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Teaching Guide

Teaching Catch-22

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Almost everyone knows that a catch-22 is a situation in which there's no way out—basically a lose-lose. But that's just scratching the surface. Catch-22 is a deep, dense novel packed with war, bureaucracy, and ethics.

We want to make sure that you don't get trapped in a catch-22 while teaching Catch-22.

In this guide you will find

  • many assignments, including one that explores the novel's use of satire.
  • historical context on World War II.
  • reading quizzes on all 42 chapters of the novel. (Why not Catch-42?)

No catch-22s here. Using this teaching guide is a win-win situation.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students.
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Catch-22 is a member of the satire society of literature, no questions asked. Students explore definitions of satire and ways in which satire plays out in the novel. They answer critical questions about specific satiric instances in Catch-22 and then write and enact their own satirical play based on it (or adapting another historical event). Teachers can expect to spend about 30-50 minutes on classroom discussion and possibly one or two more class periods during which students can enact their plays.

Step 1: As homework, students explore the definition of satire on spiritus-temporus.com, including the information on how it applies to other novels they might have read and to Catch-22, specifically. Students should also read Shmoop's discussion of satire in another classic satirical novel, Vanity Fair.

Step 2: While exploring the website, students take notes on the following critical questions:

  1. What, exactly, is satire?
  2. What are some examples of satirical works on the website that you have already read?
  3. What are some satirical works that you have read that are not on the website?
  4. How does Heller use satire in Catch-22? For what purpose? What are specific examples and instances?
  5. What are some examples of satire in your own life?
  6. What are some historical and political events that you think would be interesting to satirize?
  7. If you were to write a satirical play, what specific events or issues would you satirize, and how?

Step 3: In class, the teacher goes over the website once again before leading students in a discussion of the novel and satire, and students’ responses to study questions.

Step 4: Students write and enact their own satirical play, annotating elements of satire and linking these to the novel.

Prompt: Keeping in mind our class discussion and your thoughts on what satire is and how Heller uses it in Catch-22, write and enact your own play satirizing either political events depicted in the novel or (conducting your own research and using your own experiences/knowledge) other historical/political happenings.

You will submit the following work as part of your creative masterpiece: 1) your play’s script, including its name and the actors’ names and roles; and 2) an explanation of the historical event that you are satirizing, including the different elements that you have decided to satirize and how you approached doing so.

Step 5: Students enact their plays in class. Teacher facilitates discussion, if so desired.

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade Reading 1.1, 1.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.3, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.10, 3.11; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8, 1.9, 2.2; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.7, 1.9, 1.11, 1.14, 2.4, 2.6; 11th & 12th grade Reading 1.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.9; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 2.2, 2.6; Listening & Speaking 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5.)

Instructions for Your Students

Oh Heller, you’re a tricky one. Just when we think you’re saying one thing, you really mean another, kind of like a catch…well, 22. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? Think you’ve read Catch-22-type stuff before? Well, yeah, you probably have. Check out a definition of satire, as well as some other notable examples that probably ring a bell. Then take a creative crack at writing and acting out your own satirical play, either based on the novel or a political/historical event.

Step 1: As homework, explore the definition of satire on spiritus-temporus.com, including the information on how it applies to other novels you might have read and to Catch-22, specifically. Also check out Shmoop's discussion of satire in another classic satirical novel, Vanity Fair.

Step 2: While exploring the website, answer the following critical questions:

  1. What, exactly, is satire?
  2. What are some examples of satirical works on the website that you have already read?
  3. What are some satirical works that you have read that are not on the website?
  4. How does Heller use satire in Catch-22? For what purpose? What are specific examples and instances?
  5. What are some examples of satire in your own life?
  6. What are some historical and political events that you think would be interesting to satirize?
  7. If you were to write a satirical play, what specific events or issues would you satirize, and how?

Step 3: Discuss your responses to the website and the above study questions in class.

Step 4: Write and enact your own satirical play, annotating elements of satire and linking these to the novel.

Prompt: Keeping in mind our class discussion and your thoughts on what satire is and how Heller uses it in Catch-22, write and enact your own play satirizing either political events depicted in the novel or (conducting your own research and using your own experiences/knowledge) other historical/political happenings.

You will submit the following work as part of your creative masterpiece: 1) your play’s script, including its name and the actors’ names and roles; and 2) an explanation of the historical event that you are satirizing, including the different elements that you have decided to satirize and how you approached doing so.

Step 5: Perform your play in class.

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING CATCH-22?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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