When “Nice Shirt” Means “Go Home and Change”: A Lesson on the Types of Irony

Verbal irony is a tool familiar to many a high school student.  As a parent of a fourteen-year-old, I would say anecdotally that teenagers may have trouble surviving without it.  The above video clip of Family Guy, therefore, might be a great bell ringer and/or attention grabber to begin a lesson on the types of irony.  It starts students in a place of familiarity (perhaps in content and medium) and could be transitioned into a discussion of how often verbal irony (which includes, but is not limited to sarcasm) is used in today’s society.

In lesson 3.5 of Springboard Senior English, students are introduced to the three types of irony.  Under each type listed below, there is also a Ted Ed video of less than three minutes that outlines the definition and gives examples for students.

  • Dramatic: irony where the audience knows more than the characters do about the events occurring now or in the future of the narrative, resulting in humor, suspense, or some other intended effect on the audience

  • Verbal: irony where a character says the opposite of what they mean

  • Situational: irony that creates a “surprise ending” that defies the audience expectation

In the Springboard lesson, groups of students are given a scenario and outcome, and they are asked to create and perform a scene using this information and the types of irony.  To scaffold this lesson for students, the teacher could give each group one type of irony on which to focus.  In addition, a brief mini-lesson on the parts of a script might be helpful. Teen Ink has a large selection of scripts and plays written by teens, and a piece of one of these could be used to discuss the format of playwriting, which would also build to the second Embedded Assessment where students will have to write and perform a play script based on an interpretation of Othello through one of three critical lenses (historic, cultural, or feminist).

On a sub-note, Ted Ed videos are a great resource for teachers.  Here is a link to all of the videos available through Ted Ed for irony.  Each includes online questions to go along with the video and a list of additional links. I will post more about this resource later, but here is a video about the ways you can use Ted Ed in the classroom.     

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