Lesson Plans

Early Twentieth Century

Motivating the American Public in World War Two
Author: Greg Herbert
School: Walt Whitman High
Grade Level: Advanced Placement
Time Estimated: 3 Days

Enduring Understanding

During WWII Americans were motivated in various ways to support the American war effort. Although the depictions of Hitler and his German army were negative America for the most part stood idly by as the Axis Powers began an onslaught across the continent of Europe and Asia. After the Neutrality Acts issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the embargo placed upon Japan, the United States hand was forced into war after Pearl Harbor. It was here that the mass media began to motivate American support of the war effort in every conceivable way.

The U.S. Government released news reports in movie theaters reaching Americans of all age. The government also used popular characters to drum up American support and contributions to the war effort through several Walt Disney and Looney Toons video clips. Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, Americans were exposed to businesses manipulation of the war to motivate Americans through advertisements. The underlying theme was that if you weren’t spending money on their products you were un-American and did not fill the role of a patriot. If you weren’t spending money and consuming goods, you weren’t supporting America and its efforts to stop Hitler.

Essentially, students will be looking to see how American businesses attempted to motivate consumers to support the war effort in a “profitable” way? Did buying one product over another really showcase your patriotism?


Students will learn about the different types of propaganda that was used and what the designed goals of these were. Students will reflect their knowledge by answering several questions, see attached assignment, regarding the pieces of propaganda and will participate in a class discussion about them.


Unit 5: "The Common Good"
Lesson Sequence 3: “And the Home Front”


  • Teachers and students will require access to a computer lab for both days.
  • Students will be analyzing the resources linked to in the WWII Propaganda Packet


Teacher’s Note: The assignment sheet contains all the questions and instructions for students.

Day One

1. Students will be distributed a copy (attached assignment sheet) of the assignment and will review with the teacher
2. Students will view the cartoons and posters
3. Students will answer the questions as they view each source (see assignment sheet)

Day Two

1. Students will complete their propaganda viewing while answering questions and preparing discussion points and questions for each source (see assignment sheet).

Day Three

1. Students will be asked to comment in class about each of the cartoons.
2. Students will be shown several of the images they viewed the past two days.
3. Students will be put into three different groups for a short Socratic Seminar. Each group will be assigned a topic: Cartoons, Posters, or Business Advertisements.
4. Call each group to the front, one at a time, and show the images that pertain to each group.
5. After viewing each image they will be given a few minutes to discuss what they see and how they interpreted each. Be sure students not only include information directly from the images but also include outside information.
6. Only the students in the group are to discuss the images.
7. Students will turn in their answers to the assignment (see assignment sheet).


ESOL: Students will be instructed to make vocabulary cards for confusing terms which will be reviewed before the beginning of the topic.

Advanced: Students will be asked to find examples of these in today’s world as well as create their own advertisement or propaganda poster

Special Education: Students will work in partners and the para-educator will take a more prominent role in assisting these students. Students will not be asked to view all of the videos and images and will not be required to answer all of the questions.


Students will submit answers to the questions on the assignment sheet and will write a short paper on their impressions of the government and business propaganda (on assignment sheet).

References: Web

The sources I used are all listed with their websites in the WWII Propaganda Packet. I feel each source provided me with unique insight in to how the government and businesses used imagery to motivate public emotion and opinion regarding the war and citizens efforts to support the war.