Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice

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Using Editorial Cartoons to Teach Social Justice is a series of 14 lessons. Each lesson focuses on a contemporary social justice issue. These lessons are multidisciplinary and geared toward middle and high school students.

Students enjoy editorial cartoons. Visual, engaging and often funny, they’re great learning tools. However, editorial cartoons can be challenging because they often require a lot of prior knowledge. These lessons provide strategies for using what students already know to analyze cartoons that may seem difficult to interpret.

In addition, these lessons will expand students’ knowledge of social justice issues. They can be used to supplement another lesson or readings, or they can stand alone.

Overarching Objectives

The lessons begin with a basic strategy for interpreting editorial cartoons. Each lesson helps build students’ background knowledge about a particular social justice issue. In addition, each lesson addresses at least one common English language arts skill. The objectives in every lesson combine these disciplines to challenge students and promote critical thinking skills. Here are some of the issues and skills addressed in the lessons:

Essential Questions

  • How are editorial cartoons different from other kinds of art and media?
  • Why do artists create editorial cartoons?
  • How can images and text work together to deliver a message?
  • How do I interpret an editorial cartoon?
  • What are the important elements that many artists use in editorial cartoons?

Editorial Cartoon Lessons

Introduction

This introductory lesson will help students learn strategies for analyzing editorial cartoons.

Racial Profiling

This lesson will help students understand how a cartoon uses irony.

Censorship
This lesson will help students understand how images can come together to make a statement in an editorial cartoon.

Poverty/Environmental Justice

This lesson will help students analyze the visual composition of an editorial cartoon and understand how a cartoon uses satire.

Intolerance

This lesson will help students see how artists can reveal their opinions about society and culture through a cartoon.

Gay Rights

This lesson will help students understand how a cartoon uses idioms and puns.

Equal Opportunity

This lesson will help students explore how editorial cartoons often use familiar adages or idioms in new ways to make a point about something.

A Historical Example of Immigration Debates

This lesson will help students understand how a cartoon uses irony and caricature to make a political statement by examining a cartoon in its historical context.

Language Diversity

This lesson will help students understand the importance of context in decoding an editorial cartoon and how a cartoon uses satire.

Bullying

This lesson will help students understand how artists uses images to represent an idea.

Gender Discrimination

This lesson will help students understand how a cartoon uses words and images to make a political statement.

Racism

This lesson will help students understand how artists use titles to bring context to editorial cartoons.

Hate

This lesson will help students understand the use of dialogue in editorial cartoons and question why one group might blindly hate another group.

A Conclusion

This lesson will help students understand various strategies used in editorial cartoons to create an editorial cartoon that focuses on a social justice issue.

Standards

Activities address the following standards (McREL 4th edition)

Visual Arts

Standard 1. Understands and applies media, techniques, and processes related to the visual arts

Standard 3. Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts 

Civics

Standard 11. Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society

Standard 14. Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life

Standard 25. Understands issues regarding personal, political, and economic rights 

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective 

History: United States

Standard 17. Understands massive immigration after 1870 and how new social patterns, conflicts, and ideas of national unity developed amid growing cultural diversity

Standard 29. Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

Standard 31. Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States

Language Arts

Standard 5. Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Standard 9. Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media 

Life Skills: Working With Others

Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Standard 4. Displays effective interpersonal communication skills