Provided here are two different ways for students to approach political cartoons so that they can independently read and interpret these difficult documents. Additionally, sample worksheets and two completed examples are included. As a bonus, a third protocol sheet is provided that allows students to independently analyze different document types (including charts and photographs) using the basic 5-step structure.
I often use both political cartoon approaches when introducing these primary sources into our reading work. Sometimes I will project a large color version of a cartoon using the Smartboard; the full class will then use the steps to work together to understand a document.
I provide students many opportunities to practice both approaches, especially looking at cartoons about industrialization, monopolies, immigration, and imperialism. I often have students independently/in pairs read and interpret a series of related cartoons. They then must determine whether each cartoon is depicting a positive/negative view of the topic. Students can even sort the cartoons into a folder, in which one side is labeled “positive” and the other “negative”. I find this work helpful in building confidence with primary sources and in helping students to build evidence to support positive/negative-position argumentative essays.