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You’ve come a long way -- maybe: Female vice presidential candidates in editorial cartoons

Lesson Plan


Content Standards:

Grade 12, Language Arts

Ohio language arts content standards fulfilled:

•     Analyze the rhetorical devices used in public documents, including state or school policy statements, newspaper editorials and speeches.

•     Analyze and critique organizational patterns and techniques including repetition of ideas, appeals to authority, reason and emotion, syntax and word choice that authors use to accomplish their purpose and reach their intended audience.

•     Analyze and compile information from several sources on a single issue or written by a single author, clarifying ideas and connecting them to other sources and related topics.

•     Distinguish between valid and invalid inferences and provide evidence to support the findings, noting instances of unsupported inferences, fallacious reasoning, propaganda techniques, bias and stereotyping.

•     Examine an author’s implicit and explicit philosophical assumptions and beliefs about a subject.

•     Produce functional documents that report, organize and convey information and ideas accurately, foresee readers’ problems or misunderstandings and that include formatting techniques that are user friendly.

•     Give presentations using a variety of delivery methods, visual displays and technology.

National language arts standards fulfilled (NCTE)

•     Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

•     Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

•     Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Estimated duration of lesson:

Two class periods and a week allotted for completion of infographic.

Learning objectives:

•    Students will characterize the depictions of two female vice presidential candidates in editorial cartoons.

•    Students will situate these characterizations within the parameters of news and editorial coverage of the candidates as well as those of stereotype, caricature and symbol.

•    In light of their learning, students will critique cartoonists’ decisions for both efficacy and ethics.


Using political cartoons, students will become familiar with cartoon representations of female politicians and consider whether and/or how such representations indicate a change in the societal view of high-profile, female political candidates since the 1984 candidacy of Geraldine Ferraro.

Prior knowledge to be activated or remediated:

  •       Geraldine Ferraro
  •       John Zaccaro
  •       Walter Mondale
  •       Sarah Palin
  •       John McCain
  •       Results of 1984 and 2004 U.S presidential elections

Instructional steps:

•     The class will first view video clips of both candidates making political speeches, and students will volunteer their impressions of each.

•     Students will then listen to audio news coverage and read editorial coverage that will provide biographical information and criticism necessary to interpret the cartoons.

•     In small groups, students will view both on screen and on paper three cartoons depicting Ferraro and complete cartoon analysis forms for each.

•     Groups will then share their analyses with the class and will when possible identify the biographical, editorial and disciplinary antecedents for the cartoons.

•     For homework, students will complete the same activities for the Palin cartoons.

•     When class reconvenes, Palin cartoons will be screened analyses shared. Students will then generate categories for comparison of the two candidates’ portrayals, keeping in mind the supporting texts screened and read at the start of previous class.

•     In small groups, students will then compare the two sets of cartoons and generate a written summary of their analysis. These findings will be shared.

•     Each group will use desktop publishing software to create an information graphic that communicates their comparative analysis via annotation of the cartoons themselves. For this assignment, students will “chunk” their analyses into tightly-written paragraphs and digitally place the chunks at the appropriate locations within each cartoon.


Infographics will be assessed to determine depth of students’ analyses as well as success in communicating analyses to the audience (class). Class will first generate a rubric, then each group will apply it to another’s product. Students’ and teacher’s rubrics will be averaged for final grade.

Materials needed:

  • Digital and hard copies of the six cartoons chosen for this lesson.
  • Digital files providing background on candidates (suggested items follow):

Geraldine Ferraro Vice Presidential Acceptance Speech


Republican National Convention Sarah Palin Speech


Sarah Palin Biography


Geraldine Ferraro Biography


Ferraro finances (Google News doc)


McCain Chooses Palin as Running Mate


Sarah Palin Calls Health Care Overhaul “Downright Evil”


Extension activities:

Students will apply their skills to cartoons featuring Hillary Clinton and Michele Bachmann.