Editorial Cartoons

A large component of the 10thgrade English/Language Arts curriculum is reading and analyzing nonfiction texts (essays, editorials, and speeches).  It’s engaging work for sophomores requiring focus and attention to detail.  I incorporate many editorial cartoons, advertisements, and propaganda art sources to supplement our studies.  Last year I began asking students to create their own editorial cartoons to demonstrate their understanding of a nonfiction text (author’s purpose, central assertion, tone, etc.).  The results were inconsistent: Some students were clear in their visual presentation of comprehension; others were “just drawing.”  I think with a bit more focus and higher expectations, students can use visual art to demonstrate their understanding of a nonfiction text.

Grade Level/Age: 10thgrade (15-16 years)

Curriculum Addressed:  Students read nonfiction texts to comprehend an author’s purpose, his or her central assertion, supporting arguments, fallacies, tone and theme.

Process Goals:  This activity is a fun way to assess students’ understanding of a nonfiction text as they learn the process of rhetorical analysis.  Typically, we read a text together in class, and then go through the process of rhetorical analysis using a rhetorical square to identify individual parts of the essay.  As the semester goes by, students move from an all-class discussion, to small groups, then pairs, then individual analysis.  Typically, formative and summative assessment is written analysis; however,  a student-created editorial cartoon depicting the central information from a text can serve to assess a student’s understanding of a text as much as a written analysis.

Materials: Nonfiction text (pretty much any short essay or editorial can be used with this assignment), paper, and pen or pencil (could also use colored pencils or pastels).

Desired Understandings:  Students will visually depict a central argument from a nonfiction text.  Their visual art will demonstrate either the central claim the argument asserts in the essay or connect that argument to a “bigger picture” in the scope of the argument.


  1. Students are presented with a nonfiction text. Students read the text and analyze it using the rhetorical square process.
  2. To demonstrate their understanding of the text (purpose, persona, claim, supporting details, scope), students create an editorial cartoon or other visual art that clearly communicates the author’s central claim.
  3. If applicable, students will compose a Quick Write analyzing how their editorial cartoon successfully depicts the rhetorical elements of the original text.


Standard 2:  Reading for All Purposes

  1. The development of new ideas and concepts within informational and persuasive manuscripts
  2. Context, parts of speech, grammar, and word choice influence the understanding of literary, persuasive, and informational texts

Standard 3:  Writing and Composition

  1. Organizational writing patterns inform or persuade an audience

Standard 4:  Research and Reasoning

  1. An author’s reasoning is the essence of legitimate writing and requires evaluating text for validity and accuracy

Assessment:  I use our English department’s Quick Write rubric to assess students’ understanding of the nonfiction text.  If needed, I extend the assignment to include a Quick Write in which students explain their visual argument based on the central text, and then use the Quick Write rubric for evaluation.

Adaptions/Accommodations:  This assignment is easier for some students with accommodations in my class because of the visual component.  If needed, I could have students orally explain their visual arguments for clarity while assessing.