Teaching Satire: Resources for Educators

From about the age of twelve to fourteen, I filled Hillroy notebooks with poorly-drawn, occasionally funny, political cartoons. Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister at the time and it was fun to exaggerate the length of his chin while offering my Junior High critique of his tax plan. I can’t say this type of writing was ever encouraged in any classes I took in school. It was just this thing I did on my own. My cartoons were never shown to anyone.

Later I became an educator myself and have been teaching high school English Language Arts for fifteen years. I taught a unit on satire for about twelve years before I started The Daily Bonnet, a satirical news website that focuses on my own Mennonite cultural and religious background.

Satire is a powerful communication tool and a form of writing that is increasingly common today. However, it’s not often understood very well. My intention here is not to provide lesson plans (those, I assume, you can put together yourself), but rather to draw attention to a few concepts that are essential if you want to give your students a better understanding of satire. I highly recommend that you have your students write their own satires as well. It’s challenging, but a lot of fun and quite rewarding when they see the finished product.

There is no “fake news” crisis. If there’s a problem, the problem is lack of literacy. I firmly believe that if people are being “fooled” by “fake news” (whether satire or deceptive fake news) it is not the fault of “the Russians” or anyone else who might be churning out misleading memes in a basement somewhere. Failure to understand or “get” satire, and failure to be able to differentiate between real and fake news, is entirely a literacy issue and the solution lies, then, not with politicians, but with teachers and parents.

By reading and writing satire, students should develop critical thinking skills and creative writing skills. Beyond that, it’s actually a lot of fun! Whether you’re a teacher, student, or just someone interested in learning more about satire, I hope you’ll find these resources helpful.

Click on the links below to learn more:

Understanding satire: What makes people laugh?

Understanding satire: What is satire?

Understanding satire: What is “fake news”?

Understanding satire: How to detect satire

Understanding satire: Examples of satire

Understanding satire: Cognitive biases and satire

Writing satire: Tone in satire

Writing satire: Types of exaggeration

Writing satire: Are you punching up or punching down?