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Peer Review

It's No Laughing Matter: Analyzing Political Cartoons



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.25 starsstar
Reviewed: Mar 19, 2007 by World Languages Editorial Board
Overview: The overview of this website poses the question, "What makes funny cartoons seriously persuasive" -- followed by the response, "Cartoonists and persuasive techniques do. All cartoonists have access to a collection of tools that help them get their point across." In the activities of this website, students will "get to take apart real-world cartoons--and learn how to spot the methods behind the message." One of the most valuable skills a learner can acquire in today's global community is media literacy. The real engines behind that skill are semiotic and sociological analysis. By grappling with both the explicit and the more subtle layers of humor (and the shifting contexts in which they occur, where elements like intertextuality undergo constant change), students play an active role in meaning-construction and understanding. They can also compare their views to those of experts and critics.
Type of Material: Collection
Recommended Uses: Cultural/media literacy courses or units
Technical Requirements: Flash plug-in
Identify Major Learning Goals: Students will learn how to decode cartoons, examining "the persuasive techniques often employed by political cartoonists to promote their individual message, such as symbolism, exaggeration, and analogy" (Gardner). As well, students will become aware of any political slant or bias the cartoonist may have, recognizable in the cartoon.
Target Student Population: All
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: n/a

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: Multimedia format. There are images, text, and audio files with expert commentary, analyzing sample cartoons that span several decades.
Concerns: n/a

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: This website is a wonderful tool for developing media literacy, especially since cartoons combine graphics and text to convey meaning. Cultural literacy for learners of ESOL is also accommodated. Cartoons can be seen not only as current social/political commentary, but archival documentation of human thought and experience. Cartoons relate to multiple disciplines (Social Studies, Humanities, Government, Journalism, History), thereby easily lending themselves to a thematic, interdisciplinary approach.
Concerns: n/a

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.25 stars
Strengths: The screens are visually appealing in a simple way, and non-distracting. The links are easy to follow and retrace. The audio component is a great feature (versus e-text alone) for "hearing experts" comment on "the meaning behind the message" and "methods employed to convey the message" of various cartoons.
Concerns: This site could expand on single-frame cartoons to moving cartoons, e.g., The Simpsons, which are a goldmine for teaching intertextuality and social/political commentary.

Other Issues and Comments: None