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At this point in the year, many teachers here in Florida are approaching Benchmark SS.7.C.3.8, which has students “Analyze the structure, functions, and processes of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.” One activity that students can do as a homework, alternative, or center assignment to help them build their understanding of these structures, functions and processes is to take a political cartoon, such as the one below, and use the National Archives’ Cartoon Analysis Worksheet to break it down. Note that this cartoon gets to the structure, function, and processes of the branches at the legislative level.

The Federal Law Making Process

This illustration entitled, “Hepburn Rate Bill”, by cartoonist Clifford Berryman, which appeared in the Washington Post on May 15, 1906, depicts the Hepburn Bill, which was strongly endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt, finally getting past the Senate on it’s way to the House and showing the beatings it had taken by all of the amendments added in an attempt to block it. (Courtesy National Archives)

“But Steve,” you say, “we haven’t broken down these sorts of things before! How can we do it as a whole class?” Well, happily, in lesson SS.C.7.2.11, we have a lesson that walks through breaking down a political cartoon, so if you haven’t done that lesson with your kids, here you go:
Complete the “Cartoon Analysis Worksheet” as a whole class by using this suggested procedure:

  • Instruct students to complete Level 1 Visuals #1 and then share out. Provide any needed direct instruction to make sure that all students have a complete list for this section.
  • Instruct students to complete Level 1 Words #1, 2, 3 and then share out. Provide any needed direct instruction to make sure that students have correct and complete answers.
  • Instruct students to complete Level 2 Visuals #2 and 3 and then share out. Provide any needed direct instruction to make sure that students have correct and complete answers.
  • Instruct students to complete Level 2 Words #4 and 5 and then share out. Provide any needed direct instruction to make sure that students have correct and complete answers.
  • Instruct students to complete Level 3 A and then share out. Provide any needed direct instruction to make sure that students have correct and complete answers. Repeat this process for B, C, and D.

You could have students complete this assignment individually or in pairs. If I were doing this with my own students, I would try to ensure that there was collaboration. The best sorts of analysis comes from when students can talk things through! Later today, we will be sharing primary sources that can be used to get to this benchmark at the local and state levels as well!

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