ALEX Lesson Plan

Yellow Journalism

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Alabama Department of Archives and Hist
System: Informal Education Partner
School: Informal Education Partner
The event this resource created for:Alabama History Education Initiative
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34012


Yellow Journalism


In this lesson, students will describe causes of involvement of the United States in Wold War I by defining yellow journalism, and its effect on the United States becoming involved in a war with Spain over its territories in the Caribbean Sea and the Philippine Islands. By viewing primary source documents of newspaper articles from Alabama, the students will make judgments as to the effectiveness of the newspaper articles.

This lesson was created as a part of the Alabama History Education Initiative, funded by a generous grant from the Malone Family Foundation in 2009.

AuthorInformation: Ronald Shephard (Cohort 2: 2010-2011)
Central High School Phenix City Schools Phenix City, AL

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 11
United States History II: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
4 ) Describe causes, events, and the impact of military involvement of the United States in World War I, including mobilization and economic and political changes. [A.1.a., A.1.b., A.1.d., A.1.f., A.1.i., A.1.j., A.1.k.]

•  Identifying the role of militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism in World War I
•  Explaining controversies over the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, and the League of Nations
•  Explaining how the Treaty of Versailles led to worsening economic and political conditions in Europe, including greater opportunities for the rise of fascist states in Germany, Italy, and Spain
•  Comparing short- and long-term effects of changing boundaries in pre- and post-World War I in Europe and the Middle East, leading to the creation of new countries

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.11.4- Define militarism, nationalism, imperialism, and alliances; understand that the United States entry into World War I had a significant impact on the outcome of the war; identify the consequences of World War I.

Local/National Standards:

NationalStandards for History1996

Era 6:  The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900), p. 108

4B The student understands the roots and development of American expansionism and the causes and outcomes of the Spanish-American War.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will be able to describe causes and consequences of the Spanish-American War.
  • Students will define yellow journalism with emphasis on how this journalistic method played a role in bringing the United States to war with Spain.


Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will write a newspaper article using the elements of yellow journalism.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • T-square critical thinking chart
  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Assessment rubric
  • USS Maine newspaper articles

Technology Resources Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector screen
  • LCD projector


  • The Spanish-American War era is an interesting period of time in which two Alabamians, such as ‘Fightin' Joe Wheeler and Richmond Pearson Hobson played important roles.  You may want to read pages 337-342 of Alabama: The History of a Deep South State for extensive information regarding the impact of the Spanish-American War on Alabama (see bibliographic information below). The Encyclopedia of Alabama provides excellent biographical information on Joseph Wheeler, a powerful and outspoken advocate for the war in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Rogers, William W., Robert D. Ward, Leah Rawls Atkins, and Wayne Flynt. Alabama: The History of a Deep South State. 1st edition. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1994. 337-342.

  • The following Web site from the Library of Congress provides a complete history of the Spanish- American War: The World of 1898.

The Crucible of Empire, PBS Web site:   

  • Prior to this lesson the teacher will have provided background information on the economic situation in Cuba and on the United States' relationship with this small Caribbean nation.

The teacher will have also presented information about Cuba being a Spanish colony and how badly the people of Cuba had been treated by Spain. An excellent Web site providing background information on the Spanish-American War and yellow journalism can be found at The Crucible of Empire The Spanish-American War by PBS.


Engagement/Motivation Activity:
Teachers will assign the following:
Think of an event that has happened during your life that made you think the United States government should take a particular action. Share your response with another student.


Step 1- Project and read Alabama newspaper article from 1898 on the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba (Q25033-Q25034). Then project and read the New York Journal article found at: If you are unable to project this article, a transcription of the article is attached, as well as a digital copy of the front page.

Step 2- Ask the students what emotions were triggered by reading these articles and why. Allow time for discussion.

Step 3- Explain and define the term yellow journalism. Clarify that yellow journalism was sensationalized reporting designed to cause an emotional reaction in people. Be sure that students understand that newspapers were the medium in 1898.
There were no other means of mass communication.

Step 4- Using the attached T-square critical thinking chart, have the students make a judgment as to whether or not the articles could be classified as yellow journalism.


The students will write a newspaper article using yellow journalism techniques, with the aim of making readers want to go to war with Spain.  The article will be graded using the attached rubric.

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Assessment Strategies

The students will be assessed on the newspaper article using the attached rubric.


Students can research and identify or provide current examples of yellow journalism.


Direct students to the emotion-laden words in the article, list them, and discuss the power of those words.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.