Understanding Irony

Contributor: Emily Love. Lesson ID: 10897

Irony is not a department at the dry cleaner; it is an arresting way to make a point. Watch several popular movie clips and read stories to learn about the three types of irony that make stories pop!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What does it mean to say something is ironic?

Write out your explanation, then read and watch and listen on to learn more about irony!

Irony is based upon something appearing different from its reality.

People claim that many things are ironic, but many times this word is used incorrectly. When it is used incorrectly, people are usually trying to describe something that is a coincidence or an accident.

Irony and coincidence are not the same things.

A person on vacation in Iceland might bump into a childhood friend; this is a coincidence, which is the occurrence of a remarkable event with no obvious explanation for its cause.

Furthermore, though irony can be humorous at times, many types of humor are not ironic. If a man walks into a room and slips on a banana peel, this might be funny to those watching, but it is not ironic. In fact, it is somewhat expected!

In order to understand irony, you have to know the three types of irony:

  1. Situational

When something happens and a reversal of expectations occurs; used to add an unexpected turn to a story, along with adding emphasis to certain scenes or events

Example: In the 1930s, Australians released a species of toad into the wild in an attempt to control the population of the grey-backed cane beetle. However, the toads soon became bigger pests than the beetles.

  1. Verbal

The speaker's words contrast with what he or she means; there must be some indication that the speaker does not mean what he or she says; used to allow authors to share bitter truths in a more effective (sometimes humorous) way

Example: I'm so glad the teacher moved up the deadline for our project. I can't think of anything I'd rather do on this beautiful weekend than stay indoors creating a diorama out of popsicle sticks.

  1. Dramatic

When a significant event occurs that the audience understands, but the characters do not; used to keep the audience engaged and to develop curiosity

Example: In the play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo thinks that Juliet is dead, but the audience knows that she is only sleeping.

To ensure you have a strong understanding of all three types of irony, watch the following videos created by TED-Ed about each type of irony:

Situational irony: The opposite of what you think - Christopher Warner

What is verbal irony? - Christopher Warner

In on a secret? That's dramatic irony - Christopher Warner

Continue on to the Got It? section to examine the different uses of irony in films.

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