A New Candidate for Animal Farm

By Kathleen Melville, January 2, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Language Arts

Lesson Time

six ninety-minute sessions


This project-based lesson addresses the use of propaganda, rhetoric, and satire in George Orwell's Animal Farm.  Students, often incensed at the "stupidity" of the animals who are led astray in the novel, will have a chance to redeem them by designing a political campaign to recapture their hearts and minds and deliver them to real freedom.  Through this lesson, students will learn the importance of words and images in inspiring and oppressing people and will gain experience in using these strategies themselves.

National Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:


Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.


Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.


Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:


Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.


Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.


Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:


Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1


Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:


Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes1:


Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:


Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

 Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:


Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Knowledge of Language:


Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:


Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.


Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.


Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.




Students will be able to:
  • identify and analyze the effectiveness of propaganda, rhetoric, and satire
  • use words and images persuasively to advance a particular point of view
  • write and create with awareness of a specific audience



  • Propaganda PowerPoint (attached)
  • Propaganda or Satire PowerPoint and handout
  • Campaign Teams handout
  • voting form
  • basic art supplies including colored paper and markers


  • Propaganda: misleading publicity
  • Rhetoric: the art of speaking or writing effectively
  • Satire: a literary work that makes fun of human weakness or folly, often using wit, sarcasm, or irony
  • Irony: a literary device; when what happens is the opposite of what we have reason to expect


This lesson is designed to be used after reading Animal Farm by George Orwell.  This lesson does not address the actual reading of the book but suggests activities that can be used during or after reading to prepare students for this culminating activity.  For example, ideally, the vocabulary should be introduced before reading the book.  

Session 1: Identify the Problem or Opportunity

The teacher introduces the project.  Students will be working in groups to design a campaign for a candidate (a character in Animal Farm) who will be running in an upcoming election on Animal Farm.  As a hook, the teacher may present the wildly successful YouTube video for Barack Obama's campaign at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY.  The teacher solicits responses by asking "Why was this a successful ad?  Who did it appeal to? What message did it get across?"  Then, he or she begins a brief brainstorming session by asking students, "What makes a successful political campaign?" The teacher records answers.  After this, she introduces some of the key tools that politicians and their supporters use in campaigning: propaganda, rhetoric, satire, and irony.  Students copy the terms and definitions into their notebooks,  the teacher leads a discussion of each word.

For propaganda, the teacher may use the attached PowerPoint (Propaganda) to give examples of World War II propaganda.  Questions to students might include:  How are these posters misleading?  How do they make you feel?  What details in the poster create that feeling?  What is the overall message?  The teacher explains that while propaganda misleads the audience into believing one thing, satire attempts to expose falsity or folly and get the audience to question their beliefs.

One common form of satire is the political cartoon.  The teacher can use the learning activity at https://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/features/political_cartoon/index.html to show how  political cartoonists use irony, exaggeration, and symbolism to make a point.  Other abundant examples of political cartoons are available at https://www.politicalcartoons.com.  As the class examines political cartoons, questions should include: What is the artist making fun of? How does the author use symbolism, irony, or exaggeration to make a point?  A good closing activity is the "Propaganda or Satire?" PowerPoint (attached).  This session can take place before, during, or after reading the book.

Session 2: Investigate the Problem or Opportunity

This session should be used to explore the ways that propaganda and rhetoric are used in Animal Farm and to analyze Animal Farm as a satire.  Information on how to run a Shared Inquiry discussion can be found at https://www.houstonbookclubs.org/GreatBooksGuide.htm.  Unless students are familiar with Shared Inquiry, the teacher should act as the leader of the discussion.  Possible questions include: What are the lies that Napoleon tells the animals?  Why does Napoleon lie to the animals?  Why do the animals accept Napoleon’s lies?  Who do you think is more responsible for the pigs’ rise to power – the pigs or the animals?  Who does Orwell do a better job of satirizing – dictators or their followers?  This can be done in several discussions throughout the reading of the book, or in one discussion after reading.

Session 3: Frame the Problem

The teacher explains that students will be working in groups of four to promote a candidate for an upcoming election on Animal Farm.  Students should choose their candidate and their groups wisely.  The teacher can use the attached hand-out (Campaign Teams.docx) as a tool in creating groups (each with four distinct roles) and selecting candidates.

Before the students choose, the teacher should run a brief discussion of a few possible candidates (Napoleon, the incumbent; Snowball; and Benjamin) and ask students to consider their strengths and weaknesses as candidates.  Then, the teacher should ask students to consider their audience, the animals of the farm.  What are their strengths and weaknesses?  Following this discussion, students should choose groups and candidates.  Once these groups have been chosen and checked by the teacher, students should begin brainstorming for each component of the campaign.  Use these questions to guide the brainstorming process.

Generate Possible Solutions: What strengths of this candidate can we highlight?  What weaknesses do we want to hide or put "spin" on?  Who would this candidate want to make fun of?  What do we know about the candidate's audience (the animals on the farm)?  How might this candidate appeal to the audience's hopes and dreams?  What would this candidate promise to his audience?

By the end of the session, students should have a basic outline for each component.

Sessions 4 and 5: Edit/Develop Ideas and Evaluate Ideas

Students work with their teams on creating the three components of the campaign.  The teacher supervises and monitors progress.  As necessary, the teacher can help students evaluate or refocus their work by drawing their attention to their initial brainstorm of what makes a successful political campaign.

Session 6: Implement/Articulate Solution and Re-Evaluate the Solution

Groups will present their speeches, cartoons, and brochures.  In the end, students will use the attached voting form to cast their vote for one campaign team.  Teams cannot vote for their own candidate.  After the voting, each student will write a one-page reflection that addresses their role in the group, the challenges they faced, the strategies they chose, and the success of the group.


The teacher can use the voting form as a rubric for each group.  This grade can be supplemented by grades on the reflection and on participation during campaign work sessions.

Enrichment Extension Activities

1.  This lesson has clear intercurricular connections with a History/Social Studies curriculum.  Students can use their repertoire of campaign strategies (propaganda, rhetoric, and satire) to analyze current or past presidential campaigns. 2. This lesson could be extended to encourage students to make changes or tackle problems in their own communities.  For example, student could write a speech or create a political cartoon that calls attention to a problem in their school or in their neighborhood.  

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