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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


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • discuss the differences between argument, persuasion, and propaganda.

  • analyze visual texts individually, in small groups, and as a whole class.

  • (optionally) write an analytical essay.

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Session One

  1. Display the Uncle Sam recruiting poster using an overhead projector.

  2. Ask students to share what they know about the poster, noting their responses on the board or on chart paper.

  3. If students have not volunteered the information, provide some basic background information.

  4. Working in small groups, have students use the Analyzing a Visual Message interactive to analyze the Uncle Sam poster.

  5. Emphasize that students should use complete, clear sentences in their responses. The printout that the interactive creates will not include the questions, so students responses must provide the context. Be sure to connect the requirement for complete sentences to the reason for the requirement (so that students will understand the information on the printout without having to return to the Analyzing a Visual Message interactive.

  6. As students work, encourage them to look for concrete details in the poster that support their statements.

  7. Circulate among students as they work, providing support and feedback.

  8. Once students have completed the questions included in the Analyzing a Visual Message interactive, display the poster again and ask students to share their observations and analyses.

  9. Emphasize and support responses that will tie to the next session, where students will complete an independent analysis.

  10. Pass out and go over copies of the Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda Chart.

  11. Ask students to apply genre descriptions to the Uncle Sam poster, using the basic details they gathered in their analysis to identify the poster's genre.

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Session Two

  1. Review the Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda? chart.

  2. Elicit examples of argument, persuasion, and propaganda from the students, asking them to provide supporting details that confirm the genres of the examples. Provide time for students to explore some of the Websites in the Resources section to explore the three concepts.

  3. When you feel that the students are comfortable with the similarities and differences of the three genres, explain to the class that they are going to be choosing and analyzing World War II posters for a more detailed analysis.

  4. Pass out the Document Analysis for Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda, and go over the questions in the analysis sheet. Draw connections between the questions and what the related answers will reveal about a document's genre.

  5. Demonstrate the Analyzing a World War II Poster interactive.

  6. Point out the connections between the questions in the interactive and the questions listed on the Document Analysis for Argument, Persuasion, or Propaganda.

  7. If students need additional practice with analysis, choose a poster and use the Analyzing a World War II Poster interactive to work through all the analysis questions as a whole class.

  8. Explain the final format that students will use for their analysis—you can have students submit their analysis printout from the Analyzing a World War II Poster interactive, or they can submit polished essays that explain their analysis.

  9. Pass out copies of the Poster Analysis Rubric, and explain the expectations for the project.

  10. If time allows, post the World War II Poster Collection URLs below, and invite students to begin exploring the collections for a poster to analyze.

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Session Three

  1. Review the poster analysis project and the handouts from previous session.

  2. Answer any questions about the Analyzing a World War II Poster interactive then give students the entire class session to work through their analysis.

  3. Circulate among students as they work, providing support and feedback.

  4. Remind students to refer to the Poster Analysis Rubric to check their work before saving or printing their work.

  5. If you are having students submit their printouts for the final project, collect their work at the end of the session. Otherwise, if you have asked students to write the essay, ask them to use their printout to write the essay for homework. Collect the essays and printouts at the beginning of the next session (or when desired).

  6. If desired, students might share the posters they have chosen and their conclusions with the whole class or in small groups.

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The Propaganda Techniques in Literature and Online Political Ads lesson plan offers additional information about propaganda as well as some good Websites on propaganda.

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Use the Poster Analysis Rubric to evaluate and give feedback on students’ work. If students have written a more formal paper, you might provide additional guidelines for standard written essays, as typically used in your class.

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