A Modest Proposal Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal is one of the most striking satirical works ever written. With this lesson plan and resources from Study.com, you'll have what you need to help your students appreciate Swift's wit.

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson students will be able to:

  • analyze A Modest Proposal for satirical elements.
  • explain why Swift used those elements in A Modest Proposal


1 hour

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)


Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.


  • Before the lesson, discuss the idea of satire with your class. Give them examples of satire that they may encounter in real life.
  • Show the Study.com video lesson Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal: Summary & Analysis, pausing at the following points for discussion:
    • 2:04--What is Swift suggesting that the Irish do in order to make money? Do you think that he's being serious here? How does he comment on differences between Irish and English society? Remind students that Swift himself was Irish, and that England was ruling Ireland at the time.
    • 5:21--Who all is Swift calling out here? How does this compare to some pundits today who say something shocking in order to get people's attention? Why does Swift say that the Irish have already been devoured economically?


  • Break your class into small groups.
  • Ask each group to identify a problem in their lives that they wish to address with satire.
  • Give them 15 minutes to develop the steps of the story as used by Swift, showing greater and greater satire along the way.
  • Have students present their suggestions to the class as a whole.


  • Encourage students to read the full text of A Modest Proposal, then write short papers responding to Swift's satire with their own set of satirical suggestions.
  • Ask students to find instances of satire in their own lives. Then, discuss how this can range from a friendly 'when pigs fly' to full mockery.

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