CRF Blog

Teaching With Editorial Cartoons

by Bill Hayes

There are many sources for editorial cartoons: a daily paper, news magazines, etc. The Internet provides a treasure trove of easily downloaded cartoons that you can use in your classroom. Constitutional Rights Foundation’s web site has a number of links to sources of Cartoons.

In the past, you had to make transparencies of cartoons — fitting as many as possible onto a sheet — and show them on an overhead projector. Today, with an LCD projector, you can download images of cartoons onto a computer and project them in class. Or, if you have a document camera, you can simply project any cartoon.

Consider doing the following activities:

1. Cartoon discussion, notetaking, and quizzes. Carefully select editorial cartoons to show to the class. Make sure they are age-appropriate and have a political balance. Show the cartoons one at a time and discuss them. All students should take current-event notes from the cartoon sessions and date them. Students should write down facts only, not opinions. Facts that the students could write down, depending on the grade level and what you want to teach, include:

  • Simple recognition of important people, places, and things.
  • Vocabulary (you can even save old cartoons to teach vocabulary).
  • Many aspects of “cultural literacy”:
  •      Biblical allusions
  •      Sayings
  •      Famous buildings
  •      Locations
  •      Symbols
  •      Works of art
  •      Literary allusions
  •      Etc., etc., etc.

Important: Students take notes only on facts, not on opinions expressed in the cartoons. The notes should not say: “So and so is a fool.” Students discuss the opinions in the cartoons, but the notes they take and the quizzes yon give are based on the facts. (For many quizzes, but not all, let students use their notes. That will encourage notetaking.)

Also important: Use a balance of views in the cartoons you present, because . . .

  • (a) It’s fair. Your purpose is education, not indoctrination.
  • (b) The students will have an easier time differentiating fact from opinion (if all your cartoons portray a particular leader as a fool, it will be difficult for students to understand this is only an opinion).

2. Reports on editorial cartoons. After a couple of months of discussing cartoons, notetaking, and taking quizzes, students should begin preparing occasional reports on editorial cartoons of their choice. The format of the report would be similar to what is done in class:  Write down the facts of the cartoon and then discuss its opinion. Your form might contain the following elements:

  • A. Name of the cartoonist
  • B. Title of the cartoon (if any)
  • C. Source of the cartoon
  • D. Date of the cartoon
  • E. The issue the cartoon deals with
  • F. Facts and symbols found in the cartoon
  • G. The opinion given in the cartoon
  • H. The student’s opinion and reasons for it.

3. Creating editorial cartoons. After more time, have students create their own editorial cartoons. When submitting a cartoon, they should fill out the report form they have previously used.