Introducing and Identifying Irony

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SWBAT begin analyze Mark Twain's use of irony--distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant--by defining and brainstorming examples of irony in other works.

Big Idea

Isn't it ironic? Or is it? We'll be defining and identifying irony in class today.

Introduction & Welcome: It's Umbrella Day!

8 minutes

I welcome students to today's Daily Holiday: Umbrella Day; fill them in on the results of last week's Friday Favorite poll; and share today's Olympic Medal Count, asking if anyone watched any Olympic events over the weekend (it's a Monday).  

We then transition to the second Monday Mindbender of the semester, and I post the rhyme:

A word I know

Six letters it contains

Subtract just one

And twelve is what remains

(from "A Daily Brain Teaser"), students are given a few minutes to decode the answer. 

I also take this time to collect homework, and return graded work to the students. Daily Holidays and Monday Mindbenders encourage a sense of student ownership and community in the classroom, and the Mindbenders nurture a bit of healthy competition as well. Students do take pride in correct answers, and provide teachable moments when they have incorrect answers. Additionally, this time is ideal for housekeeping issues, conferencing with students who may be behind on work, as noted above, returning work. 

Revisions and Corrections: Similes and Comics

15 minutes

Student-created simile assignments and "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" Chronological Order Comics in need of revisions are returned to students, giving them an opportunity to make any changes. Students are given fifteen minutes to develop and strengthen their writing as needed by revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, in order to address what is most significant for a specific purpose (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5): either demonstrate understanding of figurative language, in particular figures of speech (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5), or to analyze the author’s choices concerning structure, by manipulate time, creates sympathy for the main character and builds suspense (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5). (See the linked lessons for more-in depth explanation.)

Revisions to the comics included changing the order of events to follow the plot (this is explained in the lesson linked above) and adding enough frames to meet the assigned length, as one group only provided four frames. Revisions to the similes included revisions to make similes more vivid and relatable and adding adjectives to give more clear context. In these examples, the revisions can be seen written in. 

Since these assignments are formative, calling for students to collaborate and practice analysis, giving them time for revision helps build skill mastery and content knowledge. Revisiting an assignment is never a bad thing, and students also don't feel like "one mistake and they lose all the points," but have the opportunity to make the mistakes and learn form them.  

The students who do not need to make changes or corrections have this opportunity to get ahead on the class discussion and homework, I post the irony notes sheet on the board and ask students to begin brainstorming examples of irony from works they know (see below). As with the revisions, students may spend this time working collaboratively in order to build off of each others' ideas. 

Defining What's Ironic...and What's Not

25 minutes

As we move between units of study, from Realism to its offshoot, Regionalism, I address irony, one of the primary devices of the literature of the era. At this point, I ask students to analyze Mark Twain's use of irony in order to distinguish between what is directly stated and what is really meant (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6)--even though this skill is in the CCSS 11-12 band--because ironic details drive not only Mark Twain's "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," but also many of the works the students will read ("The Story of an Hour", "The Open Boat")*. 

In order to refresh what students know about irony (they have studied the three types of literary irony in Freshman/Grade 9 English I):

I begin by asking what the three types of literary irony are. (dramatic, situational, and verbal) 

I then ask the students what the ending of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" most likely is.(situational, as we were led to believe Peyton would successfully escape from the Union army)

I project the "The Oatmeal: The Three Most Common Uses of Irony", showing only the #3 bullet point on the webcomic, "Verbal & Dramatic Irony." Reading the comic to the students, I review how irony works in the mini-lecture, referencing the comics and diction used to highlight these two types of irony. After asking for and addressing and questions or comments, I move the image to reveal "Situational Irony," the #2 bullet point on the webcomic. I make sure to stop before the comment on Alanis Morissette's "Ironic," and continue the mini-lecture/read-along defining situational irony, focusing on the "reversal" mentioned in the webcomic.

To build upon or review the question asked before the look at "The Oatmeal," I ask the students what the reversal in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is, to check their understanding. 

I transition to the Irony Intro Activity, requiring students to recall and explain irony in works they have already used for class. Drawing on the example provided by "The Oatmeal," I model "Romeo and Juliet," and then ask the students to take ten minutes to provide five examples of their own, with at least one example of each type of irony. In this activity, students propel their small-group conversation by responding to the prompt: "Identify irony," connecting each example to the types of irony and clarifying why their examples are ironic (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c). As above, this check for understanding allows me to gauge students' prior knowledge, ability to apply that knowledge, and spark discussion on the types. 

With five minutes remaining, I ask students to stop what they're working on, and share a few examples of the irony they came up with, in order to provide additional models to each of the students who may be struggling. Students identify irony in the works they have studied, such as dramatic irony in "Of Mice and Men and Rold Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter," as well as developing that analysis into situational irony of the short story as well. I ask students to create a complete list of examples for homework, and also add notes on the types of irony that appear in Twain's "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," as they read that story.  

(Just a heads up: "The Oatmeal" CAN use language inappropriate for the classroom. I only use it as a resource sparingly, and avoid the inappropriate language as much as possible, but the over-the-top humor can hook the students, and it presents the information they have seen in a new light). 

*(With thanks to The University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Washington State University's e-text libraries)

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I ask students to complete their irony activity for homework, and to begin Twain's "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" (due in two days to allow for the difficulty of understanding the text), and to please remember their textbook tomorrow, as we need it for class. I also take this chance to see if there are any questions about examples of irony.