Decoding the Message

Decoding the Message

How was propaganda used during World War I by Germany and the United States? The excercise below explores the purpose of propaganda and how visual propaganda is used during wartime.


5 - 8


Experiential Learning, Social Studies, U.S. History, World History, Storytelling

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Idea for Use in the Classroom

Ask students to define the word “propaganda.” What does it mean to them? Can they give any examples of propaganda? Next, ask how might propaganda be most effective during a war. What does successful propaganda accomplish during a war? Direct students to the infographic. Have them study the propaganda posters from the United States and Germany, and for each, ask: How did each country deal with recruitment, raising funds, and supporting the war effort at home? Who was the intended audience for these posters?

Ask students to describe what is similar about the posters and what is different.

Have students: How do the American propaganda posters depict women? Which of the posters most strongly suggests the idea of a community working together for the war effort? What themes or symbols are present in the German posters?

After reviewing the infographic, tell students that they will be creating their own propaganda poster. Remind them that audience and message are important parts of successful propaganda and that students should keep in mind what their message is and who their intended audience will be.

Possible topics for their posters might include: good citizenship, care of the environment, why space exploration is vital, support of green spaces, promoting healthy eating, “unplugging” from technology, the importance of reading, or an existing local issue that students might want to address.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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