Lesson Addition: Exploring Class Stereotypes through Satire

The OnionThe Unit:Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” an English 12 Building Evidence-Based Argument unit that asks students to form an evidence-based perspective on the problem of poverty.

The Issue: Students unfamiliar with the concept of satire; missing awareness of class stereotypes.

The Solution: Practice with satire that allows students to explore another aspect of poverty and power (i.e. stereotypes)!

In this lesson, students conducted a close reading of a satirical article to locate implicit arguments and to locate class stereotypes.

Process

  • Students independently read & annotate “Woman A Leading Authority On What Shouldn’t Be In Poor People’s Grocery Carts” with the following guiding questions: What information or ideas does this text present? What is the purpose of this text?
  • Circulate around the room while students work to ask guiding questions: “What do you make of this?” “What stands out to you about this?” “Do you think this is serious?”
  • Set discussion norms and expectations; I emphasized the necessity of respect and sensitivity. Students need to be able to discuss stereotypes with an academic voice; classism can’t be tolerated.
  • (2 min) Small-group discussion: Students share their annotations, insights, and questions with their small group of 3-4.
  • (10 min) Whole-class discussion: Call on small groups to share out their findings and questions and encourage other groups to answer the questions or build on others’ ideas. All students should add to their annotations during the discussion.
  • Additional questions to ask: What assumptions is this woman making about others? Are these stereotypes? How is the reader supposed to feel about this woman? What makes her unlikable? Why do you think the author chose to portray her in this way?
  • Introduce definition of satire & ask students to explain how this article may fit into the category of “satire.”
  • (2 min quick write): What issue or problem is this article addressing?  How does the author address this issue?
  • Target Response: This satirical article is addressing the problem of unfair judgments cast on welfare recipients and reveals several class stereotypes. The author uses humor to mock class-privileged women like the fictional “Carol Gaither” who nosily gaze into others’ carts and assume the worst about people who rely on government subsidies.
  • Call on 3-4 students to share their responses & provide feedback.
  • Close & exit ticket: On a post-it note, write something you learned, a question that you had or considered, or something that stopped your learning.

Reflection

  • I originally planned to follow this mini-lesson with further practice using a clip from Stephen Colbert entitled “‘Poor’ in America”; in this subsequent lesson, students would go further into the text to locate specific claims, the issue, and position of the speaker. However, technology failed, so I moved onto the next day’s lesson: Analyzing Pete Singer’s “The Why and How of Effective Altruism” (a transcript) for the purpose of locating and evaluating his argument. When I return satire, I’ll need to make sure that all students understand the concept of satire and understand why and how it can be used.
  • On Monday when we return to class, I’ll show examples of on-target student writing (that look like the example I gave as a ‘target response’) then ask students to revise their claims if they are in need of improvement. I want students to master appropriate academic vocabulary as we move further into this unit.
  • On their exit tickets, students noted that they learned about class stereotypes; many went further to indicate that they didn’t realize that this kind of bias existed.

 

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