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Write explanatory paragraph | Understanding satire | 6-12

Student Objective

Students will be able to:
1. understand satire
2. discuss why and how satire is used and appears in society
3. craft an essay using satire


Step 1: Students select a real-world issue to write an explanatory paragraph about

Instruct students to select a real-world issue of interest to them (e.g., climate change, pandemics, artificial intelligence, etc.) in small groups. Have them share out-loud the issue they’ve selected, and why it’s important or interesting to him/her/them.

Step 2: Students read “A Modest Proposal”

Have the students silently read “A Modest Proposal” by Dr. Jonathan Swift as an example of satire or parody. Ask students to share aloud their reactions, and discuss the meaning, structure, and how satire was used by the author of the piece.

Share different methods of satirical usage by discussing the following guidelines:

  • Humor: satire without humor is mere criticism.
  • Attack: satire without attack is mere comedy.
  • Suitability: satire of an undeserving object is mean or just plain dumb.
  • Clarity: satire that does not clearly present its argument is not effective
  • Efficacy: satire that does not unnerve an audience does not succeed as a satire.

Discuss why satire is used to advance belief structures and ideas. Share this example of parody based on “A Modest Proposal” and ask the students to think about ways to satirize their chosen issues. In their small groups, have them brainstorm on Jamboard different ideas for satire.

Alternative media: Review these clean satirical media clips from Saturday Night Live that can also be used to explore satire.

Step 3: Reflect and share

Have each student group share their chosen issue and ideas for satire. Have the other students provide feedback and ideas, and give students time to iterate their ideas based on feedback.

Step 4: Students craft satirical essays based on their chosen issue

Using a shared Google doc file, student groups craft a short satirical essay about their chosen prompt.


This teaching strategy requires students to explore a current topic and develop both satirical ideas about it as well as legitimate ones. Though this strategy does not require students to implement their ideas, it does require them to position those ideas in way so they can be tested.

EdTech used in this activity:

Google Docs

Alternative Ed Tech you could use:

Jamboard, Google Docs