ALEX Lesson Plan

Reading Can Save a Soldier

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Lesa Roberts
Organization:Whitesburg Christian Academy
The event this resource created for:Alabama Department of Archives and History
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35686


Reading Can Save a Soldier


At the turn of the 20th century, illiteracy was common across the United States. Percentages ranged from 10-30%, depending on location. Rural Alabama suffered from a high illiteracy rate. During this lesson, students will read and analyze primary documents that focus on the importance of literacy for Alabamian soldiers - LIT2010 (6-8)(2 & 7). Students will create a propaganda poster that asks citizens to do their part [SS2010 (6)(3)] in changing the culture of Alabama illiteracy and for teaching  Alabama soldiers that literacy is a powerful weapon [SS2010 (6)(1)].

This lesson was created in partnership with the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Literacy Standards (6-12)
LIT2010 (2010)
Grade: 6-8
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies
2 ) Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Literacy Standards (6-12)
LIT2010 (2010)
Grade: 6-8
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies
7 ) Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 6
United States Studies: The Industrial Revolution to the Present
3 ) Identify causes and consequences of World War I and reasons for the United States' entry into the war.

Examples: sinking of the Lusitania, Zimmerman Note, alliances, militarism, imperialism, nationalism

•  Describing military and civilian roles in the United States during World War I
•  Explaining roles of important persons associated with World War I, including Woodrow Wilson and Archduke Franz Ferdinand
•  Analyzing technological advances of the World War I era for their impact on modern warfare
Examples: machine gun, tank, submarine, airplane, poisonous gas, gas mask

•  Locating on a map major countries involved in World War I and boundary changes after the war
•  Explaining the intensification of isolationism in the United States after World War I
Example: reaction of the Congress of the United States to the Treaty of Versailles, League of Nations, and Red Scare

•  Recognizing the strategic placement of military bases in Alabama (Alabama)

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.6.3- Identify strategic placement of military bases in Alabama, such as Redstone Arsenal, Fort Rucker, Fort McClellan, and Craig Air Force Base.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will differentiate between the various types of propaganda techniques used in World War One.

Students will create World War One propaganda posters using a propaganda technique.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will read and annotate a primary document. 


 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Uncle Sam poster: (to use at beginning of lesson - 1 copy to display)

Each student should have a copy of:

Letter From Cullman, Alabama, Concerning Teaching Illiterate Soldiers:

Seven Techniques of Propaganda hand out - see attachment

Rubric - see attachment

Copy paper for each student to create posters

Colored pencils, rulers, markers for outlining


The teacher should print and display for students each of the following:

"Books Wanted for Our Men in Camp and Over There" poster:

Reading in the Camp Library, American Library Association, Camp McClellan, Alabama postcard:

Technology Resources Needed:

Document camera to display primary documents, if possible


The students should have background knowledge about how soldiers volunteered and were ultimately drafted during World War One. 

The teacher should be able to lead a discussion about propaganda techniques (see handout in attachments) and allow the students to share examples of each type in current commercials or advertising. Be sure to stress that propaganda is used to sway people to do something (some students may believe that it was not used by the "good guys"). 

The teacher should read and share information about the literacy drives that took place during World War One. Many states had problems enlisting soldiers due to their lack of education. The following information will offer students background information for the reading of the primary document:  

For the Boys Over There:

Information on Alabama Literacy Facts - "Send the Alabamians:  World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division"

The following information is background information for teachers from the Encyclopedia of Alabama about Fort McClellan, in Anniston, AL, where the reading postcard was created.

Fort McClellan background:


Before: Students should discuss the Uncle Sam Wants You poster created in 1917 and how that poster was used to lure young men to enlist. Ask the students to brainstorm what they "see" about the poster; e.g. the slogan (short and to the point), the colors (patriotic red, white, and blue), the actions (finger pointing, stern face). Allow the students to brainstorm the causes and posters that became visual reminders of a wide variety of actions during the war. (Rationing, enlisting, women at work, buying Liberty bonds, etc).  

Display the propaganda poster, "Books Wanted for Our Men in Camp and Over There" of the marine holding a stack of books and asking citizens to donate books for soldiers overseas. Distribute the propaganda techniques (under attachments) and discuss each one. Allow the students to share examples of each type in current commercials or advertising. Be sure to stress that propaganda is used to sway people to do something (some students may believe that it was not used by the "good guys"). Ask the students to decide what techniques were a part of the marine poster. Accept all answers that can be justified by the illustration or wording. 

Encourage students to discuss the figure included on the poster, the colors used, and the term "over there". Discuss how propaganda posters are often simple artwork with few strong words or phrases. Colors and symbols make an impact on the artwork. Encourage students to discuss why books might be an important cause to work for during the war.

The teacher should discuss or read the background information about the book drives that took place during the war from "For the Boys Over There" (see background information for the handout). Discuss the statistics on Alabama enlistees from "Send the Alabamians:  World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division" that can also be found in the background information.  

During: Pass out the Letter from Cullman, Alabama, Concerning Teaching Illiterate Soldiers.  This letter is from a Cullman County Defense Committee asking for assistance in teaching new soldiers how to read and write. Allow the students to first read the letter silently, then read the letter together and discuss. Have the students highlight phrases that they find interesting and "catchy". Have students also highlight the reasons that the writer listed for benefits of having soldiers that are literate. Allow students to share what they highlighted and justify why they felt the phrases are important. The teacher may encourage students to highlight who may participate in the literacy lessons, when and where it will take place, and why. 

After: After the students have analyzed the primary document, tell them that they will create their own propaganda poster advertising the Cullman County literacy drive. Students may work individually or with a partner. Give each student, or pair, a sheet of copy paper and have other art materials (colored pencils, rulers, and markers) available. Remind the students that they should select one of the types of propaganda techniques to use in their artwork and slogan. Remind students that the artwork can be simple...sketch books and pencils if drawing a soldier is difficult. 

Pass out the rubric (under attachments) in advance and discuss the criteria so students may know what is expected of them.

Allow students to share their literacy drive propaganda posters with the class, using a document camera if possible.

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Assessment Strategies


The teacher should monitor the class discussion about propaganda techniques and encourage all students to participate. The students should be able to share examples of techniques they see and hear in today's advertisements.

The teacher should monitor the information that is highlighted in the primary document, reminding students to highlight only relevant phrases.


Students should turn in final propaganda posters and the rubric (see attachments) may be used to score the projects.

Students may also present their posters if time allows. 


Students may include cartoon characters in the propaganda (see Disney's WWII propaganda). 

Students may select other topics to create propaganda posters for (women enlisting, rationing, liberty bonds).

See attachment for further research on creating propaganda. 

Students may write a newspaper article about the book drives that took place in Alabama. 

Students may write thank-you notes from the soldiers that received the books.


Students may work with a partner to create the propaganda poster. 

Students may use digital assistance in printing the visuals for the poster.

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.