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Propaganda Essay Writing

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Lesson Plan

Propaganda Techniques in Literature and Online Political Ads


Grades9 – 12
Lesson Plan TypeStandard Lesson
Estimated TimeFour 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author





After reading or viewing a text, students are introduced to propaganda techniques and then identify examples in the text. Students discuss these examples, and then explore the use of propaganda in popular culture by looking at examples in the media. Students identify examples of propaganda techniques used in clips of online political advertisements and explain how the techniques are used to persuade voters. Next, students explore the similarities of the propaganda techniques used in the literary text and in the online political ads to explain the commentary the text is making about contemporary society. Finally, students write a persuasive essay in support of a given statement.

In this lesson, some specific references are made to Brave New World as examples. A text list suggests additional novels, short stories, plays, and movies that will also work for this activity.

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  • Literature Featuring Propaganda Techniques and Themes: This booklist provides lists of novels, short stories, plays, and movies that can be used in lessons about propaganda.
  • Persuasion Map: Use this online tool to map out and print your persuasive argument. Included are spaces to map out your thesis, three reasons, and supporting details.
  • Persuasive Writing Scoring Guide: Use this reproducible rubric to assess the focus; organization; sentence fluency and word choice; and conventions of persuasive writing assignments.

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In the NCTE publication Lesson Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classrooms, editor Scott Sullivan notes that by "making students aware of the ways information is used and manipulated, we allow them to begin making wiser, more informed choices" (176). Students benefit doubly, then, by studying the concept of propaganda in a traditional literary context and in real-world applications pulled from multimedia sources. Their understanding of the literary text is enriched and enhanced and they are encouraged to "become more informed and conscientious citizens" (174). In this lesson, which encourages students to explore "the intrinsic relationships between content, product [or candidate], and profit [or power], they begin to see that what may once have seemed an objective enterprise [a political campaign] is, in fact, subject to a variety of influences, some subtle, some not" (175).

Further Reading

Christel, Mary, and Scott Sullivan, eds. 2007. Lesson Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classrooms. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.



Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).



Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.



Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.



Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.



Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.



Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).


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Resources & Preparation


  • A literary text featuring propaganda techniques (see booklist for ideas)

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Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Persuasion Map

The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.


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  1. Students should have read or viewed the text that you've chosen for this lesson. Several of the books on the list (and some appropriate Young Adult novels) are featured in the Text Messages podcast episode Teen Time Travel.
  2. Make copies of the handouts: Propaganda Techniques Used in Literature, Analyzing Propaganda in Print Ads and Commercials, Propaganda Techniques Used in Online Political Ads , and Persuasive Writing Scoring Guide.
  3. If desired, make copies or an overhead transparency of the Persuasive Essay Assignment.
  4. Read the background information related to online political advertisements.
  5. Test the Persuasion Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

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Instructional Plan


Students will:

  • analyze texts to identify different types of propaganda techniques.
  • identify and explain the goal of propaganda techniques used in a work of literature and an example of non-print media.
  • compare and contrast examples of propaganda techniques used in a work of literature and visual media.
  • identify and gather evidence from a secondary source.
  • use visual literacy skills to analyze, interpret, and explain non-print media.
  • participate in a class discussion, gather information, and write a persuasive essay that synthesizes information from their explorations of propaganda.

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Session One

  1. In this session, students will move toward a definition of propaganda by responding in writing or verbally to the question, "What is propaganda?"
  2. Have students discuss their thoughts and opinions of propaganda as you share information from the Wikipedia definition of propaganda and/or the What is Propaganda? definition with the class.
  3. Ask students if they have ever seen or heard propaganda used. If so, have students share what they saw or heard and what effect it had on them. Depending on their knowledge of propaganda, the effect may have been the same as or different from what the propagandist intended. Ask them to think about the reasons leaders and organizations often employ propaganda.
  4. Discuss how propaganda is a powerful tool when combined with mass media.
  5. Review examples of propaganda and discuss the ideas and examples with the students.
  6. In pairs or small groups, have the students fill out the Propaganda Techniques Used in Literature chart.
    • Identify an example of each type of propaganda technique used in the text you've chosen.
    • Explain what goal each technique is trying to accomplish.
    • Consider why the propaganda in the text is not challenged by most people in the society.
    • Identify any characters who seem to question the propaganda in the text (e.g., John the Savage, Helmholtz, and Bernard in Brave New World) and explore the possible reasons for their questioning.

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Session Two

  1. As you move to a discussion of propaganda in literature in this session, have the students share the types of propaganda they have found in the text they examined in the first session.
  2. As students present their ideas, draw attention to whether students identify the same propaganda techniques. If there are any differences among the examples or techniques, ask students to consider whether more than one applies.
  3. Using the answers from the Propaganda Techniques Used in Literature chart, invite the students to discuss the following questions:
    • Why is the propaganda in the text not challenged by most people in the society?
    • Which characters do question the propaganda and what causes their questioning?
  4. To provide students the opportunity to make connections to propaganda in their own lives, assign Analyzing Propaganda in Print Ads and Commercials for homework. This activity asks students to look for examples of propaganda in their world. Online video clip sites such as YouTube are useful resources for students to explore. Invite students also to bring in the ads they use for their assignment or video clips from television or movies.
  5. Before the next session, select two or three political election advertisements from the Internet to show to students during the next session. If you cannot easily project the ads, students can also view the advertisements at home or at a public computer. If students will explore the advertisements on their own, be sure to allow enough time between this and the following session for students to complete the viewing.

