Political Cartoons: Finding Point of View
Activity One (One Class Period)
- 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.
- Introduce the concept of primary source analysis to the students. Distribute the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF/79KB) 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 rather, to ask the most effective questions.
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 some the following questions for each column as a guide. Students should record the responses on their individual handout.
If students need prompting, use some of these questions to keep the analysis process going.
Distribute or display the “Exploring the Cartoonist’s Point of View” (PDF/14KB) handout and lead students through a discussion of the point of view expressed in this cartoon.
- What do you observe?
- What was the first thing you saw when you looked at the cartoon?
- What other details do you notice?
- What images are most prevalent in the cartoon?
- What text, if any, is drawn into the cartoon? What text is used as a caption?
- What do you think you know?
- Who do you think is depicted in the cartoon, specifically?
- Why do you think some images are more prominent than others?
- What do the images symbolize?
- If there is text in the cartoon, what is its purpose?
- What do you think is happening in the cartoon?
- What is the message of the cartoon?
- What do you want to find out?
- Think of the questions you need to ask to find out more about this cartoon. Questions might start with “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” “Why,” or “How.”
- Have students create a political cartoon that communicates a different point of view than the one they analyzed.
Activity Two (One Class Period)
- 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 “Exploring the Cartoonist’s Point of View” (PDF/14KB) handout, and ask students to discuss each other’s cartoons and write down the answers for the two questions in “Conclusions.”
- 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/863KB) to each student, along with the Primary Source Analysis Tool (PDF/79KB). Have students perform a primary source analysis on the cartoon, recording their responses on their individual copies of the handout. If students need prompting, refer to the list in Activity One, above.
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.
- Distribute the “Exploring the Cartoonist’s Point of View” (PDF/14KB) handout, and ask students to evaluate the cartoon to examine the cartoonist’s point of view.
- Discuss the two handouts once students complete them, or after collecting them, evaluating them, and returning them to students.