In this lesson, students examine persuasion in editorial cartoons. Students will:
- identify traits of a political cartoon.
- read and analyze cartoons to infer author’s purpose.
- identify and evaluate effectiveness of persuasion, vocabulary, and literary devices used to make a case.
- How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?
- Irony: The use of a word or phrase to mean the exact opposite of its literal or usual meaning; incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the expected result.
- Propaganda Techniques and Persuasive Tactics (logical fallacies): Propaganda techniques and persuasive tactics are used to influence people to believe, buy, or do something. Students should be able to identify and comprehend the propaganda techniques and persuasive tactics listed below.
1. Name-calling is an attack on a person instead of an issue.
2. A bandwagon appeal tries to persuade the reader to do, think, or buy something because it is popular or because “everyone” is doing it.
3. A red herring is an attempt to distract the reader with details not relevant to the argument.
4. An emotional appeal tries to persuade the reader by using words that appeal to the reader’s emotions instead of to logic or reason.
5. A testimonial attempts to persuade the reader by using a famous person to endorse a product or idea (for instance, the celebrity endorsement).
6. Repetition attempts to persuade the reader by repeating a message over and over again.
7. A sweeping generalization (stereotyping) makes an oversimplified statement about a group based on limited information.
8. A circular argument states a conclusion as part of the proof of the argument.
9. An appeal to numbers, facts, or statistics attempts to persuade the reader by showing how many people think something is true.
- Satire: A literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness.
60–120 minutes /1–2 class periods
- “Common Political Cartoon Symbols”
This resource offers a list of 19 common symbols.
- “The Sneetches” (2-minute clip)
This clip can be shown in class. As an alternative, read aloud from the following:
The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. Random House, 1961.
This site provides the cartoon used for the application exercise in the lesson. Other sources of political cartoons include the following:
o “Dr. Seuss Went to War: A Catalog of Political Cartoons.” Mandeville Special Collections Library, 2000. http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dspolitic/
This collection uses simple, classic Seuss drawing style, so the message is easy to infer.
o “The Political Dr. Seuss.” Independent Lens. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/politicaldrseuss/gallery.html
This site offers a commentary on the situation portrayed in each cartoon. You may wish to use this site for students with less political history awareness. Graphics are clear and of adequate size for analysis.
Related Unit and Lesson Plans
Related Materials & Resources
The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.
- “Murals in Northern Ireland”
This site hosts several pictures of political murals in Ireland. It can be useful as a resource for an extension activity.
- “FDR Cartoons,” project coordinator Paul Bachorz. Niskayuna High School, 1998.
This site hosts a great variety of political cartoons from the FDR era. They are clear graphics that you may wish to use to review key events in U.S. history.