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by Michael Johnson



In this lesson, students explore propaganda techniques, and discuss how they are the targets of advertisers and politicians. Students will understand and identify how propaganda techniques are used to influence them into doing, feeling and believing a message that may or may not be of benefit to them. Students will create their own propaganda message using one (or more) of 11 known propaganda techniques. The key is to help students begin an awareness of, and the ability to identify, how their outlook on life is related to the messages they see. This lesson takes one 60-minute class period to complete.


  • Students will be able to identify what propaganda is and how is it used.
  • Students will be able to explain the various propaganda techniques and how they affect the dissemination of information.
  • Students will be able to interpret propaganda and spin to make an informed decision.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


50 minutes

Materials / resources

Blackboard or whiteboard

Teacher laptop and digital projector

Internet access

Images of propaganda

Judging Propaganda worksheet

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Warm-up (5 minutes)

Instructor will write the word propaganda on the board and ask students, as a class, what this word means to them. What do they think when they heard the word? Prompt students to think about the definition, examples, situations in which it is used, and why it would be used in a situation.

After the discussion, students should understand that propaganda refers to a type of message aimed at influencing opinions and/or the behavior of people. Propaganda may provide only partial information or be deliberately misleading. Propaganda techniques are often found on television and radio, as well as magazines and newspapers.

Step 2 — Samples of propaganda (5 minutes)

Show or distribute the attached examples of propaganda and discuss with students:

  • What technique is being used?
  • What do you think the purpose of this image is?
  • Is this propaganda?  Why or why not?  If yes, which pieces of information regarding the subject of the image are not addressed?
  • What might we learn about society based on the pieces of propaganda?
  • Is propaganda only limited to foreign governments with communistic or dictatorial regimes? Has the United States ever generated propaganda?

Step 3 — Assessing prior knowledge (5 minutes)

Ask students what types of propaganda techniques they can name. After a short discussion, introduce (or review) the following 11 techniques of propaganda:

  • Emotional appeal (i.e. fear):  Appealing to the emotions of an audience.  For example, when a propagandist warns members of her audience that disaster will result if they do not follow a particular course of action, they are using fear appeal.
  • Glittering generalities:  Words of praise for a product or person; use of nice words such as “goodness” or “patriotism.”
  • Testimonials: Famous people or figures who will appear trustworthy speak to the audience in promotion of a product or idea.
  • Bandwagon:  The basic theme of the bandwagon appeal is that “everyone else is doing it, and so should you.”
  • Plain-folks: By using the plain-folks technique, speakers attempt to convince their audience that they, and their ideas, are “of the people.”
  • Scientific approach:  Using scientific jargon (i.e. numbers, statistics, data, etc.) to convince your audience.
  • Snob appeal:  Giving the impression that people of wealth and prestige are on board.
  • Card stacking:  Only presenting one side of the issue/situation.
  • Transfer:  Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept.
  • Name-calling:  The linking of a person or idea to a negative symbol in hopes the audience will reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative symbol, instead of looking at the available evidence.
  • Euphemisms:  An attempt to pacify the audience to make an unpleasant reality more palatable. This is accomplished by using words that are bland and euphemistic.

Step 4 — Small group work and discussion (5 minutes)

Place students into small groups and hand out the attached Kids Voting worksheet, “Judging Propaganda.” Have students complete the sheet in their groups then go over the answers as a class:

  1. B        6. H
  2. E        7. C
  3. A        8. F
  4. D       9. G
  5. J       10. I


  • Why should we examine advertisements, campaigns, and various media forms in general for propaganda?  Is propaganda a negative tactic in your opinion?  Explain.
  • Out of the types of propaganda from the worksheet, which do you think is most effective and why?  Which do you think may be used to disguise truth the easiest?

Part 2 of lesson: Utilize a Propaganda Technique to Create an Advertisement

Step 5 — Identification of technique (15 minutes)

Next, assign each group one of the propaganda techniques from the handout.  Then, tell the groups to complete the following assignment:

  • You have been assigned a particular propaganda technique. As a group, create an ad to present to class using this propaganda technique. You may create an ad for a newspaper or a poster.
  • The purpose of the ad is to recruit votes for Steve Williams, who is running for your state’s Senate.
  • You may be creative in the content you provide about Williams, but it must be presented in a way that utilizes your propaganda technique.
  • Be prepared to present your ad to the remainder of class in 15 minutes.
  • Instructor note: If using this activity during an election time, assign students a real political figure for whom to create an ad. Students would then need to research facts about that figure and his/her political values and agenda so that their ad is realistic to the candidate while still utilizing the assigned propaganda technique.  

