Secondary 7 Satirical Lessons for your Classroom

A student raises their hand in the classroom

Introduce satire with these playful, yet thought-provoking, satirical pieces!

These satirical articles from famous authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, and Johnathan Swift will introduce students to how authors use humor, irony, exaggeration, and ridicule to expose and critique the world around them.  Take your students reading comprehension to the next level with our digital library filled with biting essays that are the perfect satire examples for students.

The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol (9th Grade)

This satirical story depicts the nose of a St. Petersburg official that disappears and starts living a life of its own. Throughout the story, Gogal uses satire to poke fun at the official’s vices.

After reading this story, introduce the novella The Metamorphosis, from the Paired Text tab. In this novella, a traveling salesman is transformed into an insect. Pair the two pieces in order to teach students about elements of absurdist fiction.

A screenshot of the first two paragraphs of Nikolai Gogal's "The Nose"

Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut (9th Grade)

In this thought-provoking story, the author describes a society where all citizens have been made equal. Vonnegut uses satire to describe the misgivings in our idea of a truly “equal” society as he describes the torture and discomfort the government imposes.

Pair “Harrison Bergeron” with the informational text, “Why Teens Find the End of the World So Appealing,” and ask students to discuss why the short story is an example of dystopian fiction. What themes in “Harrison Bergeron” would appeal to a young adult reader? Why? Do students think this story was intended specifically for young adult readers? Why or why not?

Wealthy Teen Nearly Experiences Consequences” by The Onion Staff (10th Grade)

In this article, a wealthy teen drives a car while intoxicated and crashes into another car. He does not suffer any consequences, and feels miffed and inconvenienced by the incident.

The central idea of this piece is that wealth can allow people to get away with crimes with little to no consequences. Using the discussion questions, ask your class: “What recommendations would you make to help remedy the inequitable enforcement of the law exposed in this article?”

This piece is also a part of our 360 Unit on The Great Gatsby. The two texts, which both include car accidents with wealthy drivers, pose questions about the history of affluence in the United States.

The War Works Hard” by Dunya Mikhail (10th Grade)

In this poem, Dunya Mikhail writes about the wars she has lived through in Iraq. Mikhail satirically depicts war as diligent and efficient in its attempts to decimate society. She praises how war promotes corrupt leaders who benefit from the atrocities inflicted on citizens.

After reading “The War Works Hard”, ask students the first assessment question, “Which of the following best states how the speaker's tone reveals his or her point of view about the war? Have students discuss how point of view and tone are used to connote satire.

Hermann the Irascible: A Story of the Great Weep” by Saki (11th Grade)

Written in the midst of the suffragette movement, this satirical story depicts a fictional British monarch who makes it mandatory for women to vote. The monarch's conniving plan restricted women immensely. The women staged a protest demanding to undo the voting mandate. In response, the monarch rescinded all women’s voting rights.

Pair "Address to Congress on Women's Suffrage" with "Hermann the Irascible" to give students a better sense of the history of the suffragist movement. Considering the widely held beliefs of the day, what techniques did women use to ultimately gain the right to vote?

Excerpts from Roughing It” by Mark Twain (11th Grade)

In this excerpt from Roughing It, the narrator explains his previous professions and his flippant excuses for leaving them. The narrator then receives a newspaper editorial position and becomes quite successful because of his loose relationship with the truth.

After reading Twain’s piece, watch the Related Media video called, “Top 5 Old West Facts”. The video focuses largely on myths propagated by classic Western movies. How does this video further inform the theme of the story? What traditional stereotypes of the West are exaggerated or imagined?

A screenshot of the Related Media tab linked with the lesson for Mark Twain's "Roughing It"

A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift (12th Grade)

This article was written in response to the worsening conditions in Ireland after centuries under English control. At the time, Ireland was made up of predominantly poor Catholic people ruled by a wealthy Protestant minority. Swift satirically proposes that feeding Catholic children to the Protestant land owners could lead to a stronger economy and stronger familial relationships in poorer communities.

After reading “A Modest Proposal,” introduce your students to Peter Kuper’s artwork inspired by Swift’s words from the Related Media tab. With this comic, students can visually grasp Swift’s outrageous proposal. Use this artwork as a launch pad to discuss the major issues and themes found within the text.

Bonus

Check out our book pairing for Catch-22, a famous satirical novel by Joseph Heller.

Next Steps

Looking for more great satirical articles for middle and high school students? Check out our CommonLit library!

If you’re interested in learning all about CommonLit’s free digital literacy program, join one of our upcoming webinars!

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