Critical Thinking Questions Political Cartoons

    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.

    The lesson plan and sample student response sheet were developed to match:

    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.

    Below is the political cartoon that students will use in this lesson. Make an overhead transparency or individual student copies.


 
    Explanation

    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.
       

    Model for Interpretation
      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 cartoonist’s 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
      Students will explain the roles and analyze the strategies used by individuals or groups to initiate change in government policy and institutions.
       
    Skills for Success Indicator 2.2.4
      Students will establish clear criteria for evaluating ideas, issues, and positions.

    Lesson Objective: Students will be able to:

    • Interpret a political cartoon relating to gun control in the U.S.
    • Identify how special interest groups influence government policy.

    Preparation/Motivation: Use the following questions to stimulate a discussion:

    • How many students think that guns are a serious problem today?
    • Should there be more gun regulations?
       
    Lesson Procedures
    1. Show the cartoon on a transparency and ask students what they see as the author’s message.
    2. Distribute the Political Cartoon Interpretation Skill Sheet and allow students time to complete the questions. Have students share their responses to the questions.
    3. 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.
       
    Summary/Assessment

    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.
       
    Model for Interpretation



    List the objects or people that you see in the cartoon.

      man sucking thumb, tree, rifle with tag, blanket
       
    Which objects/people are symbols? What do you think each one means?
      man = hunter
      blanket = Bill of Rights
       
    Are there any important clues (words, places, numbers) in the cartoon?
      National Rifle Asso = organization in favor of owning weapons
      assault/hunting = changing the reason for having a gun
      security blanket = something that protects you

       
    Describe what is happening in the cartoon.
      a hunter is sitting under a tree, sucking his thumb and hugging a blanket the rifle’s tag has been changed from assault to hunting
       
    What is the political or social issue presented in the cartoon?
    What is the cartoonist’s viewpoint on this issue? How do you know?
      in favor of gun control and against the NRA’s belief in owning weapons because the hunter is portrayed as childish and needing a “security blanket”
       
    Who might agree/disagree with the cartoon? Why?
      agree = people who want more gun control
      disagree = hunters who want to be able to get weapons

       
    Describe how you were able to interpret this cartoon.
      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

     

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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Lesson Plans > Political Cartoons: Finding Point of View

Political Cartoons: Finding Point of View
Procedure

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Overview | Preparation | Procedure | Evaluation

Lesson Procedure

Activity One (One Class Period)

  1. Begin class with a discussion about political cartoons, based around the following questions and possible responses:
    • What is a political cartoon?
      A political cartoon is a cartoon that makes a point about a political issue or event.
    • What topics do political cartoons address?
      Could include economics, politics, social issues/events, prominent individuals.
    • How can you tell what the message of the political cartoon is?
      By observing and analyzing the images and text.
    • What is a thesis?
      A main idea put forward for discussion, such as in a paragraph, an essay, or a cartoon.
    • What is point of view?
      A person’s belief or judgment on an issue.
    • How might point of view affect a political cartoonist?
      A cartoonist will be guided by his or her point of view. Cartoonists might only express their own beliefs on an issue, or they might take the point of view of others into consideration.
  2. Introduce the concept of primary source analysis to the students. Distribute the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF 79 KB) to each student and explain that they will use this handout to analyze a political cartoon. Tell them that the key to primary source analysis isn’t finding the correct answer, but asking the most effective questions.

    Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Distribute or display a recent political cartoon on an issue of current interest. Model for students the process of inquiry-based primary source analysis using questions from each column as a guide. Students should record the responses on their individual handout.

    Lead students through a discussion of the point of view expressed in this cartoon.
  3. Have students create a political cartoon that communicates a different point of view than the one they analyzed.

Activity Two (One Class Period)

  1. Have students pair up and share the political cartoons they created. Remind students of the primary source analysis process they went through previously, and ask them to discuss each other’s cartoons for five minutes. Distribute the Primary Source Analysis Tool handout, and ask students to discuss each other’s cartoons.
  2. Explain to students that they will be analyzing a historical political cartoon and thinking about the political cartoonist’s point of view. Distribute “The repeal, or the funeral of Miss Ame=Stamp” (PDF, 863 KB) to each student, along with the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF, 79 KB). Have students perform a primary source analysis on the cartoon, recording their responses on their individual copies of the handout. Ask students to evaluate the cartoon to examine the cartoonist’s point of view. If students need prompting use questions selected from the teacher's guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.

    Note: If you feel students need additional information on the Stamp Act, you might review the relevant material in this Library of Congress exhibition, John Bull and Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British-American Relations.
  3. Discuss the two handouts once students complete them, or after collecting them, evaluating them, and returning them to students.

Extension

  • Have students analyze another political cartoon about the Stamp Act, “Magna Britannia” (PDF, 323 KB) by Benjamin Franklin. Have students complete the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF/79KB), and then discuss the differences between “Magna Britannia” (PDF, 323 KB) and “The repeal, or the funeral of Miss Ame=Stamp.” (PDF, 863 KB). Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  • The Stamp Act was not the only legislation imposed on the American colonists by the British government. Have students explore the exhibition John Bull & Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British-American Relations to locate another political cartoon that addresses the legislation from the perspective of the colonists. Analyze this new cartoon with the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF, 79 KB) . Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  • Using one of the following Library of Congress collections, have students locate a political cartoon that deals with an aspect of history that they are familiar with and analyze it using the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF, 79 KB)
  • Using the online activity It’s No Laughing Matter, have students analyze the persuasive techniques used in Civil Rights political cartoons.

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