Based upon exercises by Tom Jantz
Modified by Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 1 week

Students will be able to:-
1. identify how the writer’s word choice affects the meaning of the text.
2. identify persuasive techniques used in pieces of propaganda.

Strand 1: Reading Process
Concept 4: Vocabulary
P.O.3: Determine how the meaning of the text is affected by the writer’s
word choice.

Strand 3: Comprehending Informational Text
Concept 3: Persuasive text
P.O.2: Describe how persuasive techniques contribute to the power of a
persuasive text.
P.O.3: Identify unsupported inferences or fallacious reasoning in the
arguments advanced in persuasive text.

W-P1. Use transitional devices: varied sentence structures; the active voice; parallel
structures; supporting details, phrases and clauses; correct spelling, punctuation,
capitalization, grammar and usage to sharpen the focus and clarify the meaning of
their writings.

Teacher Background

Resource Websites


1. As students enter the classroom have overhead #1 on which shows two headlines about the same topic from two sources that represent that event in different lights. Ask the students if both seem accurate. Discuss how two publications can present the same incident in such different ways. Share with the students that when you were looking at current events you touched on the idea that not all articles are unbiased, balanced in representing both sides, or completely accurate in their descriptions of the situation about which they are reporting. Sometimes this favoritism of one viewpoint is unconscious (due to certain cultural assumptions) and sometimes it is done purposefully to influence public opinion. When the goal of a piece of writing is to intentionally depict one side as right, virtuous, superior, etc., and the opposing side as wrong, evil, inferior, etc., that article has become propaganda.

2. Introduce the students to how a reader’s opinion might be skewed in one direction by employing subtle, and often not so subtle, techniques:
i. Examine the editorial cartoons in the newspaper. Look for use of symbols, persuasion and stereotyping as they are used to elect political humor or satire. Then determine:
What symbols were used.
What characters are represented.
What assumptions can be drawn from the cartoon(s).
What is the cartoon's opinion?
Do you agree or disagree with this opinion?
Write out your arguments telling why you agree or disagree.

This exercise explores how editorial cartoons in the newspaper drive home one viewpoint on a subject. Since cartoons engage the reader with humor most students find them interesting.

3. Go over the different techniques used to create a piece of propaganda as outlined and explained below.

Review the names and definitions of the following types of propaganda:

  • Bandwagon - Everybody's in favor of it; join the crowd.
  • Plain Folks - The users of this product or proponents of this course of action are simple, down-to-earth people like you and me.
  • Card Stacking - Distorting or omitting facts; telling half-truths.
  • Name-Calling - Stereotyping ideas or people with a bad label.
  • Glittering Generalities - Using "good" labels, such as democratic, patriotic, amazing, beautiful and exciting, that are unsupported by facts.
  • Testimonials - Seeking support for an idea or product by having it endorsed by a famous person, such as a sports figure or movie star.
  • Snob Appeal - Only the richest, most important, or most discerning people like this idea or product.
  • Transfer - Associating a respected person or idea with whatever is being promoted, such as picturing a well-known athlete in a breakfast cereal advertisement.

As you go through these (or after) ask the students to come up with numerous real world examples of each. How do advertisers or political figures use some of these techniques?

4. Invent an international problem, using real situations from international news articles as a springboard to your invented situation. (Use real names, places, and situations, and identify with articles these came from.)

5. Then, write a news article about the invented problem, keeping in mind that you are citizens of the United States and will be writing from that viewpoint.

6. After writing the news article about the invented problem from an unbiased prospective, ask the students to write two short articles about the same problem from the viewpoints of the opposing sides. Each side should use various propaganda techniques, and identify which ones they are, to create the impression that their side is in the right.

Magazines which appeal to teenagers are full of examples of propaganda. These publications often present concerns and issues which are emotionally loaded for teenagers. Ask the students to bring in an advertisement or even an article which is promoting a certain side and have them point out which propaganda techniques are being used. Or, each student can present their example to the class and then ask the class to point out the propaganda technique being employed.



propaganda art

Embedded Assessment
First, assess if the student illustrated each type of propaganda with real world examples. Second, assess the writing of the three articles about the international problem. Credit should be given for how well the student has employed the different propaganda techniques and how many have been used.















Written news article allows for assessment of students' word choices and ability to identify and use propaganda techniques. How many different techniques do students employ in their articles. Are they able to write an unbiased piece?

Final Assessment
Word Choice Rubric
Propaganda technique check list

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo