This activity, which could be considered a prerequisite to the other activities related to this collection of learning objects, initiates students to the interpretation of editorial cartoons. It aims to show them how to analyze this type of iconographic document and how to extract information from it. Discovering the symbolic significance and meaning of editorial cartoons often involves more than just a simple decoding.

The activity takes advantage of the resources grouped under the theme Once a Politician, Always a Butt, namely: a movie clip an introductory text on the theme five cartoons on Canadian Confederation published between 1870 and 1890

Teachers may prepare materials for their students on the basis of the following instructions.

Duration: From 75 to 150 minutes.

I. BACKGROUND: THE ART OF CARTOONING

With the students, brainstorm the subject of present-day practices in editorial cartooning in newspapers. Nowadays, in which section or part of the daily newspaper is the editorial cartoon generally found? Read More

This activity, which could be considered a prerequisite to the other activities related to this collection of learning objects, initiates students to the interpretation of editorial cartoons. It aims to show them how to analyze this type of iconographic document and how to extract information from it. Discovering the symbolic significance and meaning of editorial cartoons often involves more than just a simple decoding.

The activity takes advantage of the resources grouped under the theme Once a Politician, Always a Butt, namely:

  • a movie clip
  • an introductory text on the theme
  • five cartoons on Canadian Confederation published between 1870 and 1890

Teachers may prepare materials for their students on the basis of the following instructions.

Duration: From 75 to 150 minutes.

I. BACKGROUND: THE ART OF CARTOONING

With the students, brainstorm the subject of present-day practices in editorial cartooning in newspapers.

  • Nowadays, in which section or part of the daily newspaper is the editorial cartoon generally found?
  • What kinds of characters are often represented in cartoons? Why?
  • What kinds of subjects are generally treated in cartoons? Why?
  • How do cartoonists go about creating their images? What strategies do they use?
  • Is it possible to say or show things in editorial cartoons that it might not be possible to express otherwise? If so, what kinds of things?

Introduce the movie clip “Once a Politician, Always a Butt” and present the following listening strategies:

  1. What strategies does the cartoonist use to illustrate his point of view of a news item? (He overly exaggerates physical characteristics; features well-known figures; gives them the traits of Ulysses or characters from Shakespeare; uses symbols, visual elements, dialogues and captions to reinforce the message.)
  2. What can influence the world view of a cartoonist? (His/her experience and culture and even the fact of being a man or a woman.)


II. INITIATION TO DECODING SELECTED CARTOONS

Form teams of two students. Ask them to look at one of the five cartoons featuring important characters from federal politics in Canada in the period 1870 to 1890. There is a description for each cartoon.

Ask the students to identify the characters represented in the selected cartoon and to note some of its main components, based on the following chart:

Note the data for the cartoon:

  • Cartoon title:
  • Author:
  • Media-newspaper (if known):
  • Date of first publication and page # (if known):
  • Accession number (identifying number in the McCord Museum collection):

Describe the cartoon:

The “WHAT” or the SHAPE-FUNCTION key

  • What words are used in the cartoon?
  • Find definitions for any unusual words or expressions.
  • If there is a dialogue, what does each cartoon say?
  • What is happening?

Document the cartoon:

The “WHO” or the PEOPLE key

  • Who is depicted in the cartoon? What do we know about these people?
  • What are the characters’ physical gestures and facial expressions?
  • Are characters stereotyped?
  • Are these characters symbolic?

The “WHERE” or the PLACE key

  • In what situation are the characters placed?
  • Is the illustrator using analogy?
  • Are visual elements, signs or symbols being used?

The “WHEN” or the TIME key

  • What historical event or fact does the cartoon depict?
  • Are these people or these issues still important today?

Interpret the cartoon:

The “WHY” or the MEANING key:

  • In a few words, what message is this cartoon trying to send?
  • Can the point of view or values (political, religious, regional, ethnic, economic, etc.) of the cartoonist be identified?
  • What does the cartoon teach us about the historical context of the period?

III. SHARE OBSERVATIONS

Ask the students to share their observations on the cartoons.


© 2007, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The activity on the learning object Once a Politician, Always a Butt ties into the Québec Education Program History and Citizenship Education in Secondary 3 and 4 (1st or 2nd year of Cycle Two). It is designed to introduce students to the interpretation of iconographic documents in the form of cartoons. Based on editorial cartoons from the period 1870 to 1890, it is connected to the social reality “The formation of the Canadian federation.”

The educational aim is “to enable students to exercise critical, ethical and aesthetic judgment with respect to the media,” and in particular to enhance their “awareness of the place and influence of the different media in his/her daily life and in society,” as well as their “understanding of media representations of reality.”

The educational outcomes are:

  • Competency 1: Examines social phenomena from a historical perspective.
  • Methodology: Interpretation of an iconographic document.
  • Cross-curricula competency 1: Uses information.
  • Cross-curricula competency 6: Uses information and communication technologies.

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