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13 May 2016

Lesson walk-through: Propaganda in Nazi Germany (Y9)

In the last month, I've had two requests for advice on lesson planning via Twitter.  In particular, how to plan and structure activities through a lesson which build towards specific lesson objectives and learning outcomes.  In response, here's a walk-through of a lesson I made for Year 9 this week, hopefully showing how this can be achieved in a lesson on the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda.

Lesson enquiry: How effective was Nazi propaganda?

First up, the register teaser - something to get students thinking as soon as they walk in the door, allowing me time to set out my resources, take the register and deal with any latecomers.  The register teaser is also a really good opportunity to link what we're doing in the lesson to students' own lives, thus establishing the relevance of today's learning.

Next up, it's the aims, structured around Bloom's taxonomy.  I've already decided that in terms of lesson time, I want to devote the most time to aim three, where students will be evaluating - that's where the higher-order thinking is going to come.  For my weaker students, setting out the aims in this way is a particularly helpful way of letting them know how the lesson is structured and where they are going.

I'm using my starter to introduce the concept of propaganda and some of the key vocabulary of the lesson (indoctrination, bias).  I also want to get the students engaged here and hook them in, so they're going to work as pairs, trying to sell each other items, some of which are particularly useless.  I intended to do just one round of it, but students were so excited, I had to swap their roles so both could have a go at pitching.  I was particularly impressed with some of my less able students, who were brilliant at sales pitch.  Apparently, an umbrella like that can fit at least five people underneath...


Now time for some classroom discussion.  The aim is to build on something students know well (the concept of sales talk and advertising) and leap from there to the idea of propaganda.  The discussion here is pre-planned in the sense that I've already decided a chain of questions which I will ask in order to move the discussion forward.  My questions were:-

Who had a difficult item to sell?
Who did a really good job of selling a difficult sales item?

What was so good about their sales technique?
When we're selling items, do we provide our customers with a balanced view of the product?
Why not?

Now it's hinge question time.  Back comes the register teaser and I ask students whether or not they consider this to be propaganda.  The key question here is 'how do you know?'  and I'm looking for them to identify that this is one-sided information which is designed to promote an idea, not a product.  I deliberately target this question at my weaker students, to check for any misconceptions.

Next up, some teacher exposition, setting some context for today's lesson and aiming to enthuse students by bringing some life to the characters encountered in the lesson today.  There's a palpable feeling of excitement in the room as I relay the story of Goebbels' and his family's downfall.  Such information is rarely included in textbooks and is a vital way in which you can add value to the lesson.

At this point, it's time to work towards the second lesson objective.  I want students to be able to explain different types of propaganda used by the Nazis, which is essential before we can go any further.  However, I'm aware that this is not particularly high-level, so I don't want to devote too much lesson time to this.  To achieve this, I have prepared cut-out cards for students to sort.  We follow this up with a discussion about which types of propaganda would have been more effective and students are encouraged to think about the techniques used by the Nazis to reach a wide audience.


Now that's done, students are ready to do some evaluation based on evidence.  I give them two interpretations to consider and a range of sources which might be used as evidence to support them.  Students are working in pairs now and there is some lively discussion happening about how far these sources prove the effectiveness of propaganda.  Interesting comments being made by students about the poster and portrait source, debating whether or not having a portrait of Hitler in your home proves that propaganda has been effective.  This is higher-order thinking, so I'm devoting a significant proportion of the lesson to the task.

As the end of the lesson draws closer, I want to see how far students have come.  At this point, I'm offering them a choice of task.  In my experience, students respond well to this and tend to select a task of appropriate difficulty.  Success criteria are provided, with some sentence starters, though not writing frames as I want to leave them free to write for themselves.  I make it clear that in this final task, I won't be assisting. I  want to see what students are able to do for themselves.  Written work is duly collected for assessment.


Here's a quick sweep of some of the responses which I got from the lesson.


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