October 2019


Students will:

  • Understand arguments supporting and opposing the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union.
  • Examine the potential political and economic implications of the UK withdrawing from the EU.
  • Identify and analyze the techniques political cartoonists use to express opinions and encourage critical thinking about contemporary issues.
  • Develop media source analysis skills and monitor developments over time using various media sources.

Note to Teachers

This lesson offers teachers flexibility. The political cartoon analysis part of the lesson could be done after watching the two recommended videos listed under resources and having students refer to “Brexit: Key Terms.” Teachers who want to explore the issues surrounding Brexit in greater depth can use the short reading “An Introduction to Brexit.” Teachers might assign “An Introduction to Brexit” as homework the night before to leave more time for cartoon analysis in class, followed by a class discussion.


Vox Video: The United Kingdom is leaving the EU. Here’s what that means.

BBC Video: What is no-deal Brexit? 

An Introduction to Brexit

Brexit: Key Terms (optional)

Brexit: Analyzing Political Cartoons

Brexit: Political Cartoons Slideshow

Monitoring the Situation (optional)

In the Classroom

1. Introduction

Play the following two videos from Vox and BBC to introduce the topic of Brexit. Review the major points of the videos with students. Ask the class to discuss the following questions based on what they learned from the videos or any previous knowledge they might have about Brexit: 

  • What events led up to the Brexit vote?
  • Why is Brexit so controversial? 
  • What impact might Brexit have on the United Kingdom and the European Union?

2. Brexit Background

Distribute “An Introduction to Brexit” to all students. Ask students to read the handout silently and circle words or phrases they do not understand. Clarify any questions. You may wish to distribute “Brexit: Key Terms” (optional) as an additional reference for students. The videos included in the Additional Resources section below may also help to make some issues clearer to students. 

Invite students to share their views on the following questions:

  • What are the most convincing arguments for the UK to remain in the EU or to leave the EU?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to resolving Brexit?
  • What do you think is the best way to resolve Brexit?
  • Which solution would be the most democratic and reflect the will of UK citizens?

You may wish to project the images in Who’s Who in Brexit, focusing especially on Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and Nigel Farage, since they are featured in several cartoons related to Brexit.

3. Analyzing Cartoons

Divide the class into groups of three or four students each. Distribute the handout “Brexit: Analyzing Political Cartoons” to each student. Review the introduction with your class, emphasizing the techniques cartoonists use to convey opinions on political issues. You may wish to share the slideshow of cartoons with students as well. Review the first cartoon, and answer the questions on the handout with your students to model the assignment. What techniques are being used? What is the message of the cartoon? How is this cartoon related to what the class knows about Brexit? What are different ways in which the cartoon might be interpreted?

Assign two additional cartoons from the handout to each group and ask students to answer the questions on the handout. Tell students they should be prepared to share their analysis with the rest of the class.

Have each group present their political cartoons while projecting the images. If multiple groups analyzed the same cartoons, you may wish to have them present together or on different questions from the activity, keeping in mind that different groups of students may interpret each cartoon differently.

As a class, discuss how cartoonists provide perspective on issues related to Brexit. 

  • Were students able to identify the message of each cartoon? If so, what were the cartoonists trying to express?
  • What do these cartoons say about Brexit? Do the cartoons share favorable or unfavorable opinions of Brexit?
  • Ask if students noticed connections between or among cartoons. Did multiple cartoons present a similar message? Did any cartoons disagree with each other?

Extra Challenges

Monitoring the Situation in the News
The debate over Brexit is likely to continue for some time. The handout “Monitoring the Situation” will help students follow developments about Brexit from media sources in the coming weeks. As a starting point, refer students to the list of news sources below. Encourage students to apply media source analysis skills and seek out multiple media sources as they follow developments. After students have completed the activity, bring the class together to debrief. How has the situation evolved? What are the most significant new developments?

News Sources for Monitoring Brexit
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Daily Telegraph (UK)
Financial Times (UK)
The Guardian (UK)
The Times (UK)
Deutsche Welle (DW) (English language news from Germany)

Additional Resources

These additional resources may help students to learn more about related topics.
Brexit Basics: Single Market (video)
Brexit Basics: Customs Union (video)
Brexit Basics: Free Trade (video)
Brexit Basics: Transition Period (video)
Brexit Basics: Irish backstop (video)

Introduction to Parliament (video)
House of Commons (video)
House of Lords (video)

Learning materials about the EU (resource link)

Thank you to Amy Sanders, Choices Teaching Fellow, who created this lesson. Published 10.17.2019.

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