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Political cartoons offer interesting and exciting opportunities for lessons in classrooms of any age and grade level. Students can engage in critical thinking on the material in both a constructive and visual format. In general, Political cartoons cover a variety of topics across the social, political, and economic spectrum which is more than relevant when trying to impress the importance of an event on students. A key aspect to take note of is that political cartoons also serve as primary sources and are subject to analysis, which is essential to the study of history.

The cartoons that are uploaded onto this website range from the 1840s until the mid-1960s. Using these primary sources in your classroom is beneficial for students because of both the visual and interactive approach to history and the engagement with higher-order thinking that goes on in using these in a history lesson. The James Monroe Political Cartoon group hopes that you, the teacher, find these lesson plan ideas inspirational and engaging with your students!

What Activities Work with Political Cartoons?

Political cartoons can be used as a "hook" into lessons as well as the subject for classroom-wide discussion. Some other ideas, however, include:

  • "Think-Pair-Shares"
  • "Jigsaws"
  • Artistic Reinterpretation
  • Graffiti Poster

An Example Cartoon for an Activity:

Smiley face

Political Cartoon Analysis Questions

  1. What are the event(s) or issue(s) that inspired the cartoon?
  2. Are there any real people in the cartoon? Who are these people?
  3. Are there symbols in the cartoon? What are they and what do they represent?
  4. What is the cartoonist's opinion about the topic portrayed in the cartoon?
  5. Do you agree or disagree with the cartoonist's opinion? Why?

Questions from PBS Educational Resources:

Other Educational Resources to use with Political Cartoons

Library of Congress

Dirksen Center Editorial Cartoon Collection

For more information on visiting the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Historic Downtown Fredericksburg, please visit:

The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library