Analyzing Visual Images and Stereotyping

Use this teaching strategy to lead students in a critical analysis of an image, and to help students develop and enhance observational, interpretive, and critical thinking skills. 


In this strategy students will:

  • Develop awareness of historical context
  • Develop critical thinking skills, particularly in regards to visual images
  • Enhance their observation and interpretive skills
  • Develop conceptual learning techniques


Step One:
Look Deeply: Look at the picture for a good long time. Observe shapes, colors, textures, the position of people and/or objects, etc.

Step Two:
Write down below what you see without making any interpretation about what the picture is trying to say.

I see...

Step Three:
What questions do you have about this picture that you would need answered before you can begin to interpret it? (Ask as many questions as you have.)

I want to know... I was wondering...


Step Four:
Discuss your questions with two other people in the class to try to find some answers.

Step Five:
Given the historical context and subject of the piece, what do you think the cartoonist is trying to say (what does the piece mean?), and who do you think is the intended audience?

I think the artist is saying...
I think the intended audience is...

Step Six:
Discuss your interpretation with the class, and be prepared to support your view by referring to specifics in the drawing and in what you know about the history of the time.


Use this technique in class to analyze a:

  • piece of art
  • photograph
  • political cartoon
  • propaganda poster
  • video clip
  • (any visual image)

One example of using this technique could be with the propaganda cartoon (The Eternal Jew) found below and on page 224 of the Holocaust and Human Behavior Resource book. After discussing the interpretation of the cartoon with the class, explain to the students that the Nazis used this cartoon for antisemetic propaganda and ask students the following questions:

How does it portray a Jew? Why would the Nazis want Germans to see Jews in this way? How do political cartoons make use of ideas of "we" and "they"?

Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) 1937

Cover of a 1937 publication advertising the German exhibition "The Eternal Jew"


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