Lesson Five:
Making Art That Matters
(Mural Option)


Working in groups, students plan and execute a mural that attempts to protest or persuade. They focus on effective definition of shape, use of symbols, and impact on their intended viewers.


  1. Students learn how to share and to negotiate the distribution of responsibilities in the mural making process.

  2. Students learn how to plan a mural that protests a situation or attempts to persuade its viewers to the students' beliefs.

  3. Students learn how to select subject matter and/or symbols related to a situation or issue that concerns them.

  4. Students learn how to define shapes within a mural.

  5. Students learn how to use negative, as well as positive shapes, effectively in their mural.

  6. Students learn how to formulate and share responses to classmates' artwork.


Decide whether your class will make temporary murals in the art classroom or around the school, or whether they will undertake the much more complex process of planning and executing a permanent mural in a public space within or outside the school. In the latter case students might get involved with the bureaucracy of mural making: for example, contacting owners of the space where they want to put the mural, contacting community members and explaining the mural to them, creating an opening event (press, parents, school officials, other students, etc. If you choose the permanent mural option you will need to schedule considerably more time and probably want to broaden the visual planning concerns to include color, scale, balance, etc. Click here to see a mural at Estrella Middle School in Phoenix, Arizona. Then click on the image for an analysis of the dynamics of the mural making process.

Click here to see a high school mural at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights,Los Angeles made by students working with Paul Botello, a prominent mural painter. Click here to see a mural at North Canyon High School in Phoenix, Arizona focused on unity, respect, and understanding.


Art for Protest and Persuasion

Mural Lesson

Explain that students will be working in groups to plan and produce a large mural related to an issue or situation that concerns them. Review the theme of Protest or Persuasion. Ask students to use the issue or concern that they shared in the previous lesson as a starting point for their planning.

First ask students to make individual thumbnail sketches of ideas of a mural. They should consider using the symbolic shapes they've developed in previous lessons, as starting points. Remind students to consider how the viewers they hope will see their mural may understand it.

Ask students to consider using the symbolic shapes they've developed in previous lessons, as starting points for designing their mural. Remind students to consider how the viewers they hope will see their mural may understand it.

As students plan their murals, students can also make large preliminary plans on walls using easily removable masking tape. (Before trying this technique, confirm that the tape does not leave a residue on the wall.)

Students can produce craft paper murals painted with tempera paint within the classroom. Students might choose to use cut paper for large color areas on the mural. Another alternative is to build up shapes with small pieces of paper in a mosaic technique. For more complex murals, involving others in the school or community, consider negotiating to paint a mural in a public space in the school or neighborhood.

Viewer Lesson

Remind students that an effective protest of persuasion mural communicates its ideas to others who view it. Ask each mural group to spend some time examining and responding to the mural made by another group. In preparing their response the group should:


  • Describe the shapes their classmates used and explain how the shapes were defined.
  • Point out any symbols their classmates used.
  • Discuss ideas the mural seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to state the message of the mural in one sentence. (This mural is about. . .) and explain how the shapes, symbols, or other elements of the mural support its message.
  • Divide each group into two subgroups: the viewers who role play that they agree with the artist and other viewers who role play that they are skeptical. Describe how each set of viewers would respond to the print.
  • Each group should plan and share the responsibility of presenting to the entire class its interpretation of another group's mural.
  • Conclude the lesson by asking each group to present its interpretation to the class as a whole. You may choose to ask for written interpretations.


    Examine the murals to determine whether they communicate an idea, whether they use shapes (and perhaps symbols) effectively, and whether negative as well as positive shapes contribute to the image. As students offer interpretations of their classmates' murals, note whether they can identify a message and point to aspects of the mural that support that message.

    Items for a Protest and Persuasion Portfolio might include:

  • thumbnail sketches
  • written interpretation of classmates' mural


    rolls of craft paper in several colors
    rulers and straight edges
    white glue
    tempera paint

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