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Session Three

  1. Begin this session, focusing on identifying propaganda in cotemporary and historical political advertisements, by reviewing the Analyzing Propaganda in Print Ads and Commercials sheet that students completed for homework. Allow students to share any examples they brought with them.
  2. Show students the two political advertisements you've chosen for the session.
  3. Use the Propaganda Techniques Used in Online Political Ads handout to help students respond to the following questions, using the two selected political advertisements:
    • Who are the members of the target audience—women, men, young voters, baby boomers, senior citizens?
    • Is the political ad trying to sell a message (tough/soft on crime, cut/raise taxes, strong/weak defense, clean up the mess in Washington) or the candidate (has experience, creates new ideas, tells the truth, tells lies, is a loving family member)?
    • How does the political ad use production elements (sound effects, music, camera angles and movement, black and white or in color, special effects, graphics) to sell the message?
    • What kind of propaganda techniques are used in the advertisement?
    • What facts are being used in the ads? Who's providing the facts and where did they get them?
    • Is the political advertising effective? Did it get the message across? Will voters vote for the candidate? Are you convinced? Explain each of your answers.
    • Explain the connections between propaganda used in the political ad and propaganda used in the literary text you explored in earlier sessions.
  4. Using links to Websites from the online political campaign sites or from historical sites (see Resources section), assign the students the task of evaluating online political advertisements, using the Propaganda Techniques Used in Online Political Adssheet as a guide.
  5. After completing their work with online ads, invite students to discuss the following questions:
    • What facts are being used in the ads?
    • Who is providing the facts and where did they get them?
    • Is the political advertising effective? Did it get the message across? Will voters vote for the candidate? Are you convinced? Explain each of your answers.
    • Explain any connections between the propaganda used in the political ad and propaganda used in the literary text you explored in earlier sessions.

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Session Four

  1. After students have completed their investigation of propaganda techniques in the various texts, ask them to apply their new learning by writing a persuasive essay:
    Using specific examples of propaganda techniques from the piece of literature you've explored and the online political advertisements, write a well-organized essay that argues in support or against the following statement:
    "It is essential in a democratic society that young people and adults learn how to think, learn how to make up their minds. They must learn how to think independently, and they must learn how to think together. They must come to conclusions, but at the same time they must recognize the right of other men to come to opposite conclusions. So far as individuals are concerned, the art of democracy is the art of thinking and discussing independently together." (Institute for Propaganda Analysis. The Fine Art of Propaganda. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939)
  2. In their persuasive essay, students should
    • structure ideas and arguments in a sustained and logical fashion.
    • use specific rhetorical devices to support assertions (e.g., appeal to logic through reasoning; appeal to emotion or ethical belief; personal anecdote, case study, or analogy).
    • clarify and defend positions with precise and relevant evidence, including facts, expert opinions, quotations, and/or expressions of commonly accepted beliefs and logical reasoning.
    • address readers' concerns, counterclaims, biases, and/or expectations.
  3. Share the Persuasive Writing Scoring Guide to explore the requirements of the assignment in more detail.
  4. Demonstrate the Persuasion Map and work through a sample topic to show students how to use the tool to structure their essays.
  5. Allow students the remainder of class to work with the Persuasion Map as a brainstorming tool and to guide them through work on their papers.
  6. Encourage students to share their thoughts and drafts with the class as they work for feedback and support.

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  • As students discuss propaganda and the issues in text, listen for specific evidence from the story that connects to the information students have researched. The connections they make between the details in the novel and the details they choose as the supporting reasons for their position will reveal their understanding and engagement with the text.
  • Monitor student interaction and progress during group work to assess social skills and assist any students having problems with the project.
  • Use the Persuasive Writing Scoring Guide to assess students’ papers.
  • In addition to the specific feedback on the persuasive essay that students write, you can pay attention to the following indications of student involvement in the project:
    • Student participation in all activities and completion of homework assignments
    • Quality of student responses to in-class and homework activities

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Related Resources


Grades   6 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Vote for Me! Making Presidential Commercials Using Avatars

After researching political platforms of past presidents through primary sources and other resources, students create commercials for these presidents using Voki, an online web tool that produces speaking avatars.


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Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Persuasion Map

The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.


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Grades   7 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  August 22

Science-fiction author Ray Bradbury was born in 1920.

Students do a Bradbury author study and then create flyers to advertise their favorite story using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.


Grades   3 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  November 7

Today is Election Day.

Election Day is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.


Grades   3 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  January 22

The "1984" Macintosh commercial aired today during Super Bowl XVIII.

