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"Political Cartoons"

Tim Regan
by way of LessonPlans.com

Primary Subject - Social Studies
Secondary Subjects - Computers / Internet

Unit - Political Cartoons in the Classroom
Lesson - The Way Editorial Cartoons Work

P.A. Academic Standards
    5.1.12 K, Analyze the roles of symbols and holidays in society;
    5.2.12 C Interpret the causes of conflict in society and analyze techniques to resolve those conflicts;
    5.2.12 E Analyze how participation in political life leads to the attainment of individual and public goals;
    5.2.12 F Evaluate how individual rights may conflict with or support the common good;
    5.3.12 D Evaluate how independent and government agencies create, amend, and enforce regulations;
    5.3.12 E Evaluate the roles of political parties in election campaigns;
    5.3.12 F Evaluate the elements of the election process;
    5.3.12 H Evaluate the impact of interest groups on the political process;
    5.3.12 J Evaluate the role of media in political life in the United States and explain the role of the media in setting the public agenda
Goal of this Lesson: The goal of this lesson is for students to interpret visual language found in political cartoons

  • 7 Transparencies of political cartoons
  • Projector
  • 13 copies of icons and symbols found in political cartoons
  • Writing utensils
  • 13 copies of homework cartoon
Clerical/ Administrative Tasks
  • Prepare 7 transparencies
  • Prepare projector
  • Photocopy 13 copies of handout on symbols and
  • icons found in political cartoons
  • Photocopy of each political cartoon for Jeff, my special needs student
  • Photocopy 13 copies of homework cartoon
Instructional Objectives
    1. Students will listen and respond to the contributions of others by using language to demonstrate consideration of others’ perspectives and to invite participation.
    2. Students will demonstrate respect for others’ ideas and opinions.
    3. Students will answer key and spontaneous questions that will reveal their knowledge of the information.
    4. Students will identify symbols and icons found in political cartoons.
    5. Students will define the elements of a political cartoon.
    I will show two cartoons that focus on hate and intolerance. I will ask students to study these cartoons and give their opinions of them. They both demonstrate that hate and intolerance are elements that make life difficult even for the very young. The two cartoons will be used to introduce the lesson on political cartoons and will be used as an opening for me to discuss tolerance and understanding and how I expect both during our discussion. I will tell them that they are welcome to contribute answers and to respond to others’ answers if they are considerate and use appropriate language. (5 minutes)
Developmental Activities
  • Show Cartoon 1 "The Deficit and the Debt."
  • Ask the following questions:
      1. What is the event or issue about that inspired the cartoon?
      2. Are there any real people in the cartoon? Who is portrayed in the cartoon?
      3. Are there symbols in the cartoon? What are they and what do they represent?
      4. What are some of the symbols and icons you believe are common in political cartoon? (7 minutes)
      5. What is the event or issue about that inspired the cartoon?
      6. Are there any real people in the cartoon? Who is portrayed in the cartoon?
      7. Are there symbols in the cartoon? What are they and what do they represent?
      8. What are some of the symbols and icons you believe are common in political cartoon? (7 minutes)

  • Lecture about editorial cartoons.
      Editorial cartoons are primarily expressions of opinion. However, they are rarely simple statements of a position and nothing more. An editorial cartoon is not just a slogan. Its a main point usually can be summed up in a sentence or two. But that point is rarely just a simple statement for or against something -- as in "Ban the Bomb," or "Give a Hoot, Don’t pollute." The best editorial cartoons present an opinion and suggest the reason for that opinion. They also suggest at least some of the reason for that opinion. In other words, an editorial cartoon is more similar to an argument than to a slogan. The argument is revealed through the ways the words interact. The argument may be conveyed in one of several ways. One such way is the manner in which specific features are exaggerated. Another way is the manner in which the people are caricatured with the objects selected as symbols. Always remember to consider what stand the cartoonist takes and why he or she takes that stand. Also think of the cartoon as a complex argument before responding to it. It does more than present a point of view. It invites the reader to take part in a meaningful dialogue. (3 minutes)

  • Show Cartoon 2
  • Explain the background. The Boston Red Sox have not won the World Series since 1986 when they played the New York Mets. They lost 3-4. They have not won the World Series was since 1918. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1945. Their loyal fans believe this is connected to the "Curse of the Billy Goat." This locally famous curse resulted a tavern owner named "Billy Goat" Sianis tried to take his billy goat "Murphy" to game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field. Murphy. Of course, Sianis and Murphy were not permitted into the park, so Sianis protested and claimed the Cubs would not win until a billy goat sat in Wrigley Field. Since then, many have brought billy goats to the field in an effort to lift the curse, but nothing has worked. Some still believe the Cubs have not won because of the curse.
  • Discussion Questions:
      1. What symbolizes a curse in this cartoon?
      2. Do you think the "Billy Goat Curse" is still in place?
      3. With which other famous curses are you familiar"
      4. Are you superstitious?
      5. Who do you think will win the World Series this year?
      6. What is your favorite baseball team? Why? (6 minutes)
      7. With which other famous curses are you familiar"
      8. Are you superstitious?
      9. Who do you think will win the World Series this year?
      10. What is your favorite baseball team? Why? (6 minutes)

