Final Project: Political Cartoon Analysis

Web 2.0 Class  Summer 2012

Final Project: Analyzing & Creating Political Cartoons

by Scott Morton (10th Grade American Government)

 HCPSS OBJECTIVE (10th Grade American Government Curriculum): Unit III: Influencing Government

 Goal 1: Students will demonstrate the ability to explain the roles played by individuals, groups, and institutions in influencing governmental policies and actions. (1055.00)

 Objectives-The student will be able to:

a. Determine how the public agenda is set and shaped by political leaders, political parties, interest groups, the media, and individual citizens. (1055.01) 1.1.4


1)  From This Class: WIKISPACES

We will use a class Wiki for an online discussion of current issue professional political       cartoons,          and also for students to post a link to a specific cartoon that they like, and to post a link to a news       article that they find that helps to explain the significance and meaning of the cartoon they chose.

2)  From Outside This Class:  TOONDOO. COM

Rather than hand-drawing their own cartoon, students can choose to use the free cartoon creation            tool at  They can then print out and also email this online-built cartoon to me and to       other email addresses (their own, friends, etc.) if they choose.

To comply fully with AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) guidelines, cartoons will not be published to the       web.  Teachers can create a secure “space” through this website, but this service requires a          subscription fee.


Because this lesson is for a high school class, independent use of the Internet is allowed as long as students/parents have signed Internet Use Permission Form.  Because requires an email address to login, I will make this a voluntary activity.  Privacy will be maintained because students will not post their cartoons online, they will share them by emailing them to me.

Wikispaces is already listed as an approved collaborative site, so its use for a class discussion and for student link posting is in compliance with the policy.  This lesson will require that student links on the wiki will be to the single political cartoon portal ( and teacher-approved news websites only. When students click on their classmates’ links, they will be taken to a limited number of pre-approved sites.



Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework: Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies (Grades 9-12).

CCR Anchor Standard #4:  Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyses how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

RH.9-10.4:  Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social studies.


Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Framework: Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies (Grades 9-12).

CCR Anchor Standard #2:  Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

WHST.9-10.2:  Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.

CCR Anchor Standard #6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
 WHST.9-10.6:  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.


For this political cartoon analysis project, students will be required to do the following:

1)         Find a political cartoon of interest to the student on the website that references a specific current issue from the past several months.

2)         Find a news article from a list of teacher-approved news websites that explains the issue or event referenced by the cartoon and that helps to explain the opinion of the cartoonist.

3)         Analyze the cartoon using a county-approved analysis worksheet (hard copy)

4)         Write a long paragraph that explains the meaning of the cartoon (using at least 3 specific facts/details from the news article), identifies symbols used in the cartoon, and evaluates the opinion of the cartoonist.

5)         Post the analysis paragraph (4) to the class wiki, along with links to the cartoon (1) and to the                   news article (2).  [Use of Web 2.0 tool #1]

6)         Post positive comments to 2 other students’analysis paragraphs on the wiki, with specific references describing both (a) something good about the other student’s analysis paragraph,  and (b) a specific detail (phrase, symbol, artistic skill) explaining why they like the cartoon that student picked, and (c) an interesting fact that the student cited from the news article  [Use of Web 2.0 tool #1]

7)         Create their own political cartoon, either by hand-drawing the cartoon or by using the online cartoon creator at [Use of Web 2.0 tool #2].  This cartoon will have to include text, at least two symbols, and reflect a point of view on a specific issue.

8)         Email the “ToonDoo” cartoon to the teacher, using the private publication feature of [Use of Web 2.0 tool #2], or scan the hand-drawn cartoon to create a PDF, and email that as an attachment to the teacher.  Also, print out a hard copy of the  “ToonDoo” cartoon, or bring the original hand-drawn cartoon to class.

8)         As they did with the professional cartoon from the site, students will have to complete the following for their own cartoon (7):

a) reference a specific news article (see part 2)

b) complete a worksheet analysis (see part 3)

c) write an analysis paragraph (see part 4)


For the students, I will provide models for one ToonDoo cartoon and its analysis paragraph, as well as a sample pick from the site regarding the topic of the Ryan VP announcement.  There will also be a model analysis paragraph that I have used in the past for another professional cartoon (“Barrels” by Richard Crowson in 2005).  These are models that are more high-level that the student work I anticipate, and would be geared more toward Honors or AP-level students.   I believe in setting high expectations in the model, but will work to scaffold for the students who might be intimidated that they will not be able to produce this length or this sophistication in their own work.  I might have to write a separate, simpler model for Regular-level students.



 Obama Learns of Ryan VP Choice



In my cartoon, “Obama Learns of Ryan VP Choice,” I have highlighted the opinion that Mitt Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate actually gives President Obama an advantage in his campaign for re-election.  Representative Ryan, the Republican Chairman of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives, is best known for his budget plan, which cuts federal taxes and spending, preserving budget deficits for several decades.  Most of the tax cuts are in income taxes, meaning upper-income taxpayers will see the most benefits.  Most of the spending cuts are in social programs that primarily benefit lower- and middle-class Americans. In the Washington Post, Ezra Klein characterizes Paul Ryan as a “risky pick” (Klein).  In many ways, this can be seen as a plus for the Obama campaign.  For example, Klein writes that “this election increasingly resembles the Obama campaign strategy rather than the Romney campaign’s strategy” (Klein).  For example, some analysts believe that Republicans have been worried about the impact that the Ryan budget plan’s dramatic changes and cuts to social programs would have on GOP chances in the November election (Klein). Specifically, Ryan’s plan to privatize the Social Security program was so radical that the Bush Administration, a proponent of Social Security privatization itself, did not support Ryan’s bill in 2005 (Klein).

In the cartoon, I have included several symbols.  The U.S. flag on the desk symbolizes the presidency and the Oval Office (not shown in cartoon above for unexplained technical reasons).  The basketball beside the desk symbolizes President Obama’s image as a president who has not done enough to help to fix the economic slowdown.  He’s continued to play basketball, take vacations, and engage in other “frivolous” activities, while millions of Americans have been waiting in food assistance and employment office lines. President Obama is reading Ryan’s budget plan document, which has a bar graph on it, symbolizing the plan’s complex budget calculations.  Overall, the opinion of the cartoonist is that President Obama will be relieved by the news of the Romney/Ryan ticket.  This is more likely to be the perspective of someone who already supports the President and has a more critical view of Representative Ryan.  However, this cartoon could also demonstrate the viewpoint among some Republicans that they are nervous about the Ryan choice, and that they wish Romney had picked someone with more mainstream views.


Article Cited in Analysis Paragraph:

Klein, Ezra. “Mitt Romney will name Paul Ryan as his VP. Here’s What That Means.” 11 August 2012. Accessed 12 August 2012. vice-presidential-pick-heres-seven-thoughts-on-what-that-means/.



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