Original advertisements are created after students review advertising techniques they've studied.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Calendar Activity  |  August 2

James Baldwin was born today in 1924.

Students read and respond to an essay by Baldwin, commenting on the contemporary resonance of his ideas.


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Grades   6 – 12  |  Strategy Guide

Reading Online

In this Strategy Guide you will learn how online reading differs from offline reading and strategies to build and reinforce the skills that online reading requires.


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Grades   7 – 12  |  Professional Library  |  Book

Lesson Plans for Creating Media-Rich Classrooms

This volume offers a collection of media literacy lessons for the secondary English classroom, including a CD of student handouts, teacher resources, and sample media files.


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Lauricia Matuska

June 26, 2011

This is the second unit plan written by Junius Wright that I have used, and both work excellently. Each lesson holds the interest of the students and presents its objectives in a way that students can relate to and understand. Additionally, neither lesson is not too long - they are not projects that take weeks. Rather, they teach their respective points and drive them home in a manner of days. In the future, I plan to begin my searches for lesson plans and story-related materials among the other lessons developed by Mr. Wright.



Propaganda was one of the most important tools the Nazis used to shape the beliefs and attitudes of the German public. Through posters, film, radio, museum exhibits, and other media, they bombarded the German public with messages designed to build support for and gain acceptance of their vision for the future of Germany. The gallery of images below exhibits several examples of Nazi propaganda, and the introduction that follows explores the history of propaganda and how the Nazis sought to use it to further their goals.

Introduction to the Visual Essay

The readings in this chapter describe the Nazis’ efforts to consolidate their power and create a German “national community” in the mid-1930s. Propaganda—information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions—was one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to accomplish these goals.

Hitler and Goebbels did not invent propaganda. The word itself was coined by the Catholic Church to describe its efforts to discredit Protestant teachings in the 1600s. Over the years, almost every nation has used propaganda to unite its people in wartime. Both sides spread propaganda during World War I, for example. But the Nazis were notable for making propaganda a key element of government even before Germany went to war again. One of Hitler’s first acts as chancellor was to establish the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, demonstrating his belief that controlling information was as important as controlling the military and the economy. He appointed Joseph Goebbels as director. Through the ministry, Goebbels was able to penetrate virtually every form of German media, from newspapers, film, radio, posters, and rallies to museum exhibits and school textbooks, with Nazi propaganda. 

Whether or not propaganda was truthful or tasteful was irrelevant to the Nazis. Goebbels wrote in his diary, "no one can say your propaganda is too rough, too mean; these are not criteria by which it may be characterized. It ought not be decent nor ought it be gentle or soft or humble; it ought to lead to success."1 Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that to achieve its purpose, propaganda must "be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away."

Some Nazi propaganda used positive images to glorify the government’s leaders and its various activities, projecting a glowing vision of the “national community.” Nazi propaganda could also be ugly and negative, creating fear and loathing by portraying the regime’s “enemies” as dangerous and even sub-human. The Nazis’ distribution of antisemitic films, newspaper cartoons, and even children’s books aroused centuries-old prejudices against Jews and also presented new ideas about the racial impurity of Jews. The newspaper Der Stürmer (The Attacker), published by Nazi Party member Julius Streicher, was a key outlet for antisemitic propaganda. 

This visual essay includes a selection of Nazi propaganda images, both “positive” and “negative.” It focuses on posters that Germans would have seen in newspapers like Der Stürmer and passed in the streets, in workplaces, and in schools. Some of these posters were advertisements for traveling exhibits—on topics like “The Eternal Jew” or the evils of communism—that were themselves examples of propaganda. 

Connection Questions

  1. As you explore the images in this visual essay, consider what each image is trying to communicate to the viewer. Who is the audience for this message? How is the message conveyed?
  2. Do you notice any themes or patterns in this group of propaganda images? How do the ideas in these images connect to what you have already learned about Nazi ideology? How do they extend your thinking about Nazi ideas? 
  3. Based on the images you analyze, how do you think the Nazis used propaganda to define the identities of individuals and groups? What groups and individuals did Nazi propaganda glorify? What stereotypes did it promote? 
  4. Why was propaganda so important to Nazi leadership? How do you think Nazi propaganda influenced the attitudes and actions of Germans in the 1930s?
  5. Some scholars caution that there are limits to the power of propaganda; they think it succeeds not because it persuades the public to believe an entirely new set of ideas but because it expresses beliefs people already hold. Scholar Daniel Goldhagen writes: “No man, [no] Hitler, no matter how powerful he is, can move people against their hopes and desires. Hitler, as powerful a figure as he was, as charismatic as he was, could never have accomplished this [the Holocaust] had there not been tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of ordinary Germans who were willing to help him.”2 Do you agree? Would people have rejected Nazi propaganda if they did not already share, to some extent, the beliefs it communicated? 
  6. Can you think of examples of propaganda in society today? How do you think this propaganda influences the attitudes and actions of people today? Is there a difference between the impact of propaganda in a democracy that has a free press and an open marketplace of ideas and the impact of propaganda in a dictatorship with fewer non-governmental sources of information?