Matters of Education

Learning Happens Everywhere

The Value of Political Cartoons

Length of Time:   60-75 minutes


Cartoons are highly effective ways to convey an opinion. In some cases, they become part of our language. With an expanding electorate, often they were deployed to sway voters through emotional appeal. But one thing is certain—they were rarely something to joke about. In this lesson, show your students a variety of political cartoons to generate a conversation about the ways in which people have been influenced by these visual images. Each example has a complex historic background that you may explore as much as you like, but use these images as a means to introduce the topic and issues they raise. It can serve as a way to supplement your regular curriculum materials. You may also do the different parts of the lesson at separate times.

Essential Questions

How are cartoons an effective way to convey an opinion?

Common Core Standards

English/Language Arts: Key Ideas and Details

RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

English/Language Arts: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Content Standards

Massachusetts Curriculum Framework

US History I:

  • The Revolution through Reconstruction, 1763-1877
  •  Political and Intellectual Origins of the American Nation
  •  The Formation and Framework of American Democracy
  •   Political Democratization, 1790-1860
  •   The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1860-1877