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Communicating Ideas through Art (lesson plan)


Students will use a visual thinking protocol to analyze San Lazaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta) by Jose Bedia and consider how he visually communicates layers of meaning in a work of art. Students will learn about the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and illustrate one of its articles to convey its complex meaning.

Created by A+ Schools of NC

Grade Levels
7th Grade, 9th Grade
Subject Areas
Social Studies, Visual Arts
NC Standards Correlations
Social Studies
Visual Arts
World History
Visual Arts

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • San Lázaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta)

    San Lázaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta), by José Bedia

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Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will analyze a painting’s elements and principles of design and use research-based responses to explore its story.
  2. Students will learn about the work of Jose Bedia and his cultural and historical influences.
  3. Students will demonstrate an understanding of an article from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights by visually communicating its meaning.
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Warm-up Observations with a Partner

  • Give each student a photocopy of San Lazaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta) and project it or post a large poster for the class. Ask students to spend one minute quietly looking at their copy noticing every detail. Then, have them write for one minute about everything they observed. 
  • Next, give students or have them find online a source that details the Elements of Visual Art and Principles of Design. Ask students: “What Elements of Visual Art do you see in this work of art?” Have students mark their copy where they see specific elements demonstrated in Bedia’s painting. Then, have students turn to their neighbor and discuss.
  • Have students review the Principles of Design. Ask students: “What Principles of Design do you see in this work of art?” Then, have students mark their photocopy showing where they see specific principles demonstrated and discuss with their partner. 

Whole Class Discussion 

  • Continue to unpack the work of art using the See, Think, Wonder protocol with the whole group. First, ask students to share what they observed in the image during their one-minute written reflection in the warm-up activities. If students share interpretive reflections or reflections that make inferences, follow-up by asking: “What in the image do you see that makes you say that?” 
  • Then, have students use a pencil to divide a sheet of paper into two columns. Students should label one column “Think” and the other column “Wonder.” In the “Think” column, students should detail what they think is going on in the work of art. In the “Wonder” column, students should jot down what the work of art makes them wonder. Ask for a few volunteers to share their Think/Wonder ideas with the whole group. Ask students: How we should we begin to research some of your Wonder questions?
  • Show the NCMALearn video of NCMA Chief Curator, Linda Dougherty, discussing the connections between the painting, the artist, and another work in the museum: Ask students: “What details about the work did you learn? Did it address some of your wonder questions?” Instruct students to discuss with their table group and add relevant notes to their Think/Wonder observations.
  • Consider showing students an additional video of the artist explaining how he communicates history, religion, and common themes. In the 5-minute video titled “Abre Nkuto muchacho nuevo” Bedia explains how he visually translates oral stories and complex ideas. Ask students to reflect on what information this video provides about artist and his artistic process.
  • To wrap up this section and segue to the next activity, ask students: Why do you think Bedia created San Lazaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta)? What is he trying to communicate? What does this work of art say about the artist? 

Introduce Visual Prompt

Explain to students that they will be communicating an idea visually as Bedia conveyed San Lazaro through his own artistic lens. Students will research the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and visually communicate an event or period of time and its connection to an article from the UDHR assigned to them by the teacher. Have students plan how their image will convey the meaning of the article and the event or time period using the Elements of Art and Principles of Design to communicate visually. Share resources (see the Resource Section of this lesson plan) about the Declaration of Rights in addition to asking students to do their own internet searches. 

Independent Work

Assign each student an article from the UDHR and give students research and planning time. Check in on their progress individually with an exit ticket or have students participate in a mid-work critique with a partner. Assess that students have an understanding that the declaration was a milestone in the human rights movement of the 20th century. Ask students: What events in world history connect with the UDHR article you’ve been assigned? What periods in world history come to mind as you consider your article? Students must identify a time period or event that pairs well with their article. To help students develop their approach, ask them:

  • How can you represent the time period/event in light of the facts you know about it and the UDHR article you’ve been assigned? 
  • What Elements of Art and Principles of Design will you include in your composition?
  • What keywords or concepts should be included or represented in your work of art?
  • Remind students about Bedia’s art– how he represented complex ideas and stories through the use of key images as well as the Elements and Principles of art. Ask students: What key images should your art include? How will you use the Elements and Principles to represent the complex ideas and stories in your UDHR article and time period/event?


  • Instruct students to create an artist statement on a 5 x 7 notecard with their name, the event or time period they selected, the article of the declaration, and how they portrayed its meaning visually. 
  • Display student artwork and artist statements along the hallway and have a gallery walk. 
  • Have students share their work with a partner or in small groups. Begin by having students observe each other’s illustrations quietly making notes about what they see, think, and wonder. Students should share their see/think/wonder ideas with each other before either student shares information about the article or event/time period they’ve represented. Have students discuss what surprised them through the lesson and what they learned about representing complex ideas through art.


Written by A+ Fellow Karen Morris


  • Formative assessment: Teacher accesses learning throughout planning and independent work by asking questions, observations, and other strategies like exit tickets, partner discussion, etc.
  • Summative assessment: Participation in discussion, the written artist statement, and the students’ art will be used to assess understanding of learning objectives.
  • The students’ art will include visual elements relevant to the time period/event and article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Lesson Resources

Teacher background: Jose Bedia is a Cuban artist who was born in 1959 and immigrated to Mexico in 1991 and to the US in 1993. He currently lives and works in Miami and is considered part of the 80’s Generation Group of migrant Cuban-American artists who used Afro-Cuban spiritual references in their artwork. He blends his interest in anthropology, cultural heritage, religion, and mythological creatures to create works of art that tell stories and make political statements. This contemporary work of art by Cuban artist Jose Bedia shows San Lazaro on crutches with guide dogs licking his wounds and various Palo names of the central figure written around him. San Lazaro is known as the patron saint of hearth and healing. He provides solace to the poor and afflicted, but shows no mercy to the vain and arrogant. Central to his painting is Bedia’s practice of Palo Monte, an Afro-Cuban religion with multiple rituals and stories.

Materials needed:

Projection capability or copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Photocopies of San Lazaro (O Yo Soy La Ruta) by Jose Bedia

Computers accessible to internet

Poster board or bulletin board paper–1 per student

Variety of art making materials–markers, crayons, colored paper, glue, string, etc.

5 by 7 index cards–I per student



Palo Monte – Afro-Cuban religion with multiple rituals and stories

San Lazaro – Patron saint of healing. He provides solace to the poor and afflicted, but shows no mercy to the vain and arrogant.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

Artist’s statement (or artist statement) – is an artist’s written description of their work. The brief verbal representation is for, and in support of, their own work to give the viewer understanding.



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