Higher Education

Using Written Words to Analyze a Language of Images

Curriculum for English Composition Classrooms

January 2022

by Jeffrey Goldthorpe
Professor Emeritus
City College of San Francisco


The materials here were developed through a decade of collaboration and teaching about Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity (1940) mural for an English composition course one level below English 1A. With the exception of the prompts featured in Part Two, I adopted or created these materials for a five-week research assignment. However, they can be extracted from this context and repurposed to suit additional needs.

These materials are designed to support students who might lack experience writing research reports or analyzing a sprawling, complex artwork. This lesson applies precepts of media literacy theory to interpret visuals as an alternative symbol system—one that produces powerful meanings and must be teased out through the student’s interpretation.



Teaching Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity Mural: Curriculum from City College of San Francisco
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