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Understanding History thru Political Cartoons for Middle Grades

This unit enables students to analyze political cartoons and meet Core Standards in Reading for History and Social Studies. By utilizing specific cartoons from different points of history students, will develop their critical thinking skills in order to understand the author’s point of view through the use of symbolism and irony. Students will use both their language and historical knowledge to determine the author’s purpose and whether or not the cartoon was effective.


18th century

19th century

20th century


Government and civics

Civil War



Big Ideas

Perspective on Events

US History

Essential Questions

What role does analysis have in historical construction?


  • Learning about the past and its different contexts shaped by social, cultural, and political influences prepares one for participation as active, critical citizens in a democratic society.

  • Historical skills (organizing information chronologically, explaining historical issues, locating sources and investigate materials, synthesizing and evaluating evidence, and developing arguments and interpretations based on evidence) are used by an analytical thinker to create a historical construction.


  • Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.

  • Articulate the context of a historical event or action.

End of Unit Assessment

Ask students to create a cartoon of their own which utilizes their point of view on a specific topic. Their illustration can be historical or something from their everyday life.


Plans in this Unit

Analyzing Political Cartoons -- Middle Grades

Grade Level

Middle School

Standards/Eligible Content





PA Core Standards:

CC.8.5.6-8.G. CC.8.5.6-8.D. CC.8.5.6-8.F

About the Author

Alicia Parks, Education Intern, Historical Society of Pennsylvania


Historic Images, New Technologies

Unit Plan

Understanding History Through Political Cartoons for Elementary Students

Blog Post

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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