Grades 9-10 lesson plan

Introspection and Self-Awareness

Grades 9-10 lesson plan

  • Lesson Theme: Self- awareness
  • Integrated subject: Language Arts
  • Grade level: Ninth and 10th grades
  • Time: 1 hour (30 minute art activity)
  • Lesson authors: Clay Sowers  and Daniele Cohen of Miami University of Ohio.

Lesson Overview: 

In this lesson, students will learn about the role that being self-aware plays in understanding and empathizing with other people.  This applies on a small and a large scale. People are constantly struggling and undergoing unfortunate circumstances. Some of these are visible,  such as the poverty and disrupt created by wars across the globe. Others are much harder to recognize, such as a friend who is struggling with depression or who has just lost a family member. Through this lesson, students will analyze how others can utilize their abilities to be self-aware and bring a positive change to someone’s life. We will look at a Civil Rights movement in the 1960s called Freedom Summer and examples from present day that emphasize the importance of being self-aware. Students will participate in about a 25 min art activity where they choose one word, create a photograph, and then reflect on how that word and photograph personally displays their understanding of being self-aware and the role that it plays in promoting change. 

Essential Questions:

  1. What does self-awareness mean to you? 
  2. How can you practice self-awareness in a school or social setting?
  3. How can you assist others to become more self aware? How can you, yourself become a more self aware person?

Visual Culture Component

Three men participating in ice bucket challenge by pouring cold water over their heads

Students will better understand how others are self-aware and how powerful being self-aware is in promoting change through visual culture. This art lesson itself is rooted in visual culture, as the students are taking photographs of each other to portray a deeper message, but explaining to them briefly how visual culture through social media can reflect the theme of self-awareness and aid in their understanding. 

The ALS ice bucket challenge was a challenge to raise awareness and money for Lou Gehrig’s disease. It practically took over various social media platforms for a couple of months. The ALS challenge is a primary example students can observe of how the theme of self-awareness and the importance of empathizing with others was being spread through visual culture on social media. Students in 9th and 10th grade are frequent users of various social media platforms, and there are many examples of visual culture through these platforms, such as the ALS challenge, that are promoting a positive message with undertones of the need to be aware with what is going on around us. 

Ohio Standards of Learning: 

Art Standards (High School Beginning)

  • 3PE: Identify the relationship between community or cultural values and trends in visual art.
  • 6PR: Incorporate visual literacy as a means to create images that advance individual expression and communication.
  • 7RE: Explore and discuss opportunities for lifelong involvement and advocacy in the arts.

Language Arts Standard 

Comprehension and Collaboration 1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-one-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. (p. 59)

Lesson Objectives: 

Students will:

  1. Develop a personal connection to the theme of self-awareness and describe how being self aware could benefit themselves and others (3PE)
  2. Select a word and create an image of themselves to personally relate to the theme of self-awareness (6PR)
  3. Express their comprehension of how the Freedom Summer volunteers demonstrated self-awareness and identify how they can be self-aware to promote change in today’s society through a written reflection. (7RE, ELA)

Vocabulary / Academic Language:

  • Self-awareness –  having a clear perception of your own situations, thoughts, and beliefs, so that you can better understand other people
  • Introspection – the examination of one’s own mental and emotional thoughts and feelings
  • Perspective – open to new ideas, issues, and solutions
  • Visual literacy – the ability to interpret and make meaning from information presented in an image
  • Advocacy – to support a public cause, policy, or movement
  • Typography/Font – an art and technique that involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing, letter-spacing and adjusting the space between letters of written text
  • Body Language – the process of communicating nonverbally through conscious or unconscious movements and gestures

Historical/Cultural/Artist Information:

Freedom Summer volunteer sitting on floor in house in Mississippi.
  • Author: Colca, Carole Gross
  • Title: Photograph, Carole Gross sitting on floor covering face
  • Date: 1964
  • Reference: Freedom Summer Miami Archives

This photograph of Carole Gross is from the Miami Freedom Summer archives, Carole Gross was one of the thousands of volunteers in Freedom Summer. In this photograph, she is on the ground covering her face, as part of her preparation to protect herself from a potential situation she would face in Mississippi. Freedom Summer was mainly focused on African Americans gaining voting rights in the South. The main focus was on Mississippi, which at the time was the most racist state. There was a training to prepare volunteers that took place in Oxford, OH.  Three organizations recruited college students to work with them for the summer. During their time that summer there were three main things they were fighting for – voting registration, how to teach in Freedom schools and how to fight for equality and freedom. 

Contemporary Artist

Artist Information: Yannis Behrakis is a Greek photojournalist who specifically covers war photography. Behrakis considers war photography the apotheosis of photojournalism. He has had much experience covering different wars, including one in Libya and one in Sierra Leone. He says that the best thing about his job is “the traveling, the challenge, the creation, the passion, the adventure, meeting new people, and recording history in the making.”

Group of people standing beside ocean embracing in war torn country.

