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Lesson 1: Political Cartoons and the TVA

Political cartoons have been popular since Ben Franklin published "Join or Die" prior to the American Revolution. Part of what makes this medium so appealing is that it demands reader participation; it is satisfying to put visual and verbal clues together in order to get it. For the same reason, cartoons can be frustrating if the reader doesn't have adequate prior knowledge of the issues, the people portrayed or the interests being symbolized (for example, an elephant representing the Republican Party).

The goals of this lesson are to:
  • Learn to deconstruct a cartoon and to identify possible breakdown points (that is, the precise places that might hinder comprehension and appreciation of the cartoonist's message)
  • Enable students to get the information they will need to continue and to understand the cartoon
  • Encourage appreciation of, and familiarity with, this form of art and journalism, which then may be used to enhance current events discussions in the classroom
  • Enable at least some students to try to draw a political cartoon illustrating an issue in history or a current issue

The following procedures are suggested; however, the material may be presented in other ways, and you should feel free to modify the presentation to fit the needs of your group.

Session 1: Introduction to Political Cartoons

Session 2: Practice

Session 3: Cartoons About the TVA

Suggested Extensions