Grades 11-12 lesson plan

Equality Is…

Grades 11-12 lesson plan

  • Lesson theme: Equality
  • Integrated subject: History
  • Grade level: 11th and 12th grades
  • Time: 90 minutes total (30 minutes for art activity)
  • Lesson authors: Lizzy Tatlow and Julia Kuhn of Miami University of Ohio.

Lesson Overview: 

This lesson will be focused on both the equality and inequalities that humanity has seen in the past and is also currently seeing in the present. By high school, students should have a good understanding of what equality is and will be building off of this to think of all the ways, worldwide, that equality is not given. Students will be shown a current political cartoonist and a discussion will be held about how Tom Poles is able to capture the attention of the viewer using satire to actively speak his opinion about an inequality in today’s world. Through students creating their own political cartoon they will be able to voice their own opinion about an inequality. Throughout the lesson students will be considering the following questions…

  1. What do you think equality means and what does equality mean to you?
  2. Do you think equality plays a role in high school dynamics in relation to the school you go to and also to the community?
  3. What creates inequality and how can an individual or community overcome it? 
  4. How can art serve as a vessel for social change? 

Visual Culture Component: 

The concept of this lesson applies to students in everyday life because, especially as students get older, they are faced with equality and inequality within their community. 

  • It is important for students to understand what equality is and recognize inequality so they can address it. Often times in today’s society the words equality and equity are confused and misinterpreted. Equity can be defined as giving everyone the same opportunities while equality can be defined as giving everyone the same thing despite their race, background, or gender. Freedom Summer utilized equality because each individual needs to be given the same opportunity to vote despite their race. 
  • This is why college students and volunteers went to Mississippi; to register voters of all races but primarily African Americans, train how to teach in Freedom schools, and teach people about equality/help. Although society made the improvements with voting there are still inequalities that we face today.  
  • Equal pay is a common inequality in today’s society because females are not given the same equivalent pay as men are given. 
  • Many public figures have spoken out against this discrimination and have talked about how they deserve the same pay as males. 
  • Nicki Minaj is a great example of a woman in the public eye who has made a positive effort and has proudly talked about this issue. 
Webpage screenshot of Niki Minaj stating women should be 'unapologetic' about demanding equal pay
  • After watching the video, can you think of any other inequalities having to do with women’s rights, specifically in the United States, other than equal pay?

Ohio Standards of Learning / Common Core: 

Ohio Visual Arts Standards for HS Intermediate:

  • 4PE Analyze the work of individual artists and explain how they are influenced by cultural factors
  • 6PR Incorporate visual literacy as a means to create images that advance individual expression and communication
  • 1RE Explore various methods of art criticism in responding to artworks

History Standard:

  • Historical Thinking and Skills 4: Historians analyze cause, effect, sequence and correlation in historical events, including multiple causation and long- and short-term causal relations.

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

  • Identify issues having to do with inequality in current events (Historical Thinking and Skills 4). 
  • Interpret both historical and contemporary images to grasp understanding of equality / inequalities (4PE) (Historical Thinking and Skills 4).
  • Illustrate a current event through the format of a political cartoon, incorporating humor (6PR).
  • Respond verbally to other students artwork using art criticism techniques (1RE).

Vocabulary / Academic Language: 

  • Equality: giving everyone the same thing despite their race, background, or gender
  • Equity: giving everyone the access to the same opportunities but having the choice whether to access these opportunities or not
  • Illustrator: an artist who makes illustrations 
  • Illustration: something that illustrates a point and conveys a message, as a picture in a book or magazine
  • Satire: the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
  • Political cartoon: a sketch or drawing, usually humorous, as in a newspaper or periodical, symbolizing, satirizing, or caricaturing some action, subject, or person of popular interest; showing political context within.
  • Visual literacy: the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image, extending the meaning of literacy, which commonly signifies interpretation of a written or printed text.
  • Art criticism: the discussion or evaluation of visual art. Art critics usually criticise art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty.

Historical/Cultural/Artist Information:

Editorial cartoon: question: What woman should they put on the new $10 bill? Answer: $7.70 bill — "close enough" featuring the US Working Woman.
  • Describe what you see specifically. What do you notice first?
  • Who do you believe is the audience for this political cartoon?
  • What do you think is the opinion of the political cartoonist?

Political Cartoonist: Tom Toles

Artist Biography and facts: Tom Toles was born in October of 1951 and has become an American political cartoonist. He is currently the editorial political cartoonist for the Washington Post and has and is still having a successful career as he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1990.

