Monday, July 22, 2013

Teaching Irony (you CAN use Alanis Morissette)

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One of the literary devices (now known as Tier 3 words in Common Core) we teach is irony. I usually teach dramatic, verbal, and situational irony in relation to whatever literature we are reading.

Sometimes, it's hard for kids to grasp irony. Verbal irony is pretty easy, because it's basically sarcasm, but the other kinds, not so much.

It doesn't help that many of them hear irony and automatically think of this song:

Unfortunately, as you have probably heard, many of the "ironic" statements in this song are not actually ironic at all.

BUT that doesn't mean you can't use the song to teach it; you just make the kids get involved.

I'll usually play the song and video, which many have heard before, and ask them to explain the ironic examples. It's kind of a trick question because many aren't. I usually have one or two students who will point that out, but if not, I will just take the incorrect examples they give and ask them to explain how that is ironic. Many times, they will then catch the mistake.

So after we discuss the fact this song is really a misnomer, I pass out the lyrics and in groups, have them fix all of the incorrect examples of irony and make them ironic.

To get them started, I show them an example. I will pick one or two from this College Humor list.

For instance: An old man turned ninety-eight. He won the lottery and died the next day… of chronic emphysema from inhalation of the latex particles scratched off decades' worth of lottery tickets. (The part before the ellipses is what's originally in the song; the students would need to add something to it like they did in the example to make it ironic).

I also just came across this video this weekend that I am going to show after my students come up with their "fixed" version. I think these girls' take on it is pretty funny.

I would hold off on showing this video or the entire College Humor list until AFTER the students have at least attempted revising the lyrics themselves; otherwise, you may get a lot of copycats!

Just a fun, comical way to teach irony, bring in some videos, and maybe school some kids on 90s music who have never heard of Alanis Morissette ;)


  1. I use the video when I teach irony too. My kids play a game... Ironic or Just Bad Luck? and vote as we listen to the song. I like your extension of having them turn it into irony... or explain why they think it is already ironic.

  2. I just ran across this video parody this weekend too. I'm going to definitely be using it as well!

  3. I've tried to use "Ironic" before, but none of the kids know the song! I felt soooooo old!!! LOL Great idea to show the video too though...

    Tales of Teaching in Heels