,” on the printout Guided Reading of “A Modest Proposal.”
- As you work with students, ask them to share what specific cognitive steps they used to understand the joke. You may need to share your steps first; however, emphasize that there are likely to be many sets of steps involved, all resulting in getting the joke.
- Introduce the idea of satire to students by presenting, reviewing, and discussing the website Hodgart on The Conditions of Political Satire.
- Ask students to give examples of books, essays, movies, and radio or television programs that employ satire. Ask them what issues these media criticize through the use of satire.
- Prepare students for their viewing of the episode of the satiric television program that you selected by reviewing the “Viewing an Episode of a Satiric Television Program” section of the printout Guided Reading of “A Modest Proposal.”
- Watch the program and discuss students’ various responses, again encouraging students to share the cognitive processes that allowed them to comprehend the satire.
- Distribute the edited text of “A Modest Proposal.” Have students read background material on Swift’s life and career from Jonathan Swift.biography.
- Direct students to turn to the edited version of Swift’s pamphlet that you just distributed, pointing out the title, date of publication, and footnotes and how to use them.
- Complete the Guided Reading of “A Modest Proposal” printout. For each section, pose the question(s) before reading, and allow students to read the section and record their responses before asking them to share their understandings. Be prepared to answer their questions about how you, as an experienced reader, process Swift’s ideas. Use the Rubric for Assessing Guided Reading to evaluate students’ understanding.
- Distribute and review the printout Commonly Used Satiric Devices.
- Divide the class into pairs of students. Working collaboratively, have each pair fill in the printout with personal examples.
- Have each pair work collaboratively to locate examples of the techniques within Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Note that students’ responses are likely to vary widely. They may not find examples within Swift’s essay for all of the techniques.
- At the end of class, have students share their responses in either small or large groups.
- Have students review their responses to the Guided Reading of “A Modest Proposal” and their work on Commonly Used Satiric Devices.
- Working independently and using the section headings from the Guided Reading of “A Modest Proposal,” have each student paraphrase the major ideas of each section of “A Modest Proposal.” Have them use the online interactive Notetaker.
- Distribute and review the Mock Television Newscast or Editorial Assignment and the Evaluation Rubric for Mock Television Newscast or Editorial Assignment.
- Divide the class into pairs, and have each pair complete the prewriting section of the first printout. Note that you may wish to prescreen specific episodes of the television programs that students viewed and analyzed during Session 1 now in this prewriting section, which repeats the analytical questioning used in Session 1.
- If time permits, have students begin drafting the announcer’s script.
- Have students begin or continue drafting their scripts, consulting the Web for supporting information as necessary.
- Once students are satisfied with their drafts, have them begin determining and locating appropriate visual images to accompany the script. (Note that the Mock Television Newscast or Editorial Assignment printout provides suggestions for locating these audio-visual components.)
- Have students revise and edit their scripts.
- While sitting at computers, have students quietly rehearse their presentations, incorporating their PowerPoint content. Direct students to the PowerPoint Tool Tips printout if they need extra guidance using PowerPoint.
- Determine the order of students’ presentations. You may wish to have the pairs of students draw numbers to do this. Once students are prepared and know when they’re expected to present, you should be able to complete 5–6 presentations in a class session. For example, for a class of 24 students making 12 presentations, you’ll need two to three class periods.
- To encourage better listening, ask students to complete their own Evaluation Rubric for Mock Television Newscast or Editorial Assignment printouts to evaluate each presentation.
As a means of publication, digitally record and post several of the presentations to the website for either your class or your school. Be certain to secure written consent from your students’ parents first.
- Observe student participation in the guided reading sessions. Collect students’ Guided Reading of “A Modest Proposal” printouts. On these, make comments about students’ work and address any individual questions that students pose. Because students’ responses to the activities are designed to scaffold their reading of satire, view these responses as pieces of expressive discourse where the emphasis is upon exploring ideas and understandings, not upon getting correct answers or writing well. With this type of writing, it’s better to ignore grammar, usage, and mechanics. To guide assessment of student participation in these activities, see the Rubric for Assessing Guided Reading.
- Collect, quickly review, and briefly comment on students’ work on Commonly Used Satiric Devices. Check for completion and in order to monitor students’ understanding and application of concepts.
- Use the Evaluation Rubric for Mock Television Newscast or Editorial Assignment to evaluate both students’ scripts and their presentations.