Political Cartoon Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

We all know that politics can be treacherous! However, teaching students about political cartoons doesn't have to be. simplifies the process with a text lesson that leads students through the selection and analysis of historical political cartoons.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain political cartoons
  • outline the significance of political cartoons throughout history
  • analyze political cartoons


1 hour


  • Photocopies of assorted historical political cartoons (2 per student)

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Key Vocabulary

  • Caricature
  • Allusion
  • Symbols
  • Exaggerate
  • Labels
  • Analogy
  • Irony


  • Begin by asking the class if they know what a caricature is. Have any of the students had a caricature done of themselves? Can they describe what it looks like? Are they depicted as doing something in the caricature?
  • Have students read the description and What Are Political Cartoons? section of the text lesson What are Political Cartoons? - History & Analysis.
  • Define caricature and allusion. Discuss as a class what political cartoons are.
  • Ask students to select two historical political cartoons from the assortment you have provided.
  • When all students have selected two political cartoons, have them read the History of Political Cartoons section of the text lesson.
  • Ask students to share their selected political cartoons with the class. Were any of the students' selected cartoons presented in the text lesson?
  • Now have the class read the remainder of the text lesson.
  • As students are reading, write the following terms on the board:






  • When all students have finished reading the text lesson, ask them to use the terms written on the board along with the information gleaned from the text lesson to analyze the two political cartoons that they selected. Can they spot an example of each term in their political cartoons? What is the overall message of the cartoon?
  • Have students share their analyses with the class.

Discussion Questions

  • How might political cartoons change the course of an election?
  • Are there noticeable differences between the political cartoons of a hundred years ago and those of today? What might account for those differences?


  • Have students create a political cartoon based on a recent political news story. Now have students swap their political cartoons with another student for analysis. Does the intended message match up with the analysis?
  • Ask students to research the political cartoons from the most recent election. Do they support the eventual outcome of that election?

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