English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Presentation
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Determining The Purpose Of Swift's Essay

    Determining The Purpose Of Swift's Essay


    In this lesson, students will look closer at Swift’s essay to understand more fully how he works toward his purpose. Students also compare this essay with other satires they have read so far.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Examples of Verbal Irony

    • Getting right into the text jump-starts this lesson quickly.
    • Students can help each other dig deeper into the text; the unspoken idea is that collaboration yields richer results, often!
    • Let students add to their homework to help underscore this idea.
    • As students work, circulate so that you can pick the best responses in the Whole Group Discussion that follows. Try to get examples of verbal irony, hyperbole, distortion, and understatement.
    • Let students bring forward their examples, but you can make sure there’s a good variety by being choosy in whom you call on.
    • Make sure the students have time to take notes on one another’s findings.


    Look back at the homework assignment you did from Lesson 12 about satirical strategies in “A Modest Proposal.” Do the following with a partner.

    • Share one of the points you made.
    • Is there anything you missed in your own text that your partner can help you add? The closer the look and the more detailed your analysis, the better!

    Then discuss with your classmates:

    • What were some interesting satirical strategies you noticed?
    • What are lines that you can point to that used these strategies?

    You can take notes on your classmates’ findings, so you have good examples of different strategies.

    Satirical Tone Scale

    • You may need to remind students of what Juvenalian and Horatian mean.

    Work Time

    Imagine that you have a scale to measure the satirical tone of writing with Horatian on one side and Juvenalian on the other.

    • Is your partner’s writing more Juvenalian or Horatian?
    • Where would you put Swift’s essay on the satirical tone scale? Why?

    Swift Essay on Scale

    • You are now moving more strongly into tone, where you’ll spend most of the rest of the class.
    • Students should have seen that this essay is extremely harsh in tone. They may begin to connect specific strategies with Juvenalian or harsher satire, like distortion.
    • If not, lead them to the question, Do any of the satirical strategies more naturally lead to Juvenalian or Horatian satire?
      • SWD Students should be able to understand tone and to distinguish among different tones (even if they might not understand all the words). However, be sure that they do by asking probing questions. Support those students who need extra help.

    Work Time

    Write a response to the following prompt.

    • Why did you put the Swift essay where you did on the scale? How does it compare to Juvenal himself? Or Gordimer’s story? Identify one or two sentences that support your thinking.

    Open Notebook

    Then discuss your response with your classmates.

    Vocabulary in A Modest Proposal

    • Monitor students and lend assistance as needed.

    Work Time

    Note any unknown words in “A Modest Proposal.”

    • Work with a partner to look up definitions and rewrite them in your own words.

    Open Notebook

    Targets of Satire

    • Prompt students to compare and contrast the depictions of these broad topics through the ages.


    In the next episode, you’ll take a look at various targets of satire through the ages. These are groups that have been frequently satirized, in the past as well as the present. They include women, romantic love, parenting, and education.

    • Read or skim at least two of the texts for the target groups. The texts can be found in the Topic Readings and Independent Readings sections of More to Explore, and include the following options:
      • “The Dissection of a Beau’s Head” by Joseph Addison
      • “Soccer Crazy”
      • “Best College Essay”
      • “The History Teacher” by Billy Collins
      • The Misanthrope by Molière
      • Prologue to The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
      • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Targets of Satire

    • Ask students to read through the options before the next lesson and identify a target group of satire that they’d like to study for the next episode.
    • If students choose their own target group, they may work independently or with others who chose to come up with their own target group.
      • ELL: Some ELLs might choose a group you didn’t include based on the experience they have in their own countries and cultures. Encourage them to think of other groups and to share openly about their cultures.


    Choose the target of satire you want to study before the next lesson.

    • Read or skim the texts for each target group to help you decide which target group you’d like to study in the next episode.
    • If you have another idea for a target group and want to do your own research to come up with sources, that works too!