Connection to lesson: Political cartoons are used to present powerful ideas in a light-hearted and funny manor. Inequality can be an extremely powerful subject thus using cartoons to depict a variety of different discriminations is an artistic way of getting the point across to the public. Satire, ridicule irony or sarcasm, are commonly used in the political cartoons to show the cartoonists opinions on the subject matter. Political cartoons can be used to represent both the inequality of women’s pay in the work force and the inequality of African Americans in Mississippi during the time of Freedom Summer.

Freedom Summer volunteers holding hands and singing Freedom Songs in front of bus as they prepare to depart to Mississippi.

Image Descriptions: 

  • What does the holding of hands represent in this photograph?
  • Why do you think they are singing a song together?
  • What does this photograph mean to you?

Connection to facts: The holding of hands in this photograph represents the equality that was sought after in states like Mississippi. College students were recruited as volunteers during Freedom Summer, as shown in the photograph, to train to go into the state of Mississippi to register voters, train how to teach in Freedom schools, teach people about equality and assist where needed. However, the trainees did not take the non-violent resistance training seriously until they realized how bad it was in states like Mississippi. They were in for a rude awakening after three volunteers that were training went missing in Mississippi and were killed. This showed how big of a risk these students were taking and how bad social injustices in Mississippi actually were.

Lesson Procedures: 

Introduction (30 minutes) 

Teacher will lead a discussion about equality. Next, students will create their own definition of equality and discuss what they come up with among their table mates. Students will then brain storm at least two different instances in today’s current events where we still see inequality, a specific example would be women’s pay. Teacher and students will then come together to collaborate and think of a list of at least 20 inequalities so that students have a wide variety to choose from. Teacher will then introduce Freedom Summer and explain how different forms of inequality have been going on for years. Next the teacher will discuss the image from Freedom Summer and show how the holding of hands shows equality despite the inequality going on in Mississippi. The teacher will also introduce the image of Nicki Minaj to show that inequality is an ongoing problem in today’s world.

(15 minutes) Next, the teacher will introduce political cartoons and explain how they are an artistic outlet to present powerful ideas in a light hearted and funny manner. The teacher will then describe the use of satire in the political cartoons and show a multitude of examples to the students. The teacher will then explain how to make an idea into a cartoon. This can be done by identifying the issue that the student is going to convey and identify how the student is going to convey the message visually. The teacher will also explain how different speech bubbles can be used to convey a different message and to make each political cartoon unique. The teacher will then show the example of Donald Trump and how each of these steps are utilized and will also introduce different styles of speech bubbles to make each political cartoon unique. 

Activity (30 minutes)

Students will first draw a square within a 6×6 piece of cardstock. They will use a ruler to draw even lines with a thin black sharpie and connect the lines to make the square. Next, students will sketch their cartoon with a pencil. Once students have finalized their sketch they will outline their sketch with a black sharpie. Lastly, students will fill in their cartoon with colored pencils. 

Conclusion (15 minutes) 

Each student will show their political cartoon to the class and discuss what current event they have chosen and the cartoon they have drawn.

  • Do you feel that the political cartoon you created serves as a vessel for social change?
  • Why did you choose the specific inequality? Has it had an effect on your life?

Visual steps for creating your political cartoon:

Draw a square within the 6’’x 6’’ piece of cardstock. Use your ruler to draw even lines with the thin sharpie marker and connect the lines to make a square.  

Picture of hand holding a ruler and measuring a piece of paper.

Draw your cartoon (after discussion as shown above) with a pencil, so if mistakes are made, you are able to go back and fix them. 

A series of images showing the steps of a political cartoon being drawn. The cartoon itself is about Donald Trump's border wall policies.

Incorporate, if you choose, different kinds of speech bubbles

examples of stylized cartoon speech bubbles

Once you finish your finalized sketch, outline the sketch with black sharpie.

Erase the stray pencil marks and fill in any mistakes with black marker where the pencil was.

Fill in your image with colored pencils.


Give your cartoon a title and sign your cartoon.



  • Identified issues having to do with inequality in current events. (Historical Thinking and Skills 4).
  • Interpreted both historical and contemporary images to grasp understanding of equality / inequalities (4PR) (Historical Thinking and Skills 4).
  • Illustrated a current event through the format of a political cartoon, incorporating humor (6PR).
  • Responded verbally to other students artwork using art criticism techniques. (1RE).

Materials and Preparation: 

  • 6 x 6 white cardstock
  • Pencils
  • Thin black sharpies
  • Colored pencils 
  • Rulers (2 per table) 


Student examples: