School Improvement in Maryland
POLITICAL CARTOON INTERPRETATION
    Introduction
    Template
    Lesson Plan
    Sample Student Response
Introduction
    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.

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  Template
    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.
       
       
Lesson Plan
    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.
     

Sample Student Response
    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

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    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?
      gun control
       
    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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