Choose a current political cartoon that will be relevant to your students but will be a little bit above their comprehension level. You are going to guide them step-by-step so that they understand the cartoon’s implied message.

Show the cartoon to the students on an overhead projector or smart board.

  1. Tell them briefly what you already know about the cartoon’s topic. This is a great opportunity to model a text to world connection. (Don’t go on and on…keep this part to a couple of minutes at the most.)

2. Explain what is happening in the cartoon. Start with the explicit and move towards the implicit. Tell the students what you are seeing and then what you take to be the cartoonist’s meaning.

3. Political cartoons are often difficult for students to decode because they may lack the context and background knowledge to understand the humour. Tell your students why you find the cartoon funny or amusing. “Getting” a joke means that a student is gaining access to the adult world and your guidance into that world is an implicit compliment. You think that your students are sophisticated enough to appreciate the implied message.

4.  NEXT: Choose a cartoon that is not quite as challenging as the one that you deconstructed for your students. In pairs, have the students make a t-chart with what they observe in the cartoon on one side and what they infer on the other side.  Such as:

What I observe… What I infer…

5. Individually students then answer the following question:

What can you infer by examining the cartoon? Use your background knowledge and clues from the cartoon in your answer.


 What do you think the cartoonist was trying to say? Use your background knowledge and clues from the cartoon in your answer.

6.  Ask students to bring in political cartoons to share with the class. Get students to deconstruct the cartoon in a small or large group.