  • Show cartoon 3
  • Discuss cartoon’s background. The recall election in California has sparked worldwide interest in politics. It also has people scratching their heads because they cannot decide if they should laugh at the jokes or puke at the spectacle it has caused. Today it is hard to draw a distinct line between Republican and Democrat because many are starting to become interested in one strong voice promising change. Therefore, it may just be that he, who stands out from the crowd, wins. Schwarzenegger did indeed win, but now he can expect to have each and every one of his moves closely monitored by all. This may end up being a bigger challenge than breathing life back into California’s economy.

  • Show political cartoon 4
  • Discuss background: We hear from the media on a daily basis about the amount of our national debt. We know that the spending we do in this country could feed a smaller country for a year. The problem is what are we going to do about this scary situation? This cartoon makes light of the absurd amount of our nation’s deficit, which at times sees so surreal that we cannot imagine owing that much money.
  • Model by explaining my thoughts on the national debt to stimulate discussion about their thoughts.
  • Discussion Questions:
      1. Is it hard for you to visualize the amount of our national debt?
      2. How do you think this problem affects you personally?
      3. How and why is the amount so high?
      4. What are we doing to alleviate the problem?
      5. Do you think the National Debt will ever be non-existent (6 minutes)

  • Show political project cartoon 5.
  • Ask discussion questions.
      1. Do you get the newspaper delivered to your home?
      2. How often do you read the newspaper?
      3. How often do you watch the news?
      4. Do you feel either of these avenues of media? Give an example.
      5. What news sources do you consider to be the most reliable? Why?
      6. What news sources do you consider to be the most unreliable? Why?
      7. What is your interpretation of this political cartoon?
      8. What effect did the media have on the War in Iraq?
      9. What do you think about embedding journalists?
      10. Do you feel the news on TV is overly happy or depressing, or does it seem to balance out events fairly?
      11. What about the newspaper? (7 minutes)

  • Show political cartoon 6.
  • Ask the following questions:
      1. What is the cartoonist’s opinion about the topic portrayed in the cartoon?
      2. Do you agree with cartoonist’s opinion? Why? (3 minutes)
  • Discuss homework Students are to study and analyze the provided political cartoon. They will identify the symbols and icons. Next, they will tell what features are exaggerated. Finally, they will write a brief synopsis of the cartoon in which they must explain the stand the cartoonists takes and the argument presented. They will repeat this process with a political cartoon of their choice.
Time-permits activity
    Look at the two introductory cartoons that focus on hate and intolerance. Have students discuss how they would have portrayed these two evils in society. What symbols and icons would they include and why.
  • Students will participate in classroom discursions and will answer key and spontaneous questions that will demonstrate their understanding of today’s lesson.
  • Students will complete homework that will reveal their understanding of the way editorial cartoons work.
    In groups of two or three, students will engage in a five-minute discussion about which cartoon was their favorite based on the effectiveness of symbols and messages. The results will be tallied tomorrow, and we will display the cartoon on the bulletin board for a week. (6 minutes)
Reflective notes: This lesson is beneficial for my students because it introduces them to the world of political cartoons. Furthermore, this provides them with a strong foundation for interpreting political cartoons in the future. It also sets the stage for the unit, which will involve students interpreting political cartoons from various points in history.

    In my 12th grade U.S. History class, I have a student named Jeff. He has a learning disability and requires an IEP. His IEP and I have collaborated and decided that visual aids are a must for Jeff. Therefore, I have printed a copy of each political cartoon, so Jeff can see each one the projection screen and at his desk. When provided with this sort of visual aid in the past, Jeff has experienced success. I have also chunked information by separating political cartoons and asking a limited number of questions for each rather than simply viewing all six cartoons at once and then asking all of the questions at once. Overall, these instructional demands limit the stress on Jeff and provide him with opportunities to achieve success.
Technological Accommodations
    1, One computer and an overhead monitor:
    Visit the following site: cagle.slate.msn.com/teacher/ Then, as a class, select a cartoon to explore. Discuss the icons that appear in the cartoon. Next, discuss the message the artist is trying to send.

    2. Six computer stations with four or five students at each station:
    After visiting the following site: cagle.slate.msn.com/teacher/, students must select the group's favorite cartoon. Then using computer software, the group will copy and preserve its favorite cartoon. Next, each student must write a reflection about this cartoon in which he or she identifies the icons present in the cartoon and analyzes the message the artist is sending.

    3. Think of a way to integrate technology in the classroom if each student has his or her own computer. Each student will visit the following site: cagle.slate.msn.com/teacher/. Then he or she must select a favorite cartoon. Next, the student must print the cartoon out (the site gives permission). Finally, the student must write a reflection regarding the icons and message found in the cartoon.


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