© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Teaching Guide

Teaching Progressive Era Politics

It's a Jungle out there.


When it comes to contemporary political reformers, the original progressives were like the Atari 2600: the trailblazers responsible for getting things started.

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing the key people (Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Darwin) and important documents (The Jungle) of the period.
  • current resources exploring the long-lasting legacy of the progressive era.
  • related guides on the Women's Movement, Immigration, and Muckrakers.

And much more.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: Theodore Roosevelt's record of reform has sometimes been exaggerated, but the press loved him and celebrated his achievements in dozens of political cartoons.

In this exercise, your students will examine some of these cartoons and research and explain their meaning.

Length of Lesson: One class period.

Materials Needed:

Step One: Briefly look through the cartoons below with your students. 

NOTE: You can find all of these cartoons—and tons more!—at the Puck Magazine page of the Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt. Many of them have dates and background info.

Step Two: Once you've given them a brief look together, tell students to choose their two favorites and research their meanings. For each of their cartoons of choice, they should then write a one-paragraph explanation revealing the story behind each and describing how imagery and symbolism are used to convey their meanings.

You can have students work individually or in pairs for this assignment.

Step Three: Bring the class back together and encourage students to share their descriptions and compare interpretations. 

Step Four: To provide a little closure, have students vote for their favorite cartoon and discuss why the most popular choice is, in fact, the most popular choice. 

Instructions for Your Students

Surrounded by serpents. Steady at the helm. As a Centaur. 

These are just a few of the ways Teddy Roosevelt was portrayed in the political cartoons of his era.

Political cartoonists (who have been around for a long, long time) loved drawing Roosevelt, and their depictions of him did much to shape the president's image. So what kind of president were they drawing?

Today you'll look at some images of Roosevelt as he was portrayed in political cartoons and choose your two favorites to research and explain. 

Step One: Briefly look through the cartoons below with your teacher and classmates. (Psst! Just look. No discussion yet.)

Step Two: Once you've seen all of the cartoons, choose your two favorites and research them. Then, for each one, write a one-paragraph explanation of its meaning. Be sure to describe any important imagery or symbols.

Step Three: When everyone has finished their paragraphs, get back together with the rest of the class and compare your descriptions and interpretations of the cartoons. 

Step Four: To wrap things up, take a quick poll. Have everyone vote for their favorite cartoon and discuss why the most popular choice is, in fact, the most popular choice. 


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
back to top