Higher Education

Using Storytelling for Language Development

Curriculum for ESL Classrooms

January 2022

by Dayamudra Dennehy, Ed.D
Professor of English as a Second Language
City College of San Francisco

As a community college ESL instructor, I have used Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity (1940) mural for instruction in both our credit, academic and non-credit, community ESL classes. I approach the mural as a form of storytelling. The lessons focus on individual characters in a panel, exploring the ways characters interact with one another and their environment. The lessons, which can be adapted for all levels of language development, also focus on the composition of each panel and the relationship between them. Sample assignments include:

  • “The Mural as Story”
  • “Your Favorite Panel”
  • “Letter to a Character”
  • “Letter to Diego Rivera”
  • “Point-of-View”
  • “Add Yourself to a Panel”
  • “Who’s Missing?”
  • “Design a 6th Panel”

Students use the mural as a foundation for conversation, class discussion, note-taking, infographics, paragraph writing, research, group collaboration, and public speaking, helping them develop skills in all areas. Student work can also be compiled digitally, using platforms such as Adobe Spark pages, Adobe Spark video, on a Jamboard, or on Padlet.

Teaching Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity Mural: Curriculum from City College of San Francisco
Detail view of Diego Rivera's mural Pan American Unity. See All