Activate Activism: Planning Our Message

This is lesson seven of the series Art and Activism, which begins a long-term collaborative project that focuses on thinking about art as a tool for activism. Students work collaboratively to identify and select a message or theme for a community activism mural.
Grade Level


At the end of the lesson, students will be able to: 

  • consolidate and synthesize ideas about the relationship between art and activism. 
  • work together to brainstorm and identify local issues or ideas they want to share through a mural. 
  • use the writing process to collectively define and promote a message.


Enduring Understandings:

  • People need to respond to, and take action about, problems and issues that are important in their community. 
  • People can work together and create art to show support for a solution or address an issue in their community.
Essential Questions
  • What can people do about issues or problems in their community? 
  • How might people use art to help solve problems, show support or address an important issue in their community?



  • pens, markers, crayons  
  • writing paper 

This lesson is part of the series Art and Activism.


activism [ak-tuh-viz-uh m] (noun) the practice of vigorous action or involvement as a way to achieve political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations or protests  

art (ahrt) (noun) the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance 

community (kuh-myoo-ni-tee) (noun) a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific area, share government, and may have a common cultural and historical heritage 

mural (myoo r-uh l) (noun) a large picture painted or affixed directly on a wall or ceiling


Suggested Procedure

1.  If appropriate, review other lessons or activities students have done in this series. Ask them to share ideas, thoughts and questions about what they have learned so far about the relationship between art and activism. Ask: “How can art function as a tool for activism?” Record their comments.  

2.  Explain that this lesson will prepare students to work together to produce a community mural (execution of which is outlined in Creating a Mural Part One and Two). Provide the class with a written definition of ‘mural’ and read it aloud: A mural is a large piece of art that can cover a large space and include many different images, ideas, styles and media. Explain that the mural your class creates should focus on one big message or topic students want to convey about a change they would like to see in their school or community. 

3.  Break students into small groups. Ask each group to brainstorm and identify three to five messages or topics they would like to communicate through the mural. Then ask each group to reduce its list to one to share with the class. Tell group members to work collaboratively to write a persuasive letter. The letter should explain why the topic is important; what message they hope to send; and why art is an effective way to communicate the message. Have them draft their letters, and revise and edit them. 

4.  Ask one student from each group to share the letter. Then take a blind vote on one message the class will focus on together. (Note: Students may work better on two separate murals, focusing on two different messages. If so, divide students into two groups based on interest.) Remind students that ideas not selected this time are still important and can be the focus of a different activity. Later, you may want to work with students to select projects they might pursue in their own time to support individual ideas or messages.

Common Core State Standards: ELA-Literacy. CCRA. W.1; W.2; W.4; W.5; Sl.1; SL.2; SL.3; SL.4; L.4


Extension Activity

Guide students to do research online, in books or in their community to look at different murals. Explain that murals sometimes are on the outer walls of buildings. Ask students to bring examples of murals to share with the class. Perhaps they can take photos of interesting local murals. Ask: “What messages or ideas does the mural convey? What makes a mural a unique type of art?”

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