Target Practice: Designing an Editorial/Satirical Cartoon

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SWBAT identify targets for a satirical cartoon and sketch a draft of the cartoon.

Big Idea

Creating cartoons raise awareness of current issues and demonstrate student understanding of satire, its purpose, and its techniques.

Teacher to Teacher: Time Frame and Lesson Context

Today's lesson is Day 2 of the unit on satire, which began with the lesson "Living in Our Satirical World: Designing a Satirical Cartoon." 

In today's lesson, students 

  • Hear a short passage from The Devil's Dictionary, a Nineteenth Century parody.
  • Watch a podcast from The Close Reading Cooperative: Irony vs. Paradox
  • Discuss examples of satirical cartoons while viewing a Ppt.
  • Brainstorm and draft a satirical cartoon in small groups

A Teachable Moment from "The Devil's Dictionary"

5 minutes

Sometimes the fates conspire for rather than against us. Such is the case w/ today's lesson. I am reading The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce and arrived at the definition of introduction this morning. Bierce creates a parody based on his rewrite of part of the Declaration of Independence to substantiate his definition of introduction. Since parody is one way writers create satire, I shared the passage with my students and explained to them that Bierce's book is satire in the form of parody. Here's my reading of the definition and the parody in a two minute clip. The Devil's Dictionary.

Irony vs. Paradox: "The Close Reading Cooperative" Podcast

10 minutes

Students need to take notes on the differences between irony and paradox.


After viewing the podcast, I give students a definition of paradox:

Paradox: A self-contradictory statement that seemingly expresses a truth.

And I follow this with a reminder of irony:

Irony must be intentional; irony is based on information and/or ideas that compete with one another. Irony is not something that happens by accident. In literature we think about three types of irony: verbal (words); situational (circumstances); dramatic (on the stage; the audience knows something the character(s) don't know).

Who's the Target?: Satirical Cartoon Ppt.

20 minutes

Next, we moved on to example of satirical cartoons as this is the crux of the lesson. The Satirical Cartoons.pptx shows five examples of satirical cartoons but begins by posing three questions for discussion. 

First, I told students to write the questions in their notes and use them to analyze the cartoons as we discussed them: 

  • Who/what does the cartoon target?
  • What technique does the cartoonist use to satirize the target?
  • What reform does the cartoonist want?

This third question, I tell students, is important because the point of satire is to promote reform.

Cartoon 1: Violent Video Game

I showed the class each cartoon in turn and posed the questions for discussion.

The first cartoon, which depicts a child playing a violent video game as the parent reads a newspaper article about school shootings, generated disagreement about the target. Some students believed the target to be "video games" and others thought "parenting." I told students there is evidence to support both. 

The students identified "exaggeration" as a technique and named the size of the child's controller. Others identified the irony inherent in the parent's question as his child played a violent game. 

Some students wanted to talk about their beliefs regarding whether or not playing violent games leads to violent behavior. I steered them from this topic because that's "chasing a rabbit" and getting away from the analysis of the cartoons. Instead, I suggested they think about that topic for future research. 

In terms of the reform, students identified "play less violent games." 

Cartoon 2: Student Grades

The discussion for the second cartoon led to students' confusion about the target. Some thought the cartoon targeted students. Ultimately, a student identified NCLB and other reforms as promoting the idea that all kids should be the same and that we can't promote any achieving more than the others. I told students this is "the Lake Woebegone mentality from Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegone Days, where all the children are above average." 

The main technique students identified is "reversal," which led to a discussion about how we should celebrate academic achievement. 

I asked students: "Have you ever been in a class where a student bragged about a bad grade? Have you been in a class in which the teacher grades on a curve and some students get upset with the student who scores too high to have a curve? Have you ever been in a class where the teacher wastes a lot of time and you feel as though you haven't learned much?" I posed these as rhetorical questions rather than as ones that would allow students to get off focus. 

Arriving at the reform was difficult for students, but several offered: "Praise academic success."

Cartoon 3: Super Bowl Bowling

For the first question students had difficulty identifying the target as either the game of football or the NFL. They wanted to name the players as the target. One student said, "They have a choice. Nobody makes them play." I said, "I see your point, but let's stay focused on analyzing the cartoon rather than debating the merits of playing." 

In terms of the techniques, the students named "incongruity" and explained that we don't expect to see football and bowling placed side-by-side. 

Additionally, students identified the brain bowling balls as a metaphor for players' brains during a game. 

After some discussion, we arrived at the idea that the cartoon targets the NFL, which I told students has done a good job suppressing the evidence of traumatic head injury.

Cartoon 4: 81 Types of High School Students

I read the captions in the cartoon to students and emphasized the references to Hollywood, which helped students identify the movie industry as the target. 

The primary techniques used by the cartoonist according to the students are hyperbole and understatement. This is interesting for two reasons: First, 81 is a large number, which suggests hyperbole, according to my students. Second, "each person is an individual, unlike any others, which is understatement." 

When I asked, what reform does the cartoon promote, students readily said, "Stop stereotyping teenagers!"

Cartoon 5: NSA

I admit to a little subversion in choosing this cartoon. The image of an NSA agent holding a copy of 1984 provided the opportunity for me to share the importance of classic literature with students, for without having rad the novel, it's almost impossible to understand the cartoon. This allusion is one of the cartoonist's techniques. 

I was also able to share the idea that popular YA dystopian literature is grounded in 1984 and in Brave New World

I do have one student who has read 1984 and was able to share his knowledge about the book, too. This led to the class identifying the NSA as the target and as the entity needing reform. 

Students also mentioned that the library looks suspiciously like the White House and noted that the Obama Administration has continued the erosion of privacy rights that arguably began with the Patriot Act after 9-11. 

Sketch Artists: From Idea to Draft

30 minutes

After discussing the cartoons, I directed students back to the handout I gave them yesterday and asked them to turn to the third page, which is where the section on creating an editorial cartoon begins. 

First, students met w/ a partner and brainstormed possible targets. Brainstorming Ideas

Next, they narrowed their targets to their three favorites, and completed the graphic organizer identifying the ways they will satirize their target. 

Finally, the students spent time sketching out the rough versions of their cartoons. Student Cartoon about Disney World and Dying Whales shows a student's passion about recent deaths of whales at Disney World. 

As they worked, I moved around the room and checked for understanding. When I didn't understand the cartoon, I asked questions and encouraged students to think about the reforms they want to promote based on their cartoons. 

One group sketched a cartoon showing a student trudging to school in excessively deep snow. I suspect the group recalls doing this as our district rarely cancels or delays school. Snow has to drift onto the rural roads before school is cancelled. Earlier this year students came to school when the mercury dipped to -18 degrees. That's not the windchill factor but the actual temperature. 

Exit Ticket: Show Me the Sketch

5 minutes

Today's exit ticket was the in-progress cartoon sketches. I took a moment to affirm and comment on the work students did today as they left for lunch: Snow Day Work in Progress is one groups work. Another's student's work is shown in Student Work in Progress (1)