Lesson Plan: Social Studies


In addition to teaching our students how to critically analyze written texts, we also have to teach them how to read non-print text and various visual media. Teens today are inundated with hundreds of visual advertisements a day on the TV, the internet, their cell phones, and even on the billboards they pass to and from school. As students learn the propaganda techniques used in various forms of media, they can begin to deconstruct the visual and verbal rhetoric that is used and, ultimately, learn to be more critical of propaganda and its influence on their opinions, actions, and beliefs.

The Remember games and lesson activities, texts, and films included in this unit engage students in independent and group projects that focus their attention on core rhetorical appeals in various forms of media. Each aspect of this unit demands that students look more closely at the images that flash before them as they search for things online or on their smartphones, and as they watch TV or even YouTube. Increasing their visual and verbal literacy enables students to absorb and respond more critically to the messages contained in advertisements, commercials, magazines, newspapers, and even novels like Feed.

General Understandings
  1. Propaganda is designed to influence how you think, act and/or feel.
  2. Propaganda influences by using visual/verbal language that calls upon deliberate, credible, and emotional appeals.
  3. The impact of strategies of propaganda is correlated to one’s ability to analyze and think critically about visual/verbal messages.
Learning Objectives: 21st Century Skills

The 21st Century Skills framework is a complex system that incorporates content knowledge, specific skills, expertise, and literacies to create a cohesive system of student outcomes and support systems. The Teen Thoughts on Democracy program utilizes the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework to further the skills cultivated through this progressive game-based curriculum such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation.


Download this user-friendly chart for detailed information on lesson components and how to access the lesson resources for Propaganda theme.

Learning Objective

Remember and a second game called Symbol Quest are both designed to make students aware of visual symbols and of strategies of persuasion in propaganda across different cultures. These small group card games provoke students to use their visual literacy skills to carefully observe and analyze the graphic design strategies employed in print propaganda. The posters included in the card deck are examples from The Wolfsonian collection of historical propaganda employed by different countries during the early twentieth century.

Basic Strategy

The card deck may be used to play two different games. Remember is a game of “concentration,” requiring players to match pairs of identical images. Symbol Quest is a game where players create sets of cards containing like or similar images or symbols; e.g. cards containing flags or depicting women and children. Sets can also be created by matching types of propaganda strategies, such as direct address, fear mongering, or stereotyping.

Detailed Teacher Instructions are included in the Remember game materials below.

