Your favorite magazine or newspaper might provide a political cartoon that lends itself well to language instruction. Another alternative is to use an online site devoted to such material. Daryl Cagle’s Political Cartoon Index is a site I’ve recently explored. The convenience of using an index is that you can perform searches that will locate cartoons which relate to planned topics or particular student interests. The site recognizes the instructional potential of the material and has already begun to develop teacher resources, including discussion questions and additional links for selected cartoons.
You might take a tour of the index and get inspired by suggested activities for elementary, middle, and high school students. Could you adapt the game of cartoon bingo, for example? I liked the idea of looking at several cartoons and identifying symbols for common concepts: the dollar sign, the donkey, the elephant, etc. A discussion of symbolism focuses classroom discussion and prompts higher level thinking in the target language. I also liked the idea of creating a second cartoon in reponse to an original one. This task could be done with the help of MakeBeliefsComix, a site that I wrote about before.
Cagle’s site allows users to send an e-card with a chosen cartoon. Teachers could use this option to share a cartoon with students as part of a pre-lesson or post-lesson activity. The message section would be an appropriate place to give instructions or pose questions.
An activity I’ve done in the past with poltical cartoons involves creative writing. Simply white out the text in each balloon. Then have students work in pairs to develop the dialog. Each pair presents their version to the class and discussion of the humor can result. Encourage peer correction of the language used. When all pairs have presented, reveal the original text and discuss the message/ viewpoint of the cartoonist. If desired, additional material can be found in the form of a related article. For instance, choose a cartoon on global warming or job cuts and then find a related article or podcast from a preferred news site.