1. To begin this lesson, it is important to first discuss each of the Vocabulary words for analysis. You can use the examples given or come up with your own as you see fit. If your students have never seen some of the vocabulary words, this step will probably take a little longer, yet for students who are already familiar with the terms, this exercise will work as a refresher.
2. Next, go over with the students the vocabulary for historical context. These are people or terms that will show up in the political cartoons. Therefore, students should at least know the bare minimum in order to apply their background knowledge to the picture.
3. Now explore the Common Symbolisms worksheet with students. This will help them grasp common themes that will pop up in political cartoons, such as donkeys representing the Democratic Party, elephants representing the Republican Party, and rats representing dirt or filth, etc.
4. Once the students have sufficient background knowledge, you can begin to use the political cartoons listed under Primary Sources. While examining the illustrations, fill out the Political Cartoons Analysis worksheet. Make sure to walk students through the first cartoon pointing out how each of the vocabulary terms is represented by in the cartoon.
5. As you walk through the cartoons, by cartoon two or three, begin to let students work more independently, writing out on their own the symbolism, irony, point of view, exaggeration, and analogy.
6. As a final objective, ask students, individually or in pairs, to create a cartoon of their own which expresses their point of view on a specific topic. Ask them how they would use symbolism to show things in their everyday life, such as “Cleaning their room,” “Lunchtime at school,” or “Snow Day,” just to give a couple of topic examples.
- This critical thinking skill is included because of the many political cartoons students will encounter in government courses. Have students practice frequently with the template using sample cartoons found in their textbooks, newspapers, and news magazines.
- Government Core Learning Goal Indicator 1.1.4
- Students will explain roles and analyze strategies individuals or groups may use to initiate change in government policy and institutions.
- Skills for Success Indicator 2.2.4
- Students will establish clear criteria for evaluating ideas, issues, or positions.
The lesson plan and sample student response sheet were developed to match:
Below is the political cartoon that students will use in this lesson. Make an overhead transparency or individual student copies.
A political cartoon is a type of drawing used to present opinions, comments, or criticisms of a situation, person, or event. Cartoons help us understand information by presenting it in a visual and memorable way. Cartoonists use many different techniques to achieve their goals:
- Caricature - exaggerating one or more physical features - a large mouth to show someone who often speaks out on an issue.
Symbols - using a recognizable item to communicate an idea - an elephant to represent the Republican Party.
Caption - having the characters speak or summarizing the message in a few words above or below the cartoon.
- List the objects or people that you see in the cartoon.
- Which objects/people are symbols? What do you think each one means?
- Are there any important clues (words, places, numbers) in the cartoon?
- Describe what is happening in the four quadrants of the cartoon.
- What is the political or social issue presented in the cartoon?
- What is the cartoonists viewpoint on this issue? How do you know?
- Who might agree/disagree with the cartoon? Why?
- Describe how you were able to interpret this cartoon.
- Government Core Learning Goal Indicator 1.1.4
- Interpret a political cartoon relating to gun control in the U.S.
- Identify how special interest groups influence government policy.
- How many students think that guns are a serious problem today?
- Should there be more gun regulations?
- Students will explain the roles and analyze the strategies used by individuals or groups to initiate change in government policy and institutions.
- Students will establish clear criteria for evaluating ideas, issues, and positions.
Lesson Objective: Students will be able to:
Preparation/Motivation: Use the following questions to stimulate a discussion:
- Show the cartoon on a transparency and ask students what they see as the authors message.
- Distribute the Political Cartoon Interpretation Skill Sheet and allow students time to complete the questions. Have students share their responses to the questions.
- Brainstorm other methods that special interest groups such as the NRA may use in order to influence government gun control policies. List student responses on the board.
Have student groups select other controversial issues and develop publicity campaigns designed to influence government policies. The campaign should include an original political cartoon. Students should critique each publicity campaign as it is presented to the class.
- Core Learning Goal Indicator 3.1.1
- Students will explain roles and analyze strategies individuals or groups may use to initiate change in governmental policy and institutions.
List the objects or people that you see in the cartoon.
- man sucking thumb, tree, rifle with tag, blanket
- man = hunter
blanket = Bill of Rights
- National Rifle Asso = organization in favor of owning weapons
assault/hunting = changing the reason for having a gun
security blanket = something that protects you
- a hunter is sitting under a tree, sucking his thumb and hugging a blanket the rifles tag has been changed from assault to hunting
What is the cartoonists viewpoint on this issue? How do you know?
- in favor of gun control and against the NRAs belief in owning weapons because the hunter is portrayed as childish and needing a security blanket
- agree = people who want more gun control
disagree = hunters who want to be able to get weapons
- I recognized the right to bear arms is in the Bill of Rights, and knew that the NRA wants people to be able to own weapons