  1. Once the game is completed, have all the students return to their seats in the circle for a debrief.
  2. This is an opportunity for you to guide the students’ reflection and prepare them for the literature you plan to study or have already studied.
  3. Guiding Questions (Adapt depending on how you approach the lesson below.)
      • The images on the game cards are from a number of different countries and contain multiple languages. Yet, the visual symbols that are used are often not different, such as a hand, a flag, or a group of people like soldiers or children. Why do you think the symbols are similar for different countries?
      • What other types of symbols do you see repeated?
      • In what ways are the symbols being used?
      • What might be the specific appeal for each symbol?
      • Do they intend to mean the same thing to the all viewers?
      • Are there certain segments of the population or certain types of people that might view the symbols differently? If so, in what way(s) would the meaning or the intended purpose of the symbols change or take on new definitions?
      • Color can be used to create a mood or feeling. Which colors do you tend to see associated with certain moods in the propaganda posters?
      • How are these colors used? Provide specific examples.
      • Are any of the colors used ironically?
      • In which examples do you feel the strategies of propaganda were used most successfully?
      • How were the strategies, colors, symbols, words, and typefaces used together?
      • How effective do you believe they were in their purpose? Why were they effective?
    Analyzing Propaganda Techniques
    1. Present or share the link to a Prezi presentation “Analyzing Visual Rhetoric.” Discuss the images with students and instruct them to take notes on the presentation. Or review the Common Propaganda Strategies hand-out.
    2. The students’ first select two product advertisements, either print or video:
        • one ad they would be proud of as a representation of our society or how they would like our culture to be known
        • another ad that is embarrassing for our society or culture.
    3. Direct students to write a short reflection (1-2 paragraphs) discussing why they deemed one advertisement embarrassing and why the other advertisement elicits feelings of pride. Assist the students in this assignment by suggesting that they pay particular attention to specific propaganda strategies used, as well as visual images and the word choice. (You may want to review the Common Propaganda Strategies hand-out again.)
    4. Divide students into small groups of 3 or 4, and have them begin to analyze the 6-8 advertisements in their group, in terms of tone, emotional appeal, and propaganda technique, using the Common Emotional Appeals Worksheet.
    5. Each group presents their advertisements to the class and explains its analysis, using the short reflection notes on the qualities identified in each ad that support the “proud” ad and the “embarrassing” ad.
    6. Print and distribute the Analyzing Political Ads Worksheet and review the questions.
    7. Select and screen 2-3 political campaign ads from the videos of past presidential elections from the Museum of the Moving Image’s The Living Room Candidate website; or provide students with the URL. As they watch, students should try to analyze political campaign advertisements critically using the questions on the worksheet.
    8. As a home assignment, students choose a current presidential or other campaign ad to analyze, which can often be found on candidates’ websites or on YouTube. They complete the Analyzing Political Ads Worksheet for one ad.
    Remixing Media Messages
    1. In this activity, students will re-purpose the ten (10) examples of different types of propaganda from various sources such as newspaper editorials and cartoons, advertisements from magazines, the internet, and TV that they collected for the Analyzing Propaganda Techniques lesson in Connect.
    2. Allow each student to choose an ad and media of his/her choice from the group’s selection.
    3. Distribute the Analyzing Advertising Worksheet and review the elements of a typical advertisement with the students. Ask students to analyze the ad they selected and complete the worksheet for that ad.
    4. After completing their analyses, they will change the message to make it more “truthful,” in other words replace deceptive words or images with ones that closer reflect reality. They may need to conduct research to gather real statistics or information about the subject of the ad. This can be assigned as a home assignment. They will need access to magazines or even junk mail to cut up and paste new images and words into their ads; or they may use digital materials from the internet. They may develop a new, even ironic, slogan or copy for the ad. They may replace characters, what they are saying or thinking, or adapt the setting or environment used to sell the product.
    5. The remixed print ads should be presented in a printed hard copy form on 8 ½ x 11 sized paper. Students may also scan and adapt the ad using MS Word or Mac Pages, and save as a PDF or a JPEG.
    6. If they choose to adapt a recorded commercial, the ad can be edited on various movie editing applications, such as iMovie or MovieMaker. However, in lieu of access to technology, students can also act out their script of the commercial for the class.
    7. Encourage the students to be creative and have fun, and to use at least one propaganda strategy for each ad.
    8. The students then makes brief in-class presentations showing or performing the ads they remixed. They should be prepared to explain the choices they made in terms of strategy and the change of elements of the ad (copy, fonts, characters, and colors).
    9. The class should vote on most successful ads. They may be uploaded to the Interact section of website. (You will need to request to set up a Community Group before images can be uploaded.)
    Deconstructing Propaganda Targeting Youth

    Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood is a powerful and informative documentary produced by the Media Education Foundation (Writer & Director: Adriana Barbaro & Jeremy Earp), which assists in recognizing the ways in which corporations and various media companies are targeting their products on the youth. Media Education Foundation’s website provides a link to purchase the film, download a study guide, and access to further information and resources.

    You may also access the full video on YouTube (Fair Use Notice).


    PDF for Common Propaganda Strategies

    PDF for Identification List of Propaganda Images in Remember

    PDF for Common Emotional Appeals Worksheet

    PDF for Analyzing Political Ads Worksheet

    PDF for Analyzing Advertising Worksheet


    Analyzing Visual Rhetoric, Prezi presentation by Charlene Ortuno

    The Living Room Candidate, The Museum of the Moving Image

    Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood by Dir. Adriana Barbaro and Jeremy Earp. Media Education Foundation, 2008. DVD.