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Lesson Plan

Ohio Content Standards:

Grade 8 History 9, 10a & 11, People and Societies 2, Geography 1

Duration of Lesson:

2-class periods/ 50 minutes each, 1 block

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will focus on details within Thomas Nast’s editorial cartoons.
  • Students will collaboratively analyze and compare editorial cartoons focusing on the Civil War and Reconstruction by Thomas Nast.
  • Students will determine the perspective of the cartoon.
  • Students will identify the cartoonist’s intentions and evaluate the effectiveness of each cartoon's message.
  • Students will discern Nast’s opinions of the actions of the North and South during the Civil War, Reconstruction, and political campaigns.


By definition a political cartoon is one person’s perspective. This lesson concentrates on works by Thomas Nast. Specifically, the lesson deals with cartoons from the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Through his talent and affiliation with the widely read Harpers Weekly, Nast was a media giant of his time. This lesson explores his views and how he persuaded others toward those views.


  • Editorial Cartoons 1-7 with published information and corresponding transparencies (for teacher)
  • Access to the Web (for teacher)
  • Thomas Nast Reconstruction Worksheet.pdf
  • Editorial Cartoons 1-7 without published information for each student


  • What is the purpose of a political/editorial cartoon?
  • A review of the tools used by editorial cartoonists.
  • A quick review of the definitions of what is subtle and what is obvious.

Instructional Steps:

  1. Complete pre-assessment discussion.
  2. Divide class into 3 groups, one for campaigns, one for Civil War, and one for Reconstruction.
  3. Each group will complete one worksheet for presentation purposes for the post-assessment.
  4. Hand out Thomas Nast Reconstruction Worksheet to students.
  5. Present and discuss editorial cartoons, while completing as a class.


Writing Assignment

How does Nast express his leanings and loyalties regarding, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the political campaign of U.S. Grant? Give a specific example of each.

Extension Activities:

Students will be given extra credit if they find political cartoons taking a different viewpoint from Nast.




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