Lesson: Analyzing Purpose of Poltical Cartoons

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Lesson Objective

students will be able to: Evaluate an author or artist's meaning by identifying his or her point of view Identify and explain the artistic techniques used in political cartoons

Lesson Plan

Do Now
What is a political cartoon?  Do you think there is a hidden message in them?

Ask students the following questions:
  • How are political cartoons different from other cartoons in the newspaper?
  • How are these cartoons different from news articles?
  • Based on what you have learned, why might it be important to be able to evaluate these cartoons?
Place a political cartoon on the overhead. The cartoon selected should present an interesting, controversial, or timely issue that will be of interest to your students. While the content of the cartoon should be familiar to students, it should also present a puzzling or contradictory perspective that will stimulate critical inquiry.

Direct Instruction:
Ask students to look closely at the cartoon and write down any questions they have about the cartoon's message, the subject of the cartoon, or the artist's use of images. These questions can be general with regard to the purpose of political cartoons or they can be specific to the cartoon they are viewing.
Next, have students organize their questions into the following categories:
  • Cartoon's message
  • Subject of the cartoon
  • Use of images or artistic techniques
Allow students to share the questions they have generated about political cartoons. Explain that you will not be giving them the answers nor are you looking for them to answer the questions at this time. Encourage students to add any interesting questions posed by their classmates to their own lists.

Guided Practice:
Display an overhead of another political cartoon (as prepared in advance), and ask students to describe what they see.
  • Are there any images of famous places or famous people? If not, what images are present?
  • Are any of the images being used as a symbol to stand for a larger concept or idea? If so, what is the meaning of the symbol?
  • Is the cartoonist using any other artistic techniques (e.g., irony or exaggeration) to express his or her opinion on an issue?
  • Does the writer label anything in the cartoon? If so, what is the importance of the label?
  • What message is the author trying to convey in this cartoon?
  • What evidence in the cartoon supports your opinion?
Independent Practice:
Distribute the Editorial Cartoon Analysis sheet and a sampling of political cartoons. (For this activity, students can also use the political cartoons they brought to class.)

Explain to students that when they are finished, they will be using the cartoon analysis sheet to create a two- to three-minute presentation to share their findings with the class. As part of the presentation, students will need to present their political cartoon, identify the persuasive techniques used by the cartoonist, explain the author's message or point of view, and share whether they agree or disagree with this message. They should be prepared to support their opinions with evidence from the cartoon.

Why do you think author's sometimes use cartoons to express their views on certain issues.

Lesson Resources

Editoral Cartoon Questions   Classwork


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