ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Political Cartoons as Part of the Election Process

Can political cartoons have an effect on U.S. presidential elections?


Key Staff

Classroom teacher. It may be helpful if an art teacher works cooperatively for this lesson.

Key Skills

Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Creative Thinking: Creativity and Innovation
Making Art: Producing, Executing and Performing


Students will organize the information they researched on the U.S. presidential election process and constitutional rights and they will organize the information to create a flow chart showing the process for electing a U.S. president and vice-president from the primary elections through inauguration day. Students will learn how significant it is to have the right to freely express views and ideas. As an example of free speech, students will then design and illustrate a political cartoon that shows the candidate taking the oath of office as U.S. president.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Create a flow chart showing the process to elect a U.S. president.
  • Examine the practice and art of political cartoons.
  • Examine sources to find those that provide the most relevant and accurate information.
  • Discuss how and why one source may provide information that may not be provided in another source.
  • Analyze examples of political cartoons and determine what the artist intends to satirize.
  • Design and illustrate a political cartoon.

Teaching Approach

Arts Inclusion

Teaching Methods

  • Discovery Learning
  • Research
  • Hands-On Learning

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Internet Access
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teacher should be familiar with U.S. constitutional rights and methods for building flow charts. For guidelines refer to Houghton Mifflin’s Education Place Flow Chart for a copy of a flow chart diagram.

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should be familiar with the U.S. Constitution.

Students should have some experience with drawing.

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer Lab


  • Small Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction


Have examples of political cartoons available for students to read.

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Build Knowledge


1. Start with a discussion about the U.S. Constitution and the significance of Freedom of Speech. Explain that freedom of speech is a constitutional right and that drawing is a form of free speech. The right to free speech is considered to be one of the most important rights people possess in the U.S.

2. Ask students to provide examples of ways that people express their rights through free speech. List this information on the board, chart paper, or interactive whiteboard. Tell students that they will use this information to create a flow chart which illustrates the election process in a simplified format. Flow charts can assist students with comprehension of a multi-step process or complex idea in a graphic technique.

3. List the examples of free speech on the board and ask students to keep their own notes. Ask students to offer examples of free speech that are inappropriate (when the purpose is to cause harm to someone or breaks the law).

4. Ask students if they think political cartoons can be an effective method of free speech. Are they successful at depicting a political stereotype that encourages voters to elect a particular candidate? Why or why not? Can they depict how a newly elected U.S. president might act once he is President?

Build Knowledge

1. Provide each student with a copy of the blank template for making a Flow Chart. Explain to the students that they will use this information to create a flow chart which illustrates the election process in a simplified format. Share with students that flow charts can assist them with comprehension of a multi-step process or complex idea in a graphic technique.

2. Assist students with identifying and using all parts of a flow chart, including a title, boxes, arrows, etc. This is intended to help them gain knowledge about flow chart structures.

3. Lead a review of the election process with the class. This review should highlight the steps for the students in order for them to understand what concepts or ideas can be illustrated in political cartoons. Electing a U.S. president in Plain English is a short video that explains how the election process works. This can be used as a teacher review, or the teacher can ask students to visit the video-clip and listen.

4. When the flow charts are complete, distribute the worksheet A Summary of the Election Process, which is available to you within the Resource Carousel. Ask students to complete this individually or in a small group. Give students no more than 20 minutes to complete the activity and then have a class discussion to share and compare answers.

5. Have students discuss what they know about stereotypes. Have them offer examples of stereotypes that they have seen or read. Discuss why political cartoons have been used to stereotype political candidates throughout history.

6. Have students look at The Political Dr. Seuss website for examples of easy to comprehend political cartoons for the young reader. Explain that, while many people know Dr. Seuss as a much-beloved children's author, he was also well known for his political cartoons in the 1940s. Allow students some time to explore the site, particularly The Gallery, which displays several Dr. Seuss cartoons with a good contextual explanation of the history and politics of the time.

7. Put the students in small groups to discuss what they observed and now understand about political cartoons or choose to have an open class discussion. Following this discussion, ask students to search for information on political cartoons that have been used in former political campaigns.

8. Guide students in examining the art and creation of political cartoons. Remind them that they are searching for answers to why and how political cartoons can be effective in making a political point. Have the students look at their completed flow charts to consider when certain cartoons would be the most effective in the campaign process.


1. Have students prepare for drawing their own political cartoons. Help them select appropriate subjects for creating their own political cartoons and distribute the worksheet entitled Planning Your Political Cartoon, located within the Resource Carousel, to guide students in planning their initial design.

2. When the planning worksheets have been completed and reviewed, have students create and illustrate the actual cartoon. They should use the materials you of the art teacher have made available at the start of this lesson. Monitor the students' work and assist them as needed.

3. When all the cartoons are finished, display them in the classroom. Conclude the lesson with a gallery walk activity. The cartoons could also be placed in the hallway or in a showcase for others to see.


1. Have students compare newer, more recent cartoons with the older ones. They can read about Thomas Nast, who was a well-known political cartoon artist from the 1880’s. What are the differences, if any, between the older cartoons and the newer ones?

2. Ask students whether they think political cartoons can be an effective method for creating interest in a political campaign or whether they can create interest in a particular political candidate. Why are some more effective than others?

3. Assess the students using the provided rubric. The Rubric may be found within the Resource Carousel.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

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Rebecca Holden
Original Author

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