In my professional life, I’m an Interventionist/Certified Tutor at a local elementary school. Part of my work day includes half an hour providing enrichment instruction to a group of above-average-reading second graders. Their teachers provided me with a list of skills they would like for me to teach to the kids to prepare them for the next standardized test (and life, one would hope).
One of the items on this list is irony. I’ve struggled with how to execute this particular skill for two reasons: 1. The kids are in second grade and still in the concrete stage of intellectual development, and more importantly, 2. Irony is frickin hard to teach.
The focus of this post is the second item. I think irony is hard to teach because no one really gets what irony actually is. Finish this sentence: Irony is ____________.
Irony is one of those things that’s easier to define by providing examples, but even that is tricky. Most people are pretty good at recognizing it when they see it, but try to come up with an example on the fly. I can only come up with examples that are a bit morbid.
Me: Irony is… like when there’s a guy who makes pianos for a living, and he dies after being crushed by a piano.
Students: (blank stares)
Another issue is there are different types of irony. I imagine, since the group is a reading group, that I should focus on dramatic irony. This occurs when the readers know something the character doesn’t, likely resulting in suspense. However, I suppose situational irony could also be the target of the standardized test item. And situational irony is usually open to interpretation.
The Oatmeal does a fantastic job of differentiating the types of irony. Go check it out. I’ll wait here.
Did you notice he mentioned Alanis Morrisette’s song? I guess “Isn’t it a rather unfortunate coincidence” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
So I guess I’ll search for second or third grade level text that includes dramatic or situational irony. I found one recently about a ghost who tried to scare a boy, and the boy ended up scaring the ghost. But is that really ironic? hmmmm.