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Lesson Plan

Analyzing the Purpose and Meaning of Political Cartoons

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Analyzing the Purpose and Meaning of Political Cartoons

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five to seven 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Victoria Mayers Lynn Stone

Bellingham, Washington

Beth O'Connor

Westfield, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • Computers with Internet access and printing capability

  • Several clips of recent political cartoons from a local newspaper

  • Overhead projector or computer with projection capability

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1. As preparation for this lesson, you will first need to view the online learning activity at†Itís No Laughing Matter: Analyzing Political Cartoons. This activity explores five techniques cartoonists frequently use to persuade their readers: symbolism, exaggeration, labeling, analogy, and irony. Students can see how the techniques are used in a few real-world political cartoons.

2. Visit The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists: Cartoons for the Classroom to find current samples of political cartoons that you may decide to use as part of the lesson. You can also spend several days clipping political cartoons from the local newspaper. Be careful to select cartoons that present a variety of opinions. Create overheads of three to four examples, one for use during the first lesson and two to three for follow-up lessons. For the first lesson, it is most effective to have an extremely interesting, controversial, or timely cartoon that will generate student interest.

3. Ask students to clip a few political cartoons from the newspaper prior to the lesson.

4. If you are planning to have students access Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonist Index as an extension activity (see Extensions), you may wish to visit this site in advance to evaluate the cartoons for their appropriateness. (Note: The political cartoons on this site frequently change to coincide with recent news, and the site has a few advertisements that may be against your school policy.)

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