Image Conveys a Powerful Voice: Yours!

9, 10, 11, 12

Learners use visual literacy skills to analyze the components and message of an image. The students identify issues that are meaningful to them and create a simple image/message and then design a social media campaign to advocate for their issue. 

PrintOne Class Period with optional extenders

The learners will

  • use visual literacy thinking skills to explore the meaning and emotions presented in an art image.
  • identify a difficult issue that they care about.
  • examine the elements of design and language to communicate effectively.
  • create an image to communicate an advocacy message.
  • design a social media campaign to spread that message.
  • reflect on the importance of conversations and advocacy in civil society.
  • Several recent "cause" images for students to look at closely and with which they are likely to have some familiarity.  Here are links to: Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, and the March for Our Lives    You may also want to include the iconic I Am a Man sign held by the striking sanitation workers in Memphis--the event that brought Dr. King to the city of his death.u can also include photographic images from events associated with these causes.
  • Magazines of popular culture (students can cut images from them for their work) 
  • Poster materials or technology for design
Teacher Preparation 
  • Provide a variety of examples of simple graphic images that portray powerful or subtle meaning. See the examples linked in the Materials section.  Note that many of these images are copyrighted and may be hard to find in a printable format, so that they will need to be projected.
  • Learn about visual thinking strategies here  While it is a strategy primarily associated with photography, the visual prompts below are adapted for the cause images.

Elements of Design: line, color, texture, shape, symbol, space, juxtaposition, font

  1. What effect do images have in evoking emotion and thought?
  2. What makes them efffective in communicating and presuading for an advocacy position?
  3. Why is it important to express our views in civil society? 


  1. Anticipatory Set

    Display several visual images one at a time or in small groups that encourage observation and interpretation.  

    Look at elements of design to communicate tone, feeling, and message. Give these Visual Thinking Strategy prompts:

    1. Observe the image quietly. (Build up tolerance for looking carefully for a time).
    2. What is going on in the image? (Accept all responses without judgment; paraphrase their inferences.)
    3. What do you see that makes you think that? (Ask for evidence of their inferences. Keep it safe for risking.)
    4. What else do you see? What else does this make you think?  (Encourage wondering and observation.)
    5. Thank you for making observations of this art. We bring our own interpretations to art from our different experiences.

    Optional: What is the point of view (POV) of the artist? Is the image effective in communicating its POV?  Are you persuaded?  Can you identify other "cause" images that you think are effective?

  2. Discuss what it means to "listen with generosity." Some words that come out in their discussion and may form group agreements about how they want to be together are below.

    • listen first before giving your point of view
    • take turns talking; don't interrupt
    • repeat back what you hear without judging 
    • be tolerant of differences
    • show respect for a different point of view
    • listen with the idea that different is not wrong
    • seek to understand before trying to be understood
    • be kind and supportive to the person who is talking
  3. For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we want to honor justice, fairness, and respect for differences while civilly communicating our views about issues important to us. Note that King was a very effective advocate, as are many young advocate-leaders today. What makes them effective?  Briefly review these characteristics of good advocates, emphasizing  “Good Listeners” and “Communicators”.

    Discuss issues and community needs they care about. These guides provide a format for discussion: Blue Sky Activity or Map Your Heartbreak

    Reflect on what can be done to advocate for what we care about. Advocacy is one form of doing service to make the world better. By sharing messages of respect, we are advocating for a better world. Watch this video that defines Advocacy.

  4. Project: Using the visual images displayed as guides, the learners design an image with simple text that communicates to others the action that needs to be taken related to the issue they care about. 

    They create a mini-campaign with written goals about what message they hope to communicate, the intended audience[s] and the social media platform[s] they would use. They should explain why the particular form[s] of social media they select would be effective in educating and persuading their intended audience to take action. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.