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Political Cartoon Interpretation Lesson

Social Studies Lessons for High School is designed for social studies teachers to use with their government and history courses. It was developed in response to a shift in education throughout our country: a move away from rote memorization and toward the critical thinking skills necessary for many of the new performance assessment programs.

Each lesson will enable teachers to teach seven specific critical thinking skills in a step-by-step process. The information has been adapted for old media and new media formats. Web sites will be provided that will allow teachers to choose the most appropriate resource for the selected activity. All selections can be copied for classroom use. Teachers may adapt activities to allow students to complete assignments via the web.

Bob Black is former Teachers Network web mentor. He is a social studies teacher at the Harbor City Learning Center, located across the street from the historic Edgar Allen Poe House  in Baltimore, MD.


Lesson Plan

Students will explain the roles and analyze the strategies used by individuals or groups to initiate change in government policy and institutions.

Students will establish clear criteria for evaluating ideas, issues, and positions.

Lesson Objectives 
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.

Use the following questions to instigate 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 Template 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.
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.


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