Art Lesson: I Have a Dream Drawings – Middle School

Submitted by: Heather Leal, Lathrop Intermediate School in Santa Ana, CA UNIT: Heroes – Drawing – Character Education Lesson: “I Have A Dream” – Pastel Drawings Grade Level: Middle School


  • Students will develop an understanding of the meaning of Martin Luther King Jr’s’ I Have A Dream” speech

  • Students will understand the figurative language in the I Have A Dream” speech

  • Students will learn about Harriet Tubman and her courage

  • Students will develop their own ideas for their dreams for the future of our country

  • Students will create a work of art that shows the meaning and symbolism of the figurative language in the I Have A Dream” speech, Harriet Tubman’s story and their own ideas for the future.

  • Students will develop technical skill using oil pastels

  • Students will analyze Jacob Lawrence’s use of composition and imagery in his Harriet Tubman paintings.


2.0 Creative Expression Communication and Expression Through Original Works of Art

2.4 Create increasingly complex original works of art reflecting personal choices and increased technical skill.

4.0 AESTHETIC VALUING Responding to, Analyzing, and Making Judgments About Works in the Visual Arts Students analyze, assess, and derive meaning from works of art, including their own, according to the elements of art, the principles of design, and aesthetic qualities.


Copies of the excerpt of the I Have A Dream” speech (Exact text from transcription of the spoken speech) Martin Luther King Jr. (links) Harriet Tubman: The Quest For Freedom [VHS] video (See Note). Also see the DVD, A Woman Called Moses, a movie starring Cicely Tyson about the life story of Harriet Ross Tubman, founder of the Underground Railroad, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom in the North before the Civil War. Prints of Jacob Lawrence’s Harriet Tubman paintings. You can find images of his paintings in his book, Harriet and the Promised Land

Newsprint – Drawing Pencils – Magic Rub Erasers – Saral Transfer Paper (optional) White Drawing Paper – 9″x24″ (23 x 61 cm), or colored Construction Paper and Oil Pastels.


Students look at art of Jacob Lawrence and other African American artists. Heather also shows Japanese landscapes in a vertical format first to spark ideas. Create a PowerPoint of your favorite works or Create a WebQuest.


  1. Interest is generated by having students turn to last page in their learning journal and writing and drawing what they would like to do in the future. Discussion of what a hero is and the difference between heroes and celebrities. Students define hero in journal.

  2. Students watch Harriet Tubman video and write a reaction to the quote about it taking courage to do something special in their lives.

  3. Students draw the idea of freedom as Harriet saw it, focusing on the quote from the video about freedom shining through the trees like gold.

  4. Use the Getty Artsednet lesson on storytelling in art that analyzes Jacob Lawrence’s paintings. (no longer online)

  5. Read the I Have A Dream” speech together

  6. Analyze each section, discussing vocabulary and figurative language. On 12×18″ (30.5 x 46 cm) newsprint folded into quarters, sketch a picture of what the section of the speech describes. Each student should end up with 5 sketches from the speech as follows: – Sons of slaves and sons of slave owners sitting together at the table of brotherhood – Desert and oasis – Valleys made high, hills made low, rough made smooth and crooked made straight – Hewing a stone of hope out of a mountain of despair – Freedom ringing, and people holding hands singing

  7. Students do a sketch that shows their ideas and dreams for the future

  8. Students will combine all the sketches into one composition on the 9×24″ (23 x 61 cm) paper. The sketches can be combined in any way that makes sense to the student. (Optional: Plan composition on 9″ x 24″ (23 x 61 cm) Newsprint – transfer to drawing paper with Saral transfer paper.

  9. Demonstrate using oil pastels, especially blending by layering colors on

  10. Students complete their drawings using oil pastels.

  11. Students create a rubric to evaluate drawings

  12. Students complete the self evaluation questions and score themselves on the rubric

  13. Students write Artist’s Statements that explain their artwork to the viewers.

  14. Alternate Oil Pastels


Oil Pastels or engraving/etching. Color heavily – Brushes, India ink or Tempera Paint over (thinned slightly – and touch of dish liquid added). Let dry. Scratch off with Scratchboard Tool Kit.

Oil Pastels resist. Outline with bold black Permanent Markers – Color heavily – Paint over with black Watercolor Paint


Answers on evaluation questions should be complete and thoughtful Student generated rubric includes things like; Drawing includes the things drawn in preliminary sketches Oil pastels show blending Drawing is neat


Heroes – the Big Picture – Scoring Guide Name________________________________

4- excellent

3- above average

2- average

1-below average

0- no evidence

Drawing includes enough images from sketches that the meaning is evident

Images are drawn carefully and fill the picture

Oil pastel is applied with control and colors are mixed and blended.

The finished picture is neat and clean-

A. 16 – 13 points B. 12 – 9 points C. 8 – 6 points D. 5 – 3 points F. 2 – 0 points

Total points ___________________________

Letter grade___________________________


Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta are good people to continue lesson with.

Note on Harriet Tubman Video:

Harriet Tubman: The Quest For Freedom [VHS] – There is a quote Heather really likes in it when Harriet crosses the border the first time and realizes she is free about the sun coming through the trees like gold that works really well for a start of a drawing. There is also a quote about courage at the end that she uses for a writing prompt. It is an excellent video for middle school- upper elementary, even early high school. It is part of a series called In Search of the Heroes.

Note on King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech:

On January 16, 2006, I wrote to the King Estate asking permission to use Dr. Martin Luther King’s words for this lesson. I filled out two forms in detail asking for permission to use the speech (print off one copy from the Internet) and permission to print one class set. I have not received any reply. I have sent follow-up emails that have been ignored by the estate. My best advice for you is to do the lesson. What you want to do is “Fair Use”. I just found out last year after doing extensive research that the King Estate has a very narrow view on what constitutes Fair Use. Printing off a class set would require permission (based on what I read).

Inquiries regarding the use or reproduction King’s writings or statements should be directed to the manager of the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Intellectual Properties Management One Freedom Plaza 449 Auburn Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30312 [email protected]


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