Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Presidential Propaganda: How the candidates for President use propaganda to win election.
Tim Gallagher
US History
Time Frame:
4-5 days
1948 Election

Grade Levels:
10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

This lesson will allow students to evaluate the use of propaganda during presidential election years. Through shared readings, short lectures, net explorations, cooperative learning and interaction...students will examine how propaganda has a real impact in relation to the success of presidential election campaigns.  They will also gain the ability to evaluate how their own views might be manipulated by the propaganda utilized by the presidential candidates. This lesson will incorporate technology (the use of the internet) and various primary and secondary sources.  And, this lesson will challenge   students with an individual assignment that will allow each student to evaluate...How am I being influenced by the propaganda utilized during the current presidential campaign? With the knowledge gained during this lesson, it is my hope that my students will be better able to evaluate and assess the positions of presidential candidates and grasp how campaigns will attempt to persuade the views and opinions of the populace.


I am utilizing this lesson to challenge students to go beyond just watching the news or reading about the presidential election.  I would like to see students evaluating what is taking place to see how it has a direct bearing on their lives.  Additionally, I would like to provide students with a guide they can utilize to evaluate all information that comes their way...to determine credibility.  It is also my hope that my students will develop a continued curiosity in relation to government that will last a lifetime.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

-Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.PS.02 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.10.02

                        -Interpret and evaluate sources and examples of citizens' rights and


            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.PS.04 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.06.01

                        -Explain the purpose of government and analyze how it's powers are

                        acquired, used and justified.

            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.PS.05 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.10.03

                        -Practice forms of civic discussion and participation consistent with the ideals

                        of citizens in a democratic republic, and investigate how it can shape public


            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.PS.06 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.06.03

                        -Evaluate the role of technology in communication, information processing or

                        other areas as it contributes to or helps resolve conflict.

            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.H.01 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.02.04

                        -Systematically employ critical inquiry to analyze and interpret the past.

            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.H.02 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.02.02

                        -Identify and analyze characteristics, causes and consequences of an event,

                        issue or problem. Explain the major historical events that occurred during

                        a time period.

            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.H.02 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.02.03

                        -Analyze and evaluate the historical backgrounds which have led to the

                        present day civilizations. Analyze patterns historians utilize.

            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.H.04 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.02.03

                        -Analyze and evaluate the historical backgrounds which have led to the

                        present day civilizations.  Analyze the actions of individuals and groups in

                        the development of historical events.  Identify significant individuals who have

                        affected historical development in positive or negative ways.

            -Iowa Common Core:  SS.09-12.H.08 and MISIC Code:  SS.09-12.02.05

                        -Analyze and explain how historical backgrounds have led to the present

                        developments of various systems of government.

            *MISIC=Mid Iowa School Improvement Consortium

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

-Resource Book:  Tactics For Thinking by Robert J Marzano and Daisy E Arredondo...

            to share with students skills in the evaluation of information.

            -Videos/ Clips from the internet...in relation presidential campaigns and campaign

            propaganda...found by students (We have a one on one computer program at our                         school...I like for students to search for and investigate sites relating to what we are                       examining).

            -Campaign ads promoting a candidate (For President Truman...ads will be secured from

            the Truman Library/Museum and the website trumanlibrary.org.  For today's                                  candidates...actual newspaper and video ads will be explored and shared.)

            -Newspaper clips and sources found at the Truman Museum

            (News pictures that have been blown up so that they can be visually examined) and

            newspaper clips and sources found at the Truman Library/Museum website.

            -Resources and notes from the 2016 Truman Library Teachers Conference.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

            -Video interviews with and presentations by current candidates (all major news sources                will be utilized)

            -Actual campaign ads created by and for a given candidate.  The NET will be used

            to gather examples.

            -Pictures found in the Truman Museum relating to Truman Campaigning.

            -Pictures of artifacts in the Truman Museum relating to Truman Campaigning.

            -Pictures of letters in the Truman Museum relating to Truman Campaigning.

            -Handout provided by presenter Jeffrey Pasley...Public Notice (Referencing the

            character and nature of John Adams)...to share how campaigning has progressed

            over the years...or...has it?

