Teaching American History Project Lesson
  Sam O'Brien

Author: Sam O’Brien

Unit Title: WWII

Lesson Title: Propaganda: The Study of Two Different Perspectives

Subject: U. S. History

Level: 11th grade

Length of Lesson: Three sixty minute lessons

This lesson will explore the nature of propaganda and its use by both Germany and the United States during World War II. Students will understand the influence and use of propaganda by both America and Germany prior to and during the conflict. Through looking at propaganda, students will understand nationalistic feelings that existed in both countries. Students will also see how cartoons can be used as racist


Students will understand the meaning and use of propaganda during the war by the German and American Press.
Students will be able to identify stereotypes and Anti-Semitism in propaganda used during World War II and today.
Students will be able to identify racism and stereotypes in both American and German propaganda.
Students will develop their own nationalist examples of American or German propaganda.


Nevada Content Standards and Benchmarks:
8.12.7 Examine the causes, course, and effects of the Holocaust, including: “Aryan
supremacy”, Nuremburg Laws, Kristallnacht, “Final Solution,” and concentration and
death camps.

8.12.8 Analyze the effects of WWII on the home front in the United States, including: internment camps, technologies, economic, developments, propaganda, women/minority


Student Activities

Day one:

1) Instructor will write Journal question on board: What is propaganda? What is propaganda used for? Students will respond to this question in their journals (10 min). Students and Instructor will discuss propaganda and its use.

2) Instructor will ask students what role propaganda may have played in World War II (10) min. Instructor will hand out guided note taking guide for students for both German and American propaganda. Instructor will play the first clip of American posters and propaganda during the war years. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAttrxM0nN4   Students will follow along and answer questions on a guided question guide (refer to attachment A). Teacher will stop students through out the five minute segment to check for understanding and discuss several of the reoccurring themes. (30 min)

3) Instructor will ask students to write down one thing they learned from the day’s lesson on a small strip of paper and hand to the instructor as they file out of the room (5-10) min.

Second Day

1) Instructor will check for understanding of material from the previous day’s lesson with a short question and answer session (5 min).

2) Instructor will play a four minute clip of German propaganda and the instructor will hand out a guided movie guide for students to fill out (attachment B).  This is the you tube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM43UznSX1s  (20 min).

3) Students are broken up into five groups of four and are given a copy of various German posters link http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/posters2.htm. Each student is given a blown up color reproduction of German Poster along with a translation of the words and an artifact sheet to analyze their posters. (10-15 min)

4) Each student then reports out his/her poster to the greater group. What is the significance of the poster? What does the poster suggest? How might it be viewed as propaganda? Students will use this artifact analysis sheet http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets/poster_analysis_worksheet.pdf (20 min)

Third Day

1) Students fill out a short assessment of the most memorable poster from group presentations (this needs to be one other than their own, see attachment C) five min.

2) Students will view short segment of German parade, propaganda and people’s responses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSaq9yNbzXs and discuss why people may be swayed by public opinion and propaganda. Look at Germany and to some degree America has an example (15 min).

3) Students will learn about anti-Semitism and how propaganda and stereotypes have contributed to the treatment of the Jewish people. Handout key definitions to all the students and go over the words in depth. (15) min

4) Activity looking at two anti-Semitic cartoons from 1938 and 2005. Students will analyze cartoons in groups and answer questions (attachments D&E).

Day 4

  • Instructor will review with students how cartoons could be used as propaganda (5-10 min).
  • Students will view American anti- German propaganda and answer worksheet (still to be developed) attachment F (20 min) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0emxx9gMhTQ
  • Students will break into groups of two and develop a pro-American or pro- German propaganda poster (30 min). One writer and one illustrator.

Day 5

1) Students will present posters and I will grade them using rubric yet to be developed. (60 min)


Extended Enrichment Materials:
Students can research the veracity and truthfulness of Propaganda’s claims and posters during World War II.
Students can write an opinion editorial piece aimed at debunking myths and claims from both America and Germany.
Students can research propaganda today in our society and compare it to over sixty years ago. How far has society grown and changed?

Terms and Definitions:
Anti-Semitism: Hostility toward Jews as an ethnic or religious group, often accompanied by social, economic and political discrimination.

Discrimination: Action based on prejudice or biased beliefs that results in unfair treatment of individuals or groups; unjust conditions in areas such as employment, housing and education.

Propaganda: The deliberate spreading of ideas or information, true or untrue, with the purpose of manipulating public opinion to gain support for one’s cause or to discourage support for another.

Racism: A set of beliefs based on perceived “racial” superiority and inferiority; a system of domination that is played out in everyday interactions, and the unequal distribution of privilege, resources and power.

Stereotype: A simplistic, firmly held belief, often negative, about individual characteristics generalized to all people within that group.

Nationalism:  loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.


Evaluation /Assessment:
Student knowledge of the topic will be informally assessed at the beginning of the lesson plan with a journal question covering propaganda and its use.
Student knowledge will continue to be informally assessed during the lesson with instructor driven questions and class discussions.
Students will also be informally assessed using poster artifacts’ response worksheets and primary documents.
Students will also be assessed through the use of a poster rubric.