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Satire’s role in current events


by Michael Johnson


Satire’s role in current events

According to Wyatt Mason in an online article published in the New York Times Magazine titled “My Satirical Self,” readers in the 21st century have “taken shelter in the ridiculous.” He provides an excerpt from The Onion, a satirical online news source referenced as “America’s Finest News Source,” as an example of an escape from the inescapable ridiculousness of society, politics, and other vice and follies. New literacies have helped grow the genre of satire, and as Americans turn to this genre as a source for news and entertainment, students must understand the core elements that create satire.


  • Students will become more aware of the language and moves associated with satire and challenge students to not only analyze the effectiveness of satirical pieces but also to create their own.
  • Students will become familiar with underlying concepts behind satire.
  • Students will be able to analyze the interaction between satire and current events, and apply their knowledge of satire and the news to create their own satirical pieces.

Common Core State Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.


50 minutes

Materials / resources

Blackboard or whiteboard

Teacher laptop and digital projector

Internet access


Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Introduction (15 minutes)

Students will watch a slideshow about satire, what it is and key terms associated with it. 

Step 2 — Satirical examples (30 minutes)

Students will read two examples of satire from The Onion: (Note that some stories may contain vulgar language; instructor should ensure content is appropriate in a school setting).

Students will notate the methods each author utilizes to create the satirical piece. Students will work in small groups to create their annotations, and then small groups will share with the class. Ask students to consider the following questions on paper to turn in:

  1. What does the author assume about the attitudes of the audience in the piece?
  2. What aspect of society is the author satirizing?
  3. What is the goal or purpose of the satire?
  4. What methods/techniques does the author employ to create the satire?
  5. How effective are the author’s methods?
  6. What knowledge is required to understand the jokes?
  7. How can serious events be rendered in humorous ways?

Step 3 — Homework assignment (5 minutes)

Students will choose a current event, research and write their own Onion-style article on the topic to present in class the following day. Students will write a minimum of five paragraphs (about 300-350 words) and include a satirical headline and a tagline at the end of the story telling readers who they are or how to contact them. Students may use a story from The Onion as a guide only to show how satire is written so that they may craft their own original work. Students will then read their satire piece to the entire class the next day and turn in their work to the instructor.


Exceeds Expectations Meets Expectations Revisit
Student understands the concept of satire and its associated vocabulary terms.
Student is able to differentiate satire from real news content.
Student collaborated with others during small-group sessions in class.
Student answered the seven questions at the end of the group exercise.
Student successfully created an original piece of satire content that connected to a current event.

Works Cited

American News. (2017, May 29). ALERT: Bananas Being Injected With HIV Blood… Here’s How You Can Tell. Retrieved from American News:

Anti-Defamation League. (2017, May 21). What is Fake News? Retrieved from Anti-Defamation League:

Borowitz, A. (2017, May 7). French Annoyingly Retain the Right to Claim Intellectual Superiority Over Americans. Retrieved from The New Yorker: (2017, May 21). Name-calling. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

NC Civic Education Consortium. (2017, May 21). Propaganda and Spin. Retrieved from StudyLib:—database-of-k

NC Civic Education Consortium. (2017, May 21). Propaganda and Spin. Retrieved from StudyLib:—database-of-k

Panetta, L. E. (2001, September 9). The Price of ‘Spin’ versus the ‘Truth’. Retrieved from The Monterrey County Herald:

PBS. (2015, March 27). Satire’s role in current events . Retrieved from PBS Newshour Extra:

Robertson, E. K. (2016, november 18). How to Spot Fake News. Retrieved from

Rustling, J. (2016, November 11). Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The National Anthem At All Sporting Events Nationwide. Retrieved from ABC News:

Seale, T. (2017, May 29). Analyzing Satire. Retrieved from Google Docs:

Shannon Doyne, H. E. (2011, April 15). That’s Funny: Comedy Across the Curriculum. Retrieved from The New York Times Learning Network:

The Associated Press. (2016, November 28). Dylann Roof, Charleston Church Shooting Suspect, Can Act as His Own Attorney. Retrieved from

The Onion. (2015, September 9). NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding. Retrieved from The Onion:

Weiss, L. (2001, September 10). American Political Spin Cycle Is Out of Control. Retrieved from The Utah Daily Chronicle Archive:


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