Step 6 — Student presentations (15 minutes)

Once students are finished, have them present their ad to the remainder of class without sharing the propaganda technique they were assigned.  After each presentation, instruct the rest of class to identify which technique the group utilized. Discuss:

  • How did the ads for Williams differ?
  • Of all the ads you heard/saw today from classmates, which ad would make you most want to vote for Williams and why?
  • When politicians are campaigning during elections, in what ways do they utilize the techniques that you just used in your own ads?  How do these propaganda techniques affect the election process?

Step 7 — Assessment

For homework, instruct students to bring in an example of propaganda. Students should examine magazines, the Internet, or watch TV and scan for examples then summarize the ad example on notebook paper, classify the type of propaganda used in the ad, and evaluate its effectiveness. Ask students to bring in copies of the ads if possible.


Exceeds Expectations – Student performance far exceeds minimal level of performance.

Meets Expectations – Criterion is met at a minimal level.

Revisit – Criterion not met. Student responses are weak or unfocused to be acceptable.

Exceeds expectations Meets expectations Revisit
Student understands and knows the 11 propaganda techniques.
Student created a propaganda message that fits into one (or more) of the 11 techniques.
Student presented their assigned propaganda technique to the class.
Student located a current example of propaganda.



Judging Propaganda

Listed below are the names of propaganda techniques, followed by specific examples. Match the name of the technique to the example by placing the letter in the box.

a. Emotional appeal           f. Scientific approach

b. Glittering generalities    g. Snob appeal

C.Testimonials                   h. Card stacking.

d. Bandwagon                     i. Transfer

e. Plain folks                       j. Name calling


  1. These are vague, nice-sounding descriptions of things: “Have a lawn that makes you proud.” “Get the biggest bang for your buck.” “… stronger, brighter.”
  2. This appeals to your sense of home and family: “Lemonade, just like grandma used to make.” “The hearth-baked goodness of whole grain bread.” “It’s as American as apple pie.”
  3. This is a direct line to your fear, anger, pity, or sense of humor: “Don’t be bullied into paying more taxes that you already do.” “If you know the feeling of a dead battery on a lonely road, then buy …”
  4. Since many people want to do what everyone else is doing, you are urged to get onboard and join the crowd: “Be like Mike.” “Keep up with the Jones and make your home the best it can be.” “Join the younger generation and vote for …”
  5. One blame problems on a group, person or idea: “Our downfall began with the other party.” “I inherited the budget deficit from my predecessor.”
  6. One only presents one side and hides the other. One only presents what is favorable or what is unfavorable, whatever serves the cause.
  7. These refer to people who are either unnamed, unknown or famous who have something positive to say about the product, issue or candidate. Everyone is made to sound like an expert: “Most experienced mothers depend upon …” “These movie stars are voting for …”
  8. Tests, statistics and pseudo-scientific jargon are used to be convincing: “Four out of five dentists use …” “Research shows …” “The polls show our candidate ahead.”
  9. These give the impression that people of elegance, wealth, good taste and intelligence will buy the product or vote for the issue or candidate” “When only the very best will do, buy …” “People of status will vote for …”
  10. One groups things for a stronger effect. The following combinations of traits do not necessarily go together: “Young and joyous,” “think and juicy,” “old and wise.”

Examples of Propaganda

Works Cited and Resources (2017, May 21). Name-calling. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

NC Civic Education Consortium. (2017, May 21). Propaganda and Spin. Retrieved from StudyLib:—database-of-k

Child Abuse. 2012. Photograph. Child Health Foundation. Child Health Foundation, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 21 May 2017.  <

Perkins, Matthew. “Food and Society.”: Subway Sunday: Eat Fresh? Blogger, 16 May 2014. Web. 21 May 2017. <>

Proactive. Digital Image. Propaganda Project 16 May 2014. Web. 21 May 2017. <>

Williams, Morgan. Digital image. N.p., 9 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 May 2017. <>

Beneker, Gerrit A. Digital image. Library of Congress., 1918. Web. 21 May 2017. <>.

Burger King. (2013). Big taste. Less fat. [Advertisement]. Retrieved from <>

Under Armor. (2013). The advantage is undeniable. [Advertisement]. Retrieved from <*C6Doj5eueL0gE2wu24qFAerMHUz%7C3dG0YXV4ts/>

Corona. (2014). Find your beach. [Advertisement]. Retrieved from <*C6Doj5eueL0gE2wu24qFAerMHUz%7C3dG0YXV4ts/>

Hopps, Harry R. “Destroy This Mad Brute.” Digital Desk., 1917. Web. 21 May 2017.  <>

The Concensus Project. (2011). Climate change is real. [Advertisement]. Retrieved from <*C6Doj5eueL0gE2wu24qFAerMHUz%7C3dG0YXV4ts/>

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