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Students learn how cartoons and satire raise concerns about an issue


Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  


Title – Do Something about… Voting/Civic Engagement
Lesson 6 – Politics, A Laughing Matter
By – Do Something, Inc. 
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – 
Grade Level – 9-12

Do Something about…
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement


The following lesson is the sixth lesson of a 10-lesson
Teen Voting/Civic Engagement Unit from Do Something, Inc.
Other lessons in this unit are as follows:

Lesson 1: What is Civic Action?
Students learn about why people get involved in their communities.
Lesson 2: Why Is Democracy So Demanding?
Students will discuss the role of citizens in a democracy.
Lesson 3: Representin’
Students learn about the system of representation in a democracy.
Lesson 4: How have people used elected offices to make changes?
Students learn how holding a political office effects change.
Lesson 5: Social Capital
Students learn about social capital and how to use networking for civic action.
Lesson 6: Politics, A Laughing Matter (See lesson below)
Students learn how cartoons and satire raise concerns about an issue.
Lesson 7: How do organizers bring about change?
Students earn about the strategies of unionizing and boycotting.
Lesson 8: Why do I have to do jury duty?
Students learn how jury duty is a type of civic engagement.
Lesson 9: How can I use writing to lead others to action?
Students learn how the written word is a method of civic action.
Lesson 10: How can speaking engage others in my cause?
Students learn how speeches can gather support for community change.

More student teen voting resources can be found at:

For more Service-Learning Curricula check out:


Lesson 6: Politics, A Laughing Matter


Students will learn how the use of cartoons and satire as a means of raising concern about an issue




Language Arts: Viewing

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



  1. Warm-up: Have students bring in a cartoon from the newspaper as homework. Each student can exchange the cartoon with a partner and analyze the message that it is sending. You may want to have students review some of the following questions: How is the message conveyed to the audience? Are there any well known people or political parties depicted in the cartoon? If so, are they shown in a favorable or unfavorable light? What prior knowledge do you have to know to get it?
  2. Have students think about what makes a cartoon funny. How do the artists convey their message? Review and find examples of the cartoon techniques listed below. Then have students return to their cartoons and identify what techniques were employed by the artist.
    • Exaggeration : overstating an issue or making physical characteristics of a person larger than life
    • Irony : The cartoon conveys the opposite of what is expected or expressed. The meaning is concealed and involves the perception that things are not what they are said to be or what they seem. Irony is a matter of a perceived disconnection between words and real attitude or values of the speaker.
    • Analogies : comparing to unlike things that may share a common feature to make a point
    • Symbols : using one object to stand for another
  3. Discover : Explain to students that for many centuries, people have been using cartoons and other forms of satire to raise awareness and comment on a variety of issues. It is widely believed that the first recognized American political cartoonist was Benjamin Franklin in 1754. Another famous cartoonist was Thomas Nast. His depictions of William Tweed (Boss Tweed), a corrupt NY politician, caused the powerful man to say “Stop them **** pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, ****, they can see pictures.”
  4. Have students think about current political humorists. Why is humor a good way to raise awareness? How is it safe? What are the difficulties?
  5. Take Action : Have students create a cartoon that uses some cartoonist techniques to raise awareness about their issue. Where would they want this cartoon published? How else might they have people view their picture?

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