A Dutch volunteer tries to comfort a refugee moments after she arrived by raft to Lesbos, Oct. 23, 2015. Over half a million refugees had arrived by sea in Greece already and the rate of arrivals was rising in a rush to beat the onset of freezing winter, the U.N. said. This photo is a great representation of the theme self-awareness because we see a woman who is scared and shaken up and the Dutch volunteer realizes that and goes over to comfort her. He is aware that these refugees are struggling, and he lends a helping hand. 

Local man helps a refugee who is swimming ashore.

A local man helps a Syrian refugee swimming exhaustedly from a dinghy to a Lesbos beach, Sept. 17, 2015. This photo connects with our theme self-awareness because we see that this man reaching out his hand is aware that he is able to help the struggling Syrian refugee climbing out of the water. 

Lesson Procedures: 

  1. Introduce the lesson theme of self-awareness and ask the three essential questions listed above to get students thinking (5 min). 
  2. Introduce, summarize, and highlight aspects of Freedom Summer and how the volunteers were self-aware that African Americans did not have the same rights that they did. Use historical photograph from Freedom Summer Archive to further this discussion. (15 min)
  3. Transition to discuss contemporary artist / photograph information about how people are promoting change through being self-aware today. (5 min)
  4. Briefly talk about how students see self-awareness prevalent on a smaller scale and the importance that it plays in everyday life. (5 min)

Introduce art activity:  

  1. Have students get out a piece of looseleaf paper and write down a list of words (encourage them to write at least 5) that make them think of self-awareness (especially in relation to social justice issues). These words can be anything, but encourage the students to try and think of words that personally relate to how they can be more self-aware.  (3 min)
  2. Give holistic overview of the art activity. Show students your example of the completed photo that the teacher has already taken prior to class. This will give students a clearer picture of what word they want to choose before moving forward. (2 min) 


Miami student holding a sign that reads Educated.
College student sitting on floor hiding behind sign labeled anxiety.
  1. Have students pick one word that resonates the most personally with them and the theme of self-awareness. Encourage students to think about what the word means to them. (2 min)
  2. Instruct students to write their selected word onto one of the 12×7 pieces of paper provided. Before they write them, talk about and show examples of how typography can enhance the meaning of their word. Leave some examples of typography on the projector screen (links above) while students write their words so they can refer to these. Students will also be able to use their phones to look up different font they might be interested in using when writing down their word. (5 min)
  3. Tell students to pick a partner. Partners will take picture (with their phones) of each other holding their piece of paper with the word on it. At this point, introduce how body language and facial expression will largely shape what their photo conveys. Students can crop and edit their photos on their phones once they have taken them. Instruct the students to email the picture of themselves to their school email address. (5 min)
  4. Once the students have taken the pictures, the teacher will bring out the laptops and send out an email with a link to google folder. The email should have brief instructions on how to open the google folder. (2 min)
  5. The student will then upload their photograph to a google doc with their name on it. There will be an email sent out prior to class that has the google drive folder attached so they are able to add the photos. They will also each write a couple sentences explaining the significance of their photo and how typography and body language affects the photo’s message. (7 min)
  6. With whatever time is left in class, the teacher will show a couple of completed photos on the board (with the student’s permission), as an opportunity for class discussion. 
  7. Wrap up the lesson and tie it back to the importance of looking introspectively and being self-aware as well as mention the essential questions asked in the beginning of the lesson and have students just think and reflect back on those questions. (4 min)

Preparation prior to class for teacher:

  • Create PowerPoint slide with all of the info need to be addressed
    • Essential questions, historical photograph, contemporary photograph, vocab words, examples of completed art activities)
  • Rent out computers
  • Set up a google folder with a document titled with each student’s name. Make sure the preferences on the google folder are set so that the students can edit their documents. 
  • Complete the art activity as an example for students


  1. Student developed a personal connection to the theme of self-awareness and described how being self aware could benefit themselves and others (3PE).
  2. Student selected a word and created an image of themselves to personally relate to the theme of self-awareness (6PR). 
  3. Students expressed their comprehension of how the Freedom Summer volunteers demonstrated self-awareness and identify how they can be self-aware to promote change in today’s society through a written reflection (7RE, ELA). 

Materials and Preparation: 

For Students:

  • (30) 12 x 7 pieces of plain white paper varying in color (30 will vary depending on how many students you have)
  • (20) pieces of loose leaf notebook paper or some sort of scrap paper (this is optional – students should have their own paper)
  • (20) colored markers or colored sharpies 
  • (10) computers (1 per pair) so students can upload images 
  • (10) camera phones (1 per pair)- this is assuming students have their own phones 

 For Instructor:

  • Computer and projector to display images up on screen


Extra Useful Materials / Information:

Sample Email: 


Please click on [insert active link to Google folder] and then click “Open in Drive” in the upper right hand corner (you may have to click it twice to work). Please find the document with your name and upload your image. Click on the document labeled “Instructions” if you get confused!

Teacher’s Name