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A Lesson in Irony

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School Language Arts, Social Studies

LESSON TIME:
One to Two Class Sessions


OBJECTIVES
Students will:

  • define the literary term “irony” and identify examples
  • describe irony in comic strips or memes
  • interpret and explain Crawford’s actions
  • evaluate the word “unassuming” in two different contexts


Medal of Honor Focus: William Crawford, U.S. Army, World War II (Europe)


For the Teacher:

Review the following with students if necessary.

Irony is defined as the difference between what is said and what is meant, between what is said and what actually occurs, or between the meaning and what is understood. Irony is used in fiction, theater, and rhetoric. Irony may be intentional or unintentional; however, the incongruity between words and meaning or actions and meaning is the key to understanding irony in both writing and speech. Fundamentally, irony is always a break between what is said or done and what is meant or intended.

Dramatic Irony: A situation in which the audience knows something about present or future circumstances that the character does not know.

Example: In Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, Oedipus searches to find the murderer of the former king of Thebes, only to discover that he is the killer. The audience knows this all along.

Verbal Irony: A contradiction of expectation between what is said and what is meant.

Example: In Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, Marc Antony says the following even when he knows that Brutus killed Julius Caesar: “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man.”

Situational Irony: A contradiction of expectation between what might be expected and what actually occurs,

Literary example from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge: 
“Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did
shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink”

Real Life Example: When you stayed up all night cramming for a test the next day, and the test is postponed until the next week.

Look for other examples of situational irony. This is the most modern use of a term that has been relevant for a very long time. Situational irony may refer to an unusual coincidence or unexpected happening that results in a surprise for those present or involved. While both verbal and dramatic irony are intentional, situational irony is not.


Introductory Activity:
After an explanation of the literary term irony, discuss examples depending on the grade level. Encourage the class to think of more examples to strengthen the understanding of irony.


Whole Group Activity:
Look at examples of irony in a comic strip or meme. Discuss irony and give instructions on how to identify examples of irony.


Small Group/Individual Activity:
Locate three comic strips or memes that demonstrate irony. Identify the example of irony, explain how it is ironic, and then post the findings for the class to see.


Whole Group Activity:
The class will watch William Crawford’s video. Students will look for examples of irony in the video.


Concluding Activity:
Complete viewing guide on William Crawford.


Assessment:

Completed viewing guide with essay, irony activity


Resources:

Newspapers, Internet, William Crawford Living History video, Viewing Guide worksheet

Living History Video

Additional Resources