Educational Video and Mini Rant: Situational irony: The opposite of what you think - Christopher Warner

One of my favorite mini lessons of the year is the teaching of political cartoons. Political cartoons provide an opportunity for students to understand the nuances of language and symbolism that few other mediums allow middle school students to easily see - students are able to at least identify the fact that background knowledge can alter the perception of a cartoon - this concept of bias and point of view is just becoming apart of their lives.

In addition, political cartoons always be to help teach 'reading' skills. In my classroom I strive to help my students read, write and think critically and independently.

Political cartoons help breakdown how to analyze and read an image. Students must identify the labels within the cartoon, identify the basic questions (who, what, when, where, what, and why), while also balancing the point of view being conveyed by the artist. This understanding is open to discussion requiring students to support their ideas with facts and evidence.

Two other key concepts are in play with political cartoons: metaphors and irony. The students are able to grasp the basics of a metaphor - in particular because so much of our current education system is based upon explaining historical or complex concepts to students through metaphors and because that is one of the main ways we learn.

On a mini side note - we are only able to comprehend information when related to something we already know - and this in turn creates an issues and set of problems that alter our true understanding. That is one of the reasons I believe we need to help our students think and attempt to understand a wide range of information.

The second complex or higher level concept is irony - and while this is difficult to explain to adults it is more difficult to explain to 12 and 13 year olds - providing examples helps but still too many of my students are unable to articulate a definition of the term in their own words, language, and world. This video by TED-Ed "Situational irony: The opposite of what you think - Christopher Warner" is a good start to understanding one type of irony.

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