Political Cartoons: Finding Point of View
A careful analysis of political cartoons can provide a glimpse into key moments of U.S. political history. In this activity, students will closely examine political cartoons about the Stamp Act; make inferences about the political, social, and economic situations depicted therein; and offer informed speculations concerning each creator’s point of view.
Students will be able to:
Analyze political cartoons.
Identify the ways in which point of view can be detected in political cartoons.
Two 50-minute class periods
A current political cartoon about a familiar topic. Options for display:
Print out one copy of the cartoon for each student
Prepare an overhead transparency of the cartoon
Display the cartoon using a computer and LCD projector
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 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.
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 Primary Source Analysis Tool handout, and ask students to discuss each other’s cartoons.
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.
Using one of the following Library of Congress collections and exhibitions, 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)