           -Website for the Truman institute...Teacher Resource Links:  The 1948 Election

            Campaign.  trumanlibrary.org (documents, election campaign 1948)

                        -Handwritten notes on Russian Ambassador

                        -Memo, Clark Clifford to Harry S. Truman

                        -Handwritten notes on World Policy

                        -Memo to Harry S. Truman; March 8, 1948

                        -President's Acceptance Speech;  July 15, 1948

                        -Clark Clifford to Harry S. Truman;  August 17, 1948

                        -Campaign Speech, Toledo, Ohio;  September 6, 1948

                        -Campaign Speech, Dexter, Iowa;  September 18, 1948

                        -Press Release, Speech of Thomas E. Dewey:  September 21, September 28,

                        October 1, October 21, 1948

                        -Campaign Speech, Indianapolis, Indiana;  October 15, 1948

                        -Campaign Speech, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;  October 23, 1948

                        -Handwritten St. Louis Speech Notes;  October 30, 1948

                        -Handwritten notes on President's Speech With Attached Explanatory Notes;

                        November 1, 1948

Full description of activity or assignment.

            -Day One:       I will share notes about how to evaluate information that we come in

                                    contact with.  The materials I will be sharing will come from the book;

                                    Tactics For Thinking by Robert J Marzano and Daisy E. Arredondo.  I

                                    will be referencing pages 77-79 which share insights about how to

                                    determine credibility in relation to the information we take in...from all

                                    sources.  I will also be sharing the Historical Thinking Chart created by

                                    the Stanford History Education Group.  Finally, I will share a summary

                                    wheel that I have created in relation to propaganda.


                                    Following the sharing of notes (I will discuss with students and                                                         personalize the notes as I present them), I will discuss with students

                                    how this information might come in handy as we look at past and present

                                    presidential election campaigns.


                                    For day two, I will have each student use the NET to find a presidential

                                    campaign ad...from any campaign...past to present.


            -Day Two:       I will have each student share their campaign ad with the rest of the class.

                                    While doing this, I will lead students in evaluating what was presented

                                    in relation to the notes provided on day one.


                                    Following presentations, I will have students take a short quiz so that

                                    I am confident they will be able to evaluate the presidential campaigns

                                    that we will be evaluating.


                                    I will have students bookmark the Truman Library Website and I will have

                                    students bookmark NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, FOX, USA Today, etc. media



            -Day Three:     I will return student quizzes and review again how to evaluate credibility

                                    in the information that we hear, read or view.


                                    Following the short review, I will have students go to the Truman Library

                                    Website.  I will highlight several campaign documents that I would like

                                    students to evaluate.  I will have students in groups of 3 to 5 take an

                                    article or website source, read it, evaluate it in relation to evaluation of                                            evidence, draw a group consensus in relation to the legitimacy of what                                           was presented.  One student in each group will note the group responses.                                      Once each group has completed their evaluations, I will have each group                                                 share their conclusions and discuss how the campaign propaganda might                                have influenced people at that time.  I will also have students evaluate                                      how the same information would impact people today.


            -Day Four:       I will discuss with students what they learned from day three in relation

                                    to presidential campaigns.  Then, I will have students choose one of the

                                    bookmarked media websites and find an article or a video to review as a

                                    group (different groups of 3 to 5) in relation to the current campaign taking                                     place.  I will have each group process the information in the same format                                       as day 3.


                                    Following the sharing and discussion in relation to propaganda and

                                    campaigns, I will ask each student to write an essay addressing how they

                                    feel they are being impacted by the propaganda utilized in the campaign.

                                    I will also have them address the credibility of what is shared during




            -Day Four/Five:I will have students share their essays and discuss the impact                                                        that presidential campaigns might have in our lives in the future.  I

                                   will allow student questions and interaction following each presentation.

                                    This time will allow for students to generate further learning and further

                                    questions to investigate.


                                    I will then wrap up this lesson by asking students to consider their

                                    responsibility as a citizen of this nation in relation to sorting through

                                    the propaganda to determine credibility. 

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:


            This lesson is part of a larger unit on the Executive Branch...

            -I will utilize a short quiz to evaluate student understanding in relation to shared

            information from Tactics For Thinking, Stanford History Education Group Historical

            Thinking Chart and the Summary Wheel covering Propaganda that I have created.

            -I will utilize an essay...as described on day four above.

            -I will incorporate elements of this lesson into a future test.  Essay questions will be

            used to allow students to share with me what they have learned and how they intend

            to apply this knowledge...in relation to evaluation of evidence.

            -Objective evaluation...I will observe students as they grasp the focus of this lesson                       during groups and investigation sessions...are they getting it?  Based on listening to and                watching students I will be able to evaluate the learning taking place.

            -Additionally, student evaluation feedback will give me insights about the effectiveness of

            this activity...and the learning that has taken place.