“Place Your Faith in Radio”

Guiding Question:

How is public perception of historic events affected by reporting methods?


In this lesson, students will be presented with a specific day in World War II where multiple important events occurred. Students will act as the executive producers of a radio news program and construct a short, written broadcast. It is their job to decide which events of the day to highlight. They will consider why what is recorded helped shape what is remembered for future generations and what is not. Whose stories are not told?


Historical Context

During World War II, newly created broadcasting networks competed with each other to prove to the American public that they could provide the most “accurate coverage” of the war overseas. Daily radio news reports about the events on the front lines gave families a connection to their loved ones that was not available in previous American conflicts.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Understand the importance of radio broadcasting in World War II;
  • Understand why certain events were highlighted over others;
  • Understand how audiences interpreted the broadcasts; and
  • Recreate a convincing broadcast highlighting in detail a specific event in World War II.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 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;

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.5 Describe how a text presents information (e.g. sequentially, comparatively, causally);

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g. in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts;

Connections to C3 Framework

D2.His.1.6-8. Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts;


  • Computer with internet capability and speakers
  • Computers for groups to access the ABMC interactive timeline

Lesson Preparation

  • Review the selection of The New York Times front pages and select one option for each group of five or six students. Make a packet for each group containing the options for the class.
  • Select a World War II Era Radio Broadcast to play to students as a sample.
  • Divide the class into groups of five or six students each.
  • Set up classroom technology and test all online resources before class.


Activity One: Analyzing the News (45 minutes)

  • Ask students how Americans would get their news during World War II. Lead a brief conversation discussing newspapers, radio broadcasts, and newsreels.
  • Distribute one packet of newspaper headlines to each group and ask them to review the front pages.
  • Lead a class discussion on the newspapers. Possible questions can include:
    • Why are certain events put in bold at the top of the paper? Why are other stories lower on the page?
    • What does placement on the page imply?
    • On any given day, how did the editor organize the events of this day?
    • What is missing from this source?
    • This newspaper is based in New York City. Does this impact the content on the front page?
    • What is the perspective(s) on the days events?
    • What is the tone of the pieces?
  • Play the newsreel from May 8, 1945. Ask students to write down who/what was featured.
    • Ask the class: Who was left out? Why?
    • Brainstorm as a class a list of effective techniques in sharing news.

Assessment Materials

What news will be reported? (60 minutes)

  • Divide students into small groups of five or six students and assign each group one date in the war.
  • Give each group the corresponding front page from the New York Times.
    • Ask students, How do you think these headlines affected their readers’ mental state?
  • Play a World War II Era Radio Broadcast to provide students a sample.
    • Teacher Tip: Choose an example from an event or date you did not assign to a student group.
    • Ask students, How do you think radio broadcast affected their listeners’ mental state?
  • Direct student groups to use the World War II: A Visual History interactive timeline to set their date in history in historical context.
  • Assign students to create the outline for a radio broadcast, based on the news on their given day.
  • Allow students to present their program to their classmates and explain which events they highlighted and which events they cut from the broadcast.

Methods for Extension



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