This week I gave my students a short response prompt based on the propaganda presented in their dystopian texts. Students are reading Animal Farm, The Giver and Unwind. The prompt was as follows:
A variety of propaganda techniques are used throughout the fable in small and incremental measures to confuse, influence, and keep the other animals on the farm under control, as well as to make outsiders think that Animal Farm was successful.
There are six types of propaganda that are commonly recognized: 1) Bandwagon, 2) Scapegoating, 3) Unapproved Assertions, 4) Slogans, and 5) Fear.
Which type of propaganda did those in control use to their advantage most effectively?
Why did that type of propaganda work so well on the members of the community?
In your short response be sure to identify the type of propaganda used effectively with two or more examples textual support. Also include why this type of propaganda worked so well on the others.
Whereas my students know to include direct textual evidence in their writing, the question remains: Is the evidence students are selecting the strongest evidence to support their claim?
This year I am requiring students to organize textual evidence using graphic organizers I create to use in tandem with the foldables that go in their Interactive English Notebooks. But is not just about students mastering the ability to pull any evidence from the text, it is necessary students also weigh and debate the evidence selected so that it is the strongest in supporting their claims.
Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen address this same topic in their book Teaching Interpretation Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning (Heinemann, 2014).
Based on the ideas presented in their text, I have created a foldable for my students to remember that not all evidence is equal. To reiterate this idea about evidence, I have taken various quotes about fear from each of the three dystopian texts for students to work in small groups and rank the evidence for use in the short response prompt above: Which is the strongest evidence? Why? Which is the weakest evidence? Why? What makes the strongest evidence the strongest? What makes the weakest evidence the weakest? Which evidence tells? Which evidence shows?