One of my first attempts to use comic art in my teaching was with political cartoons. I’ve always liked newspapers and I used to do big newspaper units when I taught in a 6th grade self-contained classroom and when I taught middle school Language Arts. Of course we spent time with the daily comic strips but the political cartoons on the op-ed page were a great way to form ties with Social Studies classes.
I did that before the advent of the internet. Now huge collections of political cartoons are just a mouse click away. The most complete collection is at Daryl Cagle’s Professional Cartoonists Index. This collection is extensive with RSS feeds for individual artists and some collections. I’m going to try adding an RSS activity to my current events folder on Studywiz and see useful that might be. The Cagle Index also has at Teachers’ Guide site with some lesson ideas. The daily lesson plans are linked to the Class Brain site.
If you need to read up on political cartoons, the article A Brief History of Political Cartoons Part I can be very helpful. It covers the history of political cartoons from Leonardo da Vinci’s caricatures through late 19th century American politics.
A good way to introduce kids to political cartoons is with It’s No Laughing Matter: Analyzing Political Cartoons, an interactive lesson from the Library of Congress. It uses a collection of cartoons about school desegregation to teach about how political cartoons attempt to persuade us. It’s a good way to teach kids the vocabulary they need to talk about political cartoons (symbolism, irony, exaggeration, etc.) Be sure to check out the resources page of this lesson for more ideas and resources both from the Library of Congress collections and others.
Of course, getting kids to create their own political cartoons is a way to let the artists in the class really shine. I think I would try having kids work in pairs or small groups so kids can have rich discussions about the event or concept they will depict and they can collaborate on the drawing. This would also provide an opportunity to bring in the art teacher for an integrated lesson.
Here’s one of Andrew’s early attempts at a political cartoon. He drew this for an MLTI newsletter a few years ago.