Lesson Plan

Juan Sanchez, Un Sueno Libre, 1987, lithograph

Lesson plan developed by Ann Kohl-Re, art educator, Madison, Wisconsin

Grade Level

Grades 6 to 8

Summary of Activity

My American Social Profile
“In the US, everyone is a descendant.”
—Juan Sánchez

Juan Sanchez identifies himself as “New Yorican.” He was born in New York and is of Puerto Rican descent. His work is about the mix of races, religions, and cultures of Puerto Rican people and about how politics and history have perpetuated struggle and conflict for Puerto Ricans, at home and in the United States. 

For many people living in the United States, their heritage is likely a rich mixture of backgrounds and cultures, race, beliefs, and identity. In this lesson, students will create a visual profile of their richly mixed, personal culture. They will begin by naming and collecting imagery from their lives, using a poetic form that will guide their creative journey. As a representation of their membership in American culture and history, this collection should represent what they are proud of as well as the struggles they may have. Working in the style of Juan Sanchez’s lithograph, students will incorporate color, text, photographs, and drawing in their work of art.

Learning Objectives

Students will reflect on their familial and cultural background. They will identify personal imagery, using a popular poetic form and translate this into visual imagery. Using mixed media to reflect their personal collection of memories, images, and influences, students will organize color, text, and imagery in unified collage.

Guiding Question

How do my cultural background and personality contribute to the social profile of an American student? How can I communicate my social profile using visual language?

Curriculum Connections

Social Studies: building comprehension of social history; study of immigration
Language Arts: interpretation and writing of poetry


Juan Sanchez, Un Sueño Libre, in Art on Tour exhibition
Un Sueño Libre artwork page, Art on Tour website, and other teaching resources on the artist
"Where I’m From" worksheet or visit George Ella Lyon's web page
Teacher-made example of American Social Profile Collage
Sketchbook or draft paper
Wet media such as block inks, acrylic paints, watercolor
Brayers, brushes, sponges
Device with camera
Digital printer
Assorted drawing media
Recycled cardboard
12 x 18-inch drawing paper, or larger


Ask students to share what they see in Un Sueno Libre, and to identify all design elements, from the colors, shapes, and patterns to the images, technique, and organization. 

Read or share some background on Juan Sanchez provided in the Art on Tour teaching materials. Ask students to write about or discuss as a class or in small groups how they think Sanchez is successful in communicating his feelings about his ancestral people and their lives. Ask students to consider the following questions: Why do they think he choose children in the main image? Do they recognize the single star that is found in all four of the lower images in the print? If so, how can they connect it to the other imagery and text in Un Sueno Libre? Can they translate the text that is across the top of the print? (If not, read or provide the English translation for a student to read to the class.) Ask students to consider the artist’s choice of colors and textures that make up the image.

Show students an example of the My American Social Profile collage. Ask them to think about ideas about their place in their family, culture, school, and nation.


Ask students to complete the "Where I’m From" worksheet, noticing how images inform the words they write and how their writing can inform their image-making. Ask them to fasten their worksheet responses in a sketchbook and begin to draw some images that correspond to their written words. Tell them that they are beginning to compile, visually and linguistically, their American Social Profile.

Ask the students to choose three to five of their sketches that they feel confident in developing for their final project. Let them know that the number chosen can be based on their confidence, time frame, and/or development of their visual idea. Instruct them to continue to develop these images in support of the ideas they are representing. Tell them that they can choose to use photographs or photocopies in their work and that they eventually will transfer their drawings to 4 x 6-inch sheets of paper that they will complete with color- or black-marker line-work and attach to their final project.

Ask the students to bring in a childhood photograph of themselves, or have a classmate take a photograph of them. Photocopy or print the photograph, which will be used as a centerpiece of their collage.  

Ask them to create the background for their images using 12x18 tag board or recycled cardboard. Instruct them to cover it with interesting layers of color; two or three colors that communicate their history and identity. Instruct students in using brayers, paint brushes, or non-traditional tools to layer block-printing ink, watercolor and/or acrylic washes to their image. Students may also layer colored pencil into their image. Tell them that their goal is to create a visually rich “stage set” for their imagery and text. Encourage them to allow their deep creativity to play with color and texture.

Direct students to complete their 4x6-inch images and experiment with how they will arrange them, and their portrait photograph, on the background. Ask them to consider whether they want to add text to unify their composition and clarify its imagery, including either part of or of the entire “Where I’m From” poem they wrote. Tell students to fasten images to background using glue or paste and to use marker or colored pencil to add text.

Ask the students to write a statement about their American Social Profile describing how their social identity is source of pride and/or strength for them.  Ask them to include how some aspects of their social identity may be a source of struggle and to explain their choice of imagery and other design elements.


  • Research current issues on immigration and write a persuasive essay on United States immigration policy
  • Interview an immigrant to the United States, asking about the challenges of being an immigrant and the highlights of living in this country
  • View George Ella Lyon, author of “Where I’m From,” reading her original poem.
  • View other YouTube videos of “Where I’m From” poems, performed as spoken-word poetry
  • Create a video about your American Social Profile art project
  • Research, discover, and/or compose music that expresses social issues, particularly about immigration

Use the following categories to list specific details about you. The key is making this as specific and personal as possible. Use nicknames or words that only you or your family use. Don't worry about readers not knowing what you are referring to.

 a) Parent's names and significant relatives
b) Special foods or meals
c) Family specific games or activities
d) Nostalgic songs
e) Stories, novels or poetry that you'll never forget
f) Phrases that were repeated often
g) The best things that you were told
h) The worst things that you have been told
i) Ordinary household items
j) Family traditions
k) Family traits
l) Family tendencies
m) Religious symbols or experiences
n) Specific story(ies) about a specific family member that influenced you
o) Accidents or traumatic experiences
p) Losses
q) Joys
r) Location of memories, pictures, or mementos

Select from your lists the items you want to include in your poem. You do not have to include everything that you listed, and you can always add more categories or items to include in your poem.

Begin with: I am from ___. (Fill in with one of the items you listed while prewriting.)
Continue on the next line with: From_____ and ____. (Fill in each blank with items from your list.)
Continue with: I am from ____ and ____. (Fill in the blanks as you did before.)
Continue this format until you have completed your poem.
End the poem with an explanation of where you keep any symbols, items, boxes or pictures that may represent some or most of the topics you included in your poem.


Common Core Standards

8th grade Common Core Standards for visual arts:
VA:Cr2.1.8a, VA:Cr2.3.8a, VA:Cr3.1.8a VA:Pr5.1.8a, VA:Pr6.1.8a, VA:Re7.1.8a, VA:Re8.1.8a  VA:Cn11.1.8a

8th grade Wisconsin Visual Arts Standards:
A.8.6, B.4.5, B.8..1, B.8.6, C.8.4, C.8.6, C.8.7, C.8.9. E.8.1, E.8.5, G.8.1, G.8.2, G.8.3, G.8.4, I.8.5. I.8.6, J.8.10, K.8.1, L.8.1, L.8.3

Juan Sanchez (American, b. 1954), Un Sueno Libre, 1987, lithograph, 22 x 29 inches. Museum Purchase Fund. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. © Juan Sanchez/Guariken Arts, Inc.

Related Art On Tour Artwork: