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Understanding History thru Political Cartoons for Elementary Students

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, such as the Civil War and Presidential Elections, students will develop their critical thinking skills in order to understand the author’s point of view through the use of symbolism, irony, and analogy. 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?

Why is time and space important to the study of history?


  • Historical literacy requires a focus on time and space, and an understanding of the historical context, as well as an awareness of point of view.


  • 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 expresses their point of view on a specific topic.  Ask them how they would use symbolism to show things in their everyday life, such as “Cleaning their room,”  “Lunchtime at school,” or “Snow Day,” just to give a couple of topic examples.


Plans in this Unit

Analyzing Political Cartoons

Grade Level

Grade School

Standards/Eligible Content





PA Core Standards

CC.1.2.5.G   CC.1.3.5.G     CC.1.2.5.F

About the Author

Alicia Parks, Education Intern, Historical Society of Pennsylvania


Historic Images, New Technologies

Unit Plan

Understanding History Through Political Cartoons for Middle Grades

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