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This lesson introduces students to the three types of irony and then builds on that knowledge over the course of multiple sessions. Students watch YouTube videos to categorize information on a graphic organizer, apply the knowledge from those videos to outside examples of irony, read short stories which employ the three types of irony, and ultimately demonstrate their ability to apply irony to our modern world. Over the course of these five days, students are able to move from identification to manipulation of a skill through the scaffolding provided from the teacher and other resources.
- Situational Irony Video: This YouTube video provides examples of situational irony and explains why coincidence is not irony.
- Verbal Irony Video: This YouTube video provides examples of verbal irony and discusses the differences among verbal irony, sarcasm, and compliments.
- Dramatic Irony Video: This YouTube video provides examples of dramatic irony and discusses dramatic irony as a storytelling device.
- "Ironic" Lyrics, by Alanis Morissette: Click on the link to the right of the song title for lyrics to Morissette's song on the artist's offical website.
From Theory to Practice
Irony surrounds upper grade students in their daily lives, making an understanding of what it is and how it works essential. In his article regarding incorporating pop culture in the classroom, Jerome Evans writes "popular culture has an important place in the English classroom—as an object worthy of study and as a means for students to access and study literature successfully." Through including popular culture such as YouTube videos, song lyrics, and an accessible performance task, students are able to learn the skill of understanding the purpose behind irony in a way that engages their everyday interests. Through helping students see the connection between irony and their world, they are able to see not only the classroom-related value that this skill entails but also the real-world application of the skill.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Materials and Technology
- Computers with Internet access
- Preassessment: Use a KWL chart, a text graffiti activity, or a basic quiz to garner your students’ understanding of irony. The quiz could be as simple as asking students to define each type of irony, identify examples of each type of irony, and explain any prior experience with using or analyzing irony.
- Be sure to make enough copies of the Understanding Irony worksheet prior to the first class session.
- Irony examples: Choose the lines provided from Alanis Morisette’s song, “Ironic,” or examples of irony from texts that the students have read. Put one example of any of the three types of irony on index cards (one index card per student).
- Provide computers for students to access the Fractured Fairy Tales interactive on ReadWriteThink.org as well as the Newsela website.
- identify and define the three types of irony (verbal, situational, and dramatic).
- cite evidence to explain the three types of irony and provide examples of each type.
- make connections between irony in literature and irony in the modern world.
- cite and explain examples of the three types of irony to demonstrate a command of the skill.
Session One: What is Irony?
- As a preassessment, brainstorm with students to determine a baseline of understanding of the three types of irony.
- Introduce the Situational Irony, Verbal Irony, and Dramatic Irony videos, and the Understanding Irony handout. As students view the three videos, have them use the handout to take notes on each of the three types of irony. In between each video, have students Think-Pair-Share or Turn & Talk to discuss the examples from the video, answer any questions that students may have, or compare what students thought they knew about irony with what they learn from the videos.
- After watching the videos, ask students to identify on a sticky note one question that they have about any of the three types of irony. If they do not have a question, have them write down one new thing they learned about irony through the videos.
- While you review the students’ questions, give each student one index card. Have them work independently to decide which type of irony is evidenced on the index card they have been provided, and then write an explanation as to why they know it is that type of irony. If you are using the Alanis Morissette lyrics Irony Examples handout, make students aware that not all index cards are any type of irony; her song “Ironic” has examples of situations that are ironic, while others that are not at all.
- Have students find a partner and switch index cards. Do they agree or disagree with their partner’s idea? Have them write down whether or not they agree on the back of the index card. Repeat this step two-three times so that students can hear from a number of their peers before making a final decision.
- Exit Ticket: Have students submit their index cards. Ask them to circle the answer they believe is correct regarding the type of irony on the card and, if it is different from their original opinion, explain why they believe that response is correct.
Session Two: What Irony Looks Like in Literature
- At the start of class, differentiate students based on the formative assessments conducted in the first session. While you work with the group who is struggling with irony, have other students work in partners or small groups to brainstorm examples of each of the three types of irony.
- As a whole class, discuss the work that the small groups have done. This will help the struggling students to see real-world examples of each type of irony, and coupled with the small group instruction, this should empower them to feel confident with the assignment they will begin completing.
- As a class, read aloud a short story that employs the three types of irony (such as “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, or “Once Upon A Time” by Nadine Gordimer). While reading aloud, give students a “cue word” that they use whenever they see an example of irony in the story (For example, have students yell out “Bingo!” or hit a buzzer when they believe they see the author using irony).
- At the conclusion of class, check for understanding by having students select one type of irony and a piece of evidence to show that type of irony in the short story. Use this information to assess which students who truly are grasping this concept and those who may need additional assistance.
Session Three: How to Apply Irony in Literature
- At the start of Session Three, have students Think, Pair, Share about the role of irony in the story you read in Session Two. Through this discussion, students should be able to analyze author’s purpose and begin seeing why authors make use of irony throughout their pieces.
- The Fractured Fairy Tale: Introduce students to the story of “The Three Little Pigs: The Wolf’s Perspective.” Explain how this fractured fairy tale shows dramatic irony in that we, as readers, are told the wolf’s intentions, whereas in the original, we are not.
- Have students use the remainder of class to create a fractured fairy tale of their own using their choice of the three types of irony. Using the Fractured Fairy Tales interactive, be sure that students see how changing setting or characterization can also create irony for readers.
- Prior to submitting the fractured fairy tale, students should write a brief, one-paragraph analysis explaining how the irony they incorporated into the fractured fairy tale changed the purpose behind the task or changed the reader’s perspective of the story.
- Extend class time devoted to completion of the project into another session if necessary.
Session Four: Modern Day Connections
- Introduce the modern-day connection task by asking students to write a journal entry explaining where they see irony in the world around them. Have them share their responses with partners or small groups to transition into the modern-day connection task.
- Distribute and explain the Modern-Day Ironic Insights Task. Students should be researching news events on Newsela to determine real-world examples of the three types of irony. This can be done in partners or small groups.
- Have an Ironic Insights Day where students share one of their news articles that they believe employs irony. Through discussing these ironies in our world, students be able to assess author’s purpose as well as media intentions.
- Hold a Fairy Tale Friday. Students can read the new versions of their fractured fairy tales and discuss (in partners, small groups, or as a class) how their classmates’ use of irony altered the story’s meaning and/or purpose.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Sticky note questions: The questions asked can be used to clear up any misconceptions or misunderstandings that students may have about any of the three types of irony.
- Index card examples: Use the index cards to help students to track their own progress toward the lesson objectives, while also shaping instruction for Session Two.
- Fractured fairy tale creation: The changes made to fairy tales and the analysis paragraphs provided will both provide insight on students’ understanding of the purpose of using irony. Based on these projects, determine if there is a specific type of irony with which students are struggling, if there are some students who may be falling behind, or if there are any gaps in information that need to be filled.
- Modern-Day Ironic Insights Task: Here, ensure that students are moving beyond basic identification of the types of irony and are able to evaluate their role in our everyday lives.