English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Literature
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Use of Irony

    Use of Irony


    In this lesson, students read and discuss two poems and their authors’ use of irony. Then they’ll continue reading, annotating, and discussing Pygmalion.


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

    The "At-Home" Episode

    • Give students about 3 minutes to partner share their responses to the Quick Write question.


    Share your response from the question during the previous lesson’s Closing with a partner.

    • What is the impression Mrs. Higgins and the other guests have of Liza?

    Issues of Social Class

    • Read the two poems, “The Golf Links” by Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn and “For a Lady I Know” by Countee Cullen, aloud.
    • Vocabulary that all students might not be familiar with include the following:
      • ✓ golf links (“The Golf Links”): golf course
      • ✓ mill (“The Golf Links”): factory
      • ✓ celestial (“For a Lady I Knew”): heavenly
    • Ask for at least two volunteers to read each of the poems aloud as well.
      • ELL: Encourage students to participate as actively as their native counterparts, even if their pace might be slower, or if they are more reluctant to volunteer due to a lesser command of the language.
    • If necessary, model by finding and explaining one example of irony in a poem or other texts students are familiar with.
    • Have each student choose a partner with whom to discuss the poems.
      • SWD: Consider pairing struggle students with more proficient readers. Discussions with the proficient reader may spark ideas for students with disabilities.
    • Let them know they will write an explanation of irony in the poems.

    Work Time

    A primary focus of today’s lesson is to broaden the issues of social class by looking at two very different short poems: “The Golf Links” by Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn and “For a Lady I Know” by Countee Cullen.

    • Listen as the poems are read aloud. Note any words you don’t know and figure out the definitions.
    • Reread the two poems with a partner, and discuss how the authors use irony.

    How Irony Contributes to the Author's Meaning

    • Divide the class in two and assign one poem to each group.
    • Give students 5–10 minutes to write a paragraph in which they explain how the author’s irony contributes to the meaning of the poem.
      • SWD: Consider giving scaffolding questions to students who are still having a difficult time putting their thoughts in writing.

    Work Time

    Write a paragraph.

    • Explain how irony contributes to the author’s meaning in your assigned poem.

    Open Notebook

    Where the Author's Sympathy Lies

    • Give partnered students time to respond to the questions.

    Work Time

    Work with a partner to reread your assigned poem and answer these questions.

    • What injustice underlies the situation in your poem?
    • Where does your author’s sympathy lie, and how do you know?

    Share your paragraph, explaining how irony contributes to the author’s meaning in your assigned poem with your partner.

    Protest Against Injustice

    • Use the time to eavesdrop on students’ conversations to make sure they “get it” well enough to move on. If not, you may need to fill in some gaps or clarify either in small groups or with the whole class.

    Work Time

    Get together with another partner group that read the other poem and share your findings with that group.

    Read each poem aloud and share each partner’s paragraph on irony.

    Discuss the following questions.

    • What is the context (setting, background, circumstance) for each of the poems?
    • What injustice underlies each situation?
    • Where do the authors’ sympathies lie, and how do you know?
    • How might these poems be considered forms of protest against injustice?
    • How do either of these poems relate to anything you have read so far this unit?

    Relationship to Other Readings

    • Lead a conversation about the responses to the Quick Write question.
    • Help students generate a list of factors that may determine a person’s social class standing.
      • ✓ Antigone is a member of the royal family of Thebes, but she is not exempt from the law.
      • ✓ Dr. King’s trumped up charges and arrest suggest that social status is institutional.
      • Pygmalion suggests that correct speech and behavior are indicators of social class.
      • ✓ What are some other issues raised by the poems? Race? Power? Age? Gender? Privilege or a sense of entitlement? Personal appearance—do clothes make the woman?
    • Remind students that when they read further into Pygmalion , they will begin planning and writing a Character Analysis Essay about social class and the law.

    Work Time

    Complete a Quick Write.

    • How do either of these poems relate to anything you have read so far in this unit?

    Open Notebook

    Share your responses to the Quick Write with the whole class.

    Then engage in a Whole Group Discussion about how social class is determined in the pieces you have read so far.

    Act 3 of Pygmalion

    • Use the remaining time before the Closing to finish reading act 3.
    • As students continue to read, circulate to check progress and offer support for students who might need it.
    • Remember that References to Social Class in Pygmalion is provided to you and offers examples of lines and phrases in the play having to do with social class. Some vocabulary words and British terms are defined in Vocabulary and British Terms in Pygmalion.
    • Update the Characters in Pygmalion and Social Class Terms class charts as needed.

    Work Time

    Finish reading and annotating act 3 with your triad group starting with “Pickering gasps and sits down.” Focus on places of confusion, references to social class, and vocabulary.

    Use these questions to focus your reading and answer them in writing.

    • Why is Mrs. Higgins so annoyed with her son and Pickering?
    • What warning does she give them?
    • How did people at the garden party respond to Liza?

    Open Notebook

    Poem Comparison

    • Encourage students to participate in the Whole Group Discussion.


    Participate in a discussion with your classmates in which some of you share key points that you learned from meeting with the partner group that read the other poem.

    • Discuss how the two poems compared to each other and to the larger themes of the unit.​

    Independent Reading

    • Remind students to continue reading their Independent Reading Group Novel and to turn in journal entries.


    Finish reading act 3 of Pygmalion if you have not done so already.

    Continue your on-going homework assignment.

    • Read your Independent Reading Group Novel.
    • Remember to submit two journal entries a week to your teacher and publish some of your journal entries so others can read your work.