Lesson Plans: Reviewing Big Civics Ideas through Political Cartoons
In this lesson students will analyze political cartoons drawn by Clifford K. Berryman between 1898 and 1948 to learn about the Constitution and constitutional institutions of government and politics. The lesson is designed to accompany Representing Congress: Clifford K. Berryman’s Political Cartoons, a free eBook that presents a selection of political cartoons and learning resources to engage students in a discussion of what Congress is, how it works, and what it does.
Analyzing political cartoons teaches about the institutions and issues of civic life, demonstrates unchanging aspects of American politics, and builds critical thinking skills.
What can today’s citizens learn about the Constitution, constitutional institutions, and politics from studying political cartoons?
Recommended Grade Levels:
U.S. Government; Civics; U.S. History
Topics included in this lesson:
Political cartoons, Congress, the Constitution, political parties, representation, legislating
Preparing the Materials
- Make copies for each student of the 6 “Big Civics Ideas through Political Cartoons” Graphic Organizers and the Reflection Questions Worksheet.
- Establish six stations, one for each page of the Graphic Organizer.
- Make one additional copy of the Graphic Organizer to provide a page for each station.
- Make one copy of the Primary Source Sheets and cut along the dotted lines of each sheet. Keep each cartoon, caption, and description together with a paper clip.
- Place a copy of one Graphic Organizer and the related cut-outs at each station. Mix up the cartoons, captions, and descriptions at the station so that students must match the ideas together.
- Divide students into six groups.
- Carousel the groups through the six stations.
- Provide each group with enough time at each station for students to:
- Match the political cartoon to the description and summarize the text on their individual Graphic Organizer.
- Match the caption to the political cartoon (the reading will help provide scaffolded support) and write the caption on their individual Graphic Organizer.
- Explain how the cartoon matches the caption on their individual Graphic Organizer.
- When the students have completed their work at all six stations, instruct each student to complete the Reflection Questions Worksheet and prepare to share their responses with the full class.
- Have a whole group discussion of the Reflection Questions.
Have students create their own political cartoon illustrating a function of the legislative branch. Instruct students to create a caption and summary to accompany their cartoon.