Digital Activism Remixed: Hashtags for Voice, Visibility and Visions of Social Justice

As social media engagement among youth continues to rise, students are becoming increasingly exposed to and involved in hashtag campaigns related to themes of identity, diversity, justice and social action.
Grade Level


Students will be able to:

  • Utilize their agency as creators and consumers of digital content related to themes of identity, diversity, justice and action
  • Analyze and evaluate how hashtagging can be a tool for social justice work
  • Explore different kinds of purposes behind and themes of hashtag campaigns
Essential Questions
  • How can social media hashtags be used as tools to create and share digital content?
  • How can young people create and use social media hashtags to develop awareness and agency related to social activism?


hashtag [hash-tag] (noun) on social media websites, a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it

hashtag activism [hash-tag ak-tuh-viz-uh m] (noun) the act of fighting for or supporting a cause that people are advocating through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites; hashtags (#) are often used to spread the word about a cause

viral [vahy-ruh l] (adj) pertaining to or involving the spreading of information and opinions about a product or service from person to person, especially on the internet or in emails

campaign [kam-peyn] (noun) a systematic course of activities for some specific purpose

identity [i-den-tih-tee] (noun) the distinguishing character or personality of an individual

diversity [de-ver-sih-tee] (noun) the condition of having or being composed of differing elements; especially the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization

justice [juh-stes] (noun) the quality of being just, impartial or fair

social action [soh-shul ak-shun] (noun) activity on the part of an interested group directed toward some particular institutional change 

Sources: dictionary.com, Google Dictionary, merriam-webster.com, technopedia.com



As social media engagement among youth continues to rise, students are becoming increasingly exposed to and involved in hashtag campaigns related to themes of identity, diversity, justice and social action. For example, #BlackLivesMatter has sparked international conversation and action around racial justice, anti-blackness and police brutality. While some have critiqued the cons or limits of digital activism, others emphasize that it can be effective in spreading awareness, influencing action and providing people with access to representation and information. In this lesson, students will explore viral hashtag campaigns, evaluate themes related to the campaigns, and either design their own hashtag campaign or respond to existing ones.



1. Ask students to warm up by reflecting in writing on the following prompt: What are some ways people can bring attention to a certain social issue or experience online? Represent your ideas in writing and/or with other visuals. Which of these ways do you think can be most effective or powerful in spreading the information or story? Explain.

2. Review the Think, Pair, Share protocol and have students share responses with a partner. After a couple of minutes of discussion, ask for a few responses to be shared with the whole group.

3. Post definitions for lesson vocabulary, and ask students to record them in their notebooks.

4. Initiate a class discussion by asking students, “What are some hashtags related to themes of identity, diversity, justice and/or action you know of?” Chart student examples.

5. Share with students that there are critics and advocates of hashtag activism. Social justice advocates and researchers have debated how effective online or digital activism—such as hashtag activism—can be in creating significant social change in the real world.

6. Tell students that, in this lesson, they will explore a few examples of viral hashtag campaigns related to themes of identity, diversity, justice and action. They will analyze and reflect on the campaigns and then individually, in partnerships or in trios, students will either respond to an existing campaign or design their own using the provided handouts and poster paper to share their work with the class.

7. For each hashtag campaign you have selected to explore, create a poster with the hashtag, the creator(s), year of creation (if known) and sample responses from articles or directly from social media sites. (Another option is to have students create these as an additional activity.) Hang these posters around the room. Four or five posters with different campaigns should be enough to spark thinking. Choose campaigns that might be most relevant and exciting for your students to explore—there are many powerful examples to choose from! If you’re having trouble deciding on one, check out the Hashtag Campaign Examples resource; it’s meant for teachers but could also be shared with students who would like to explore more in or outside of school.

8. Model filling out the Campaign Analysis handout with #BlackLivesMatter as an example.

9. Have students complete one of two activities: Respond to a current hashtag campaign using the prompts on the Responsive Reflection handout, or design a new one using the Campaign Design handout. Review the prompts for the chosen activity and answer any questions students have about the procedure. (Note: As a third option, students could take on Teaching Tolerance’s Tweeting for Change task, which includes a planning guide and rubric.)

10. Provide students with the opportunity to view the different posters around the room. When students finish, they can begin working on either their response or design.

11. Check in with students as they work, and ask clarifying questions to push their thinking. If you taught the campaign activity, select a few campaigns that can be shared to close. A powerful, possible follow-up activity would be for students to collect responses to their campaigns—either existing or designed—from community members in and out of school.


Alignment to Common Core State Standards


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.


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


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.


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.

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