Seeking Social Justice Through Satire: Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal"

In this lesson, students complete multiple readings of Jonathan Swift’s essay “A Modest Proposal” which satirizes social problems.  They will do  a guided reading with the teacher, a collaborative reading with a peer, and an independent reading. The online Notetaker tool helps students restate key ideas from Swift’s essay as they read and elaborate upon these ideas postreading. After independent reading, pairs of students develop a mock television newscast or editorial script, like those found on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, or The Colbert Report, including appropriate visual images in PowerPoint. This lesson plan not only covers Jonathan Swift's major work, "A Modest Proposal", it also covers the techniques used in a satire and leads students through creating their own multimedia presentation to demonstrate their understanding. An excellent lesson that provides guided reading of the text, analysis of current television satires, and an assessment tool for scoring students' presentations.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3005.2.1
Demonstrate critical listening skills essential for comprehension, evaluation, problem solving, and task completion.
CLE 3005.2.2
Summarize, paraphrase, and critique information presented orally by others.
CLE 3005.3.1
Write in a variety of modes for different purposes and audiences.
CLE 3005.3.2
Employ various prewriting strategies.
CLE 3005.5.3
Evaluate an argument, considering false premises, logical fallacies, and quality of evidence presented.
CLE 3005.5.4
Analyze the logical features of an argument.
CLE 3005.5.5
Analyze written and oral communication for persuasive devices.
CLE 3005.7.1
Evaluate the aural, visual, and written images and other special effects used in television, radio, film, and the Internet for their ability to inform,...
CLE 3005.7.4
Apply and adapt the principles of written composition to create coherent media productions.
CLE 3005.8.1
Demonstrate knowledge of significant works of British literature from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present and make relevant comparisons.
CLE 3005.8.3
Recognize the conventions of various literary genres and understand how they articulate the writers vision.
CLE 3005.8.4
Analyze works of British literature for what is suggested about the historical period in which they were written.
CLE 3005.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning and comprehension from various literary genres.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 

Students will:
Enhance their comprehension of an edited and footnoted text of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” through multiple readings: guided, collaborative, and independent
Identify Swift’s use of specific literary techniques in “A Modest Proposal” through collaboration
Collaboratively identify a contemporary social problem, analyze it, and develop an outrageous satiric solution to resolve it
Write the script for a fake newscast—supported by a PowerPoint presentation as a substitute for the blue screen graphics seen in broadcasts—as a means of presenting a satiric solution for a social problem to an audience

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

As a means of publication, digitally record and post several of the presentations to the website for either your class or your school. Be certain to secure written consent from your students’ parents first.

Helpful Hints

Materials and Technology:

  • Computer with Internet access and projector
  • Computers with word processing (such as Word) and presentation (such as PowerPoint) software