Teaching and Learning Resources by Peter Pappas

Close Reading Political Cartoons: Reconstruction

Northern coat of arms

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol III (Free iTunes). It features thirteen engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook and pdf versions click here. To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. (First of 13)

Reconstruction in Political Cartoons by EmmaLee Kuhlmann 
Download lesson as PDF 
(8.3MB)

In this lesson, students will examine various political cartoons and other images from around the United States printed during Reconstruction. They will be asked questions of each image which will help them perform close reading skills and help them come to a conclusion about how the different types of American citizens experienced Reconstruction. Essential Questions:

  • How did Americans across the country experience the period of Reconstruction differently?
  • How did their experience influence their perceptions of Reconstruction policies and the government and society of the United States following the Civil War?
  • In what ways are political cartoons useful in exploring how people understood Reconstruction?
  • Are political cartoons a good primary source?

 

Project Reflection by EmmaLee Kuhlmann 

In the initial stages of developing this lesson, I had the idea that I might want to focus primarily on political cartoons for this lesson. There are so many available from this time period, and so many with such vivid imagery that allow students to engage in analysis with very little background knowledge. As I began to collect documents for this lesson, I was a bit worried that I did not have enough content, and that I might need to include other types of documents. However, because Reconstruction is such a large topic, and because there are so many different lenses through which it can be understood, I found that it was easier to stick with the medium of political cartoons, and engage with them more deeply. In this way, students get the opportunity to engage with the controversy of how to rebuild after a terrible and destructive war that changed multiple aspects of society.

In secondary history classes, topics such as Reconstruction are rarely discussed; if they are, very little time is spent uncovering the controversy and complexity of the time period. However, Reconstruction is a period in America’s history that began the current stream of history. By understanding the period following the Civil War, students can begin to see how America’s history has shaped its present. For instance, certain racial policies enacted during Reconstruction played a major role in Americans’ later perceptions of race and racial constructs. It isn’t an easy time period to untangle, certainly another reason why it rarely is at the secondary level. However, giving students primary sources to discuss and explore give them an effective entry point into the time period and the topics surrounding some difficult issues of Reconstruction.

At the end of this particular lesson, numerous different activities could be assigned. In the creation of this lesson, I wanted to leave the final product/assignment open because there are so many creative ways to assess understanding of the cartoons and the ideas and values they present. When I discussed possible options for closing assignments for this lesson, various suggestions were given. My favorite assignment idea was to have students create their own political cartoon using similar themes and imagery from the cartoons that they explored in the lesson. This could be done either about Reconstruction issues or even current events. This would allow students to make connections across topics and time periods.

Image credit: Library of Congress  LC-USZ62-19673 

Title: Northern coat of arms
Related Names: Baker, Joseph E
Date Created/Published: 1864.

Exploring History: 13 Document-Based Lessons

Exploring History IIII’m very pleased to share a new iBook just published by my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland.

Interactive iBooks available free at iTunes.
Static pdf version Exploring History Vol III (29 MB)

It features thirteen engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

My students worked for a public audience on our class blog and and pursued our three class goals:

  • Learn to think like a historian.
  • Become a skillful Instructional designer
  • Develop technical skills for production, reflection, growth and professional networking.

The lesson design process began early in the semester when students designed lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. Then students identified essential questions worth answering and gathered documents to explore the question in an extended lesson design process.

Exploring History: Vol III was our PBL capstone and is available on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Here’s a post (from fall ’13 class) that describes our project workflow (including how we utilized iBooks Author). Here’s Exploring History: Vol I created by my fall 2013 class. And Exploring History: Vol II designed by my fall 2014 class.

I’ll be doing a future blog post that features each student’s DBQ, but for now here’s the US and World History lessons in chronological order:

  1. Finding Egyptian Needles in Western Haystacks 
by Heidi Kershner
  2. Pompeii by Caleb Wilson
  3. Samurai: Sources of Warrior Identity in Medieval Japan 
by Ben Heebner
  4. The Declaration of Independence by David Deis
  5. Reconstruction in Political Cartoons 
by EmmaLee Kuhlmann
  6. Regulation Through the Years 
by Chenoa Musillo Olson / Sarah Wieking
  7. Battle of the Somme by John Hunt
  8. The Lynching of Leo Frank by Jeff Smith
  9. The Waco Horror by Alekz Wray
  10. The Harlem Renaissance by Monica Portugal
  11. A Date of Infamy by Mollie Carter
  12. Anti-Vietnam War Imagery by Felicia Teba
  13. Examining the Ongoing Evolution of American Government by Eric Cole
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