The SFU Library Editorial Cartoons Collection

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Teacher Resources

Please note: These teaching resources will be removed from the web on August 31, 2017.

Visual Literacy

Students often have difficulty decoding political cartoons. This learning resource is designed to introduce basic concepts and tools that students need to analyze and decode messages to make meaning.

Critical Thinking

This resource seeks to address social studies curriculum across Canada. Inquiry is a key element across many provincial curricula, and is consistently linked to critical thinking, research and consideration of multiple perspectives.

The introductory lesson is a warm-up to visual literacy. Students will learn that to interpret cartoons, a requisite stock of cultural knowledge is required. Cartoons rely on literary allusions and historical events to a great extent. A certain level of "connoisseurship" is required to enter into the conversation. Without a relevant cultural memory, people are excluded: all jokes become "inside jokes."


While cartoons are designed to give an immediate impact, students will need to be taught the rhetorical devices that adults take for granted; such as analogies (visual metaphors of themes, storylines, symbols and quotations), and visual devices (caricature, stereotypes, point-of-view, shading and size).

Overview of Rhetorical Devices: irony, allegory, metaphor, personification, antithesis, symbols

Integrated Research Project

A student looking at an older cartoon out of its original context needs background information in order to decode the cartoon's message. These lessons introduce students to primary sources and focus on developing search strategies within databases and on the Internet.

Cartoons collected by topics

1. Introduction to the retrieval of primary source documents: As a "research historian" investigate the bibliographic record for your cartoon.

2. Library lesson on Boolean searching: Using the SFU database.

3. Finding general background information on cartoons: Using online encyclopedias.

4. Acquiring knowledge and identifying the issue: Using subscription databases.     

5. Writing explications: Identifying and analysing particular devices.

Learning Outcomes

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             Download all files in a zip file