Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dr. Seuss' Political Cartoons

Rebecca Parker’s blog of 3/11 about using Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel reminds me that I created a word and image activity to use with high school students relating to this same book. Basically, I had them match the captions from the cartoons, to the images. It took longer than I thought it might, perhaps because students had to really look at what Geisel drew, to figure out the best match. The activity can be arranged in any of a number of ways. Either project just the images, and pass out the words in a list, or on little slips of paper. The class can work as a group, or compete in teams, for points. Or a power point can be designed with 6 or 7 captions to choose from on one side of a slide, and one image on the other side, or arrange several images and one caption, having students select the best image. Use clickers to see which team gets the correct answer first, the most answers, or have individuals raise hands. If they are close, but not right on, see if someone can find a better caption and then award points for the specific things in the picture that show this is a better match.

Once the images are matched correctly, the class can group the cartoons into categories such as:
  • Anatomy of a Dictator(ship)
  • American Isolationism
  • Europe Falls Prey to the Third Reich
  • (Un)equal Rights for Who?

Another way to encourage students to look more closely is to have them do a series of searching activities. For example, project a cartoon and its caption, and have students take 60 seconds just to look, and try and see as many different details as possible in the image. Or have them look and list as many things as they can see. As a way of checking what they saw, have them pair up. One person in the pair faces the image, and the other backs it. Have partners trade off and quiz each other. “How many ostrich heads did you see?” “What is Hitler holding in his hand?” “Which countries are listed?” “What was the longest word in the caption?” Do a ‘stump the teacher’ round. Turn off the projector and have students take 3 minutes to list what they saw. Encourage them to write as many things as possible. Or break it down into specific categories like “list what is visible in the top half of the cartoon, behind the statue, in front of the jeep, to the left of Hitler, etc.”

If you do this with teams, scratch off the items included on both teams’ lists and see who has the greatest number of unique responses. Expand student responses by having them write what this reminds them of or makes them remember. Is there a book, song, poem, story with the same message? Have them list three things in the cartoon that interest them. Show them 5 different cartoons and have them make a list of three different things they think were important to Geisel.

As a follow up, have the class collect contemporary political cartoons and see how these might compare to Geisel’s. Are there any with similar messages, using different circumstances? Follow up with students making a list of what they think needs to be changed at their school. Have students create their own political cartoons, exhibit them in the hallways, or see if the school paper will publish any of them.

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