Sarcasm occurs in everyday life in many conversations. For someone who does not understand sarcasm, it can be a form of bullying and a student may end up getting into trouble or placing themselves in a dangerous situation. Imagine misunderstanding a statement and interpreting a comment word-for-word. For example, if it was raining outside and a friend said, “Wow, it’s a beautiful day.” You may think that your friend perceives a rainy day as beautiful. When considering sarcastic remarks there are three key areas to think about: facial expressions, tone of voice, and context. If a person is being sarcastic, we can look to their facial expressions to decode a look of disgust or irritation. Next, we can consider tone of voice which may include pitch differences (e.g., nasal quality), elongated sound differences (e.g., “Thank you,” becomes “Thaaaank you”), or exciting words with flat affect (e.g., “WOW!” becomes “wow.”). Lastly, we must consider context, does the remark contradict the conversation or mean the opposite of what is going on. For example, if it is raining outside, does it make sense to describe it as “beautiful?”
During this topic, students will work on identifying/understanding situations where sarcasm, deceit, and bullying takes place. This topic is suggested to be targeted for three weeks. Below, you will find is a suggested sequence to follow.
Introduction to Sarcasm: students watch a video describing what sarcasm is. Two types of sarcasm are presented, funny sarcasm (irony) and mean sarcasm. Video also explains how to identify mean sarcasm as in teasing, and examples of teasing. After watching the video, the clinician and students will have a discussion. Ask students, “Why is teasing wrong?”, “Have you ever experienced teasing?”, “How did you feel?”, “What did you do?”
Discuss with students that when dealing with teasing, it is best to ignore it. It is important to be able to identify teasing when it happens and we have found it is best to act like the teasing does not bother you. If teasing continues, it is important to speak with a trusted adult at school and at home. Additionally, students will be visually bombarded with facial expressions that depict sarcasm. It is important we are able to read other’s faces in order to understand when someone is being sarcastic.
Students and clinician will next view a peer-mentored video titled, “Mr. Hall”. After viewing this video, the clinician and student engage in discussion with questions. Questions may include, “What went right? What went wrong? What could have been done instead? Let’s role play this scenario correctly.”
Now it is time to practice facial expressions. Using a camera, smartphone, and/or mirror, have students practice how they would react to someone who is sarcastic to them. If someone is sarcastic, sometimes they may be trying to show humor or they may be trying to be mean. Practice faces that show you are not bothered. Laugh it off or appear unfazed by the comments made. Take selfies with the student and show how you would react to sarcasm.
Students and clinician view a practice video titled, “Birthday Cake.” After viewing this practice video, the clinician and student will engage in discussion with questions. First, we focus on the interpretation of sarcasm. Next, we focus on how to respond to sarcasm. Questions may include, “Why do you think Alex told Jenna to call her teacher by her first name? Was that the right thing to do? If Jenna knew her friend was being sarcastic, what could she have said? In the video – what went right? What went wrong? What could have been done instead? Let’s role play this scenario correctly.” Note: It can be very helpful to video tape students when role playing and then have students watch and rate themselves. (Remember to obtain written parental consent before incorporating photos/videos).