Lesson Plan : De-Coding Political Cartoons

Teacher Name:
 Tiana Bodine
Grade:
 Grade 11-12
Subject:
 Language Arts

Topic:
 Political cartoons and media literacy
Content:
 Students will analyze several political cartoons to understand the common rhetorical strategies employed in the cartoons and how these "work" in terms of putting across a message.
Goals:
 Students will gain increased awareness of condensed meaning and rhetorical strategies such as irony, caricature, and exaggeration in putting across a message. Through this, they will gain skills in media literacy that can be applied to other parts of the curriculum and help them increase their awareness of messages in the media, for example during election campaigns, so that they can make more informed decisions when faced with these strategies.
Objectives:
 Students will discuss professional cartoons with the class, then respond to a given quote with their own political cartoon employing the strategies they have learned.
Materials:
 --3-5 cartoons, on overhead transparencies, from the Time Magazine archive or other source of contemporary political cartoons: http://www.time.com/time/cartoons/20061203/ --Drawing materials, including paper, pencils, pens, crayons, etc.
Introduction:
 Political cartoons are a long-standing tradition in the media, and often have a powerful, lasting effect as icons of a given time period. They are often very sophisticated, employing numerous shades of meaning through exaggeration, caricature, irony, and allusions to both contemporary and historical events and characters. Often cartoons have a very definite purpose, sometimes inflammatory or derogatory, and they are repeatedly employed during times of political or social unease to further current arguments and make statements. Although it is most helpful to know the exact context of a given piece, that is not always possible, and so it's helpful to have some tools for analysis in your tool-belt so that you can deal with cartoons that you may not understand immediately.
Development:
 For each cartoon put on the overhead, the teacher and class will discuss the following questions: --What is the event or issue that inspired the cartoon? --Are there any real people in the cartoon? Who is portrayed in the cartoon? --Are there symbols in the cartoon? What are they and what do they represent? --What is the cartoonist's opinion about the topic portrayed in the cartoon? --Do you agree or disagree with the cartoonist's opinion? Why? The students and teacher will also discuss common symbols--light/dark, elephants vs donkeys, doves of peace, recurring methods of caricature for popular subjects, etc.--to see if there is a common thread or shorthand to understanding these recurring elements.
Practice:
 After participating in class discussion and becoming comfortable with their abilities in understanding the cartoons, students will be asked to respond to a quote or scenario with their own political cartoon (the best quotes will be those that provide some of their own imagery). An example: "I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself." óRonald Reagan Students will create their own political cartoons, and then, if they're willing, share them with their classmates, who will analyze the cartoons according to the same guidelines as they analyzed the professional ones.

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