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Lesson Plan

Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda? Analyzing World War II Posters

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Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda? Analyzing World War II Posters

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Teresa Henning, Ph.D

Teresa Henning, Ph.D

Marshall, Minnesota


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson plan, students analyze World War II posters, chosen from online collections, to explore how argument, persuasion and propaganda differ. The lesson begins with a full-class exploration of the famous "I WANT YOU FOR U.S. ARMY" poster, wherein students explore the similarities and differences between argument, persuasion, and propaganda and apply one of the genres to the poster. Students then work independently to complete an online analysis of another poster and submit either an analysis worksheet or use their worksheet responses to write a more formal essay.

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  • Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda?: This handout clarifies the goals, techniques, and methods used in the genres of argument, persuasion, and propaganda.

  • Analyzing a World War II Poster: This interactive assists students in careful analysis of a World War II poster of their own selection for its use of argument, persuasion, or propaganda.

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Visual texts are the focus of this lesson, which combines more traditional document analysis questions with an exploration of World War II posters. The 1975 "Resolution on Promoting Media Literacy" states that explorations of such multimodal messages "enable students to deal constructively with complex new modes of delivering information, new multisensory tactics for persuasion, and new technology-based art forms." The 2003 "Resolution on Composing with Nonprint Media" reminds us that "Today our students are living in a world that is increasingly non-printcentric. New media such as the Internet, MP3 files, and video are transforming the communication experiences of young people outside of school. Young people are composing in nonprint media that can include any combination of visual art, motion (video and film), graphics, text, and sound-all of which are frequently written and read in nonlinear fashion." To support the literacy skills that students must sharpen to navigate these many media, activities such as the poster analysis in this lesson plan provide bridging opportunities between traditional understandings of genre and visual representations.

Further Reading

National Council of Teachers of English. 1975. Resolution on Promoting Media Literacy. October 2009. Web. http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/promotingmedialit

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National Council of Teachers of English. 2003. Resolution on Composing with Nonprint Media." Urbana, IL: NCTE. http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/composewithnonprint.

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