Irony in "The Gift of the Magi"
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
Students will identify irony within a story and a song. They will brainstorm various ironic situations and work cooperatively to create a skit that contains at least three examples of irony.
- Identify irony within a short story
- Brainstorm examples of irony
- Work cooperatively to create an ironic skit
- "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
Set Up and Prepare
- Your students should read "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry prior to starting this lesson.
- Ask your class if anyone knows what irony is.
- Explain that there are at least three types of irony and write them on the board as you define each type.
- Verbal-When what someone says something different from what they really mean, or something different from what would be the expected statement in that particular situation. This includes both sarcasm (for example, if your little brother is sitting on the couch scowling because he doesn't want to go out to dinner. And you say, with a smirk, "I'm glad to see you're so happy about going to dinner.") and verbal irony that is not sarcastic (for example, if a grieving widow says at her husband's funeral: "He would have loved to be here for this."
- Situational-When the outcome of a situation is totally unexpected and not anticipated based on earlier events. For example: if a championship swimmer drowns, or a firehouse burns down.
- Dramatic-When the audience or reader knows something that the characters do not, something which adds suspense or humor. For example, if the audience knows that Juliet only drank a sleeping potion and is not dead but Romeo doesn't know.
- Ask students which type(s) of irony might apply to "The Gift of the Magi." Have them write down their answers and explain using proof from the text.
- Discuss the correct answers. Although students may have correctly identified one or all three types of irony in the story, make sure to discuss at least the situational and dramatic irony therein.
- Break class up into groups of two. Have each pair make up and write down at least three examples of each type of irony.
- Move pairs into groups of 4 or 6.
- Have students develop a short 3–5 minute skit that incorporates at least one example of each type of irony.
- Practice skits.
- Present skits.
- While skits are being presented, audience members should write down the examples of irony found within each skit.
Explain irony to someone in your home. Ask them if they've encountered any ironic situations lately. If they have, ask them to share them with you. Bring some stories back to the class for sharing.
- Define the 3 types of irony.
- Create examples of irony.
- Create an ironic skit.
- How well did you explain irony?
- Will your students be able to identify irony in another text without you giving them any hints?
- Were the examples that the students brainstormed really ironic?
- How quickly did students identify the types of irony within in the story?
- How successful were the skits in terms of incorporating irony and how well did audience members identify the examples?