About the CALTA21 Curriculum

To access the CALTA21 curriculum and its additional materials, email calta21info@gmail.com with your request. Please include your professional title and the name of the organization or institution with which you are affiliated.  In response, you will receive login information for the CALTA21 website (www.calta21.org) and access instructions.

Intended Audience

The CALTA21 curriculum, “ Identity, Portraiture and Photography,” is designed for adult English language learners. These programs can be offered in institutions of higher education, such as community colleges and colleges, in public libraries and in community-based organizations. These institutions will work in partnership with a local art museum.

English Language Proficiency Levels

Participants will be registered in Intermediate or Advanced English language programs. For the lower-intermediate levels, which might vary in proficiency from program to program, teachers need to review the units and in some cases provide additional scaffolding activities.


To empower adult immigrant English language learners by:

  • Strengthening their literacy and critical thinking skills
  • Enriching their social and cultural capital through the development of visual and museum literacy

Guiding Principles

CALTA21’s guiding principles are reflected across the curriculum and support every unit.

Principle One:

Every person has the right to equal access to aesthetic encounters with art and to museums in a meaningful and independent way and institutions have a responsibility to engage all community members. The curriculum empowers participants to embrace art and museums as resources for learning, enjoyment and global understanding.

Principle Two:

There is inherent value to all points of view and backgrounds. Participants’ personal stories as imimigrants are at the core of the curriculum and are used as the springboard for acquiring new knowledge. The curriculum encourages students to access prior knowledge and experiences and see them as an asset and not a deficit.

Principle Three:

Teaching and learning should be a dialogue based on shared authority. Every participant in CALTA21 (students, teachers and museum educators) has an expertise and has an opportunity to share it with their fellow participants and learn from each other’s knowledge.

Principle Four:

Art and culture are powerful catalysts for developing literacy skills. Art addresses complex issues. Adult participants access higher order thinking skills using their senses (perception), emotions and cognition (often thinking in their native language) to look at and find meaning in art. The curriculum offers them the opportunity to collectivelly explore complex ideas and to think in abstract, to speculate and to infer while they build lower order thinking skills in their acquired language, such as vocabulary and sentence construction.

Principle Five:

Situated and contextualized learning fosters transformative experiences. The curriculum prepares students to become teachers and facilitators for their families and friends in a public environment, such as a museum. Visual literacy and art anchor the learning experience and the practice of literacy and critical thinking skills is set in a real life environment.

Principle Six:

Museums must embrace their new expanded roles – inclusion, access to knowledge, civic engagement and democratic practice. The curriculum encourages the strengthening of the immigrant voice and full civic participation. Participants shape their cultural identities while they recover their personal immigrant narratives and engage in relevant art discussions in a space of public value. CALTA21 provides museums with an opportunity to include an underrepresented audience in a meaningful and sustainable way.



Individuals acquire many identities through their lifetimes. These identities are shaped within different contexts, forged by a variety of forces, among which are nationality, culture, language, religion, gender, sexuality, socio-economics, education and memory. For many reasons, some identities are nurtured while others are repressed. In the case of immigrants, issues such as displacement, diaspora, acculturation, exile and the preservation or rejection of memories related to these issues present another layer upon which one’s concept of identity is formed. By engaging with portraiture, students examine how people throughout time have explored the multi-layered aspects of identity.

Immigrants face a unique challenge in preserving their identities as they navigate issues of belonging, language and assimilation. Memories of meaningful moments, places and people from their lives prior to migrating are frequently captured in the form of photographs, objects, paintings and writings. Immigrants’ identities are shaped by the interaction of those memories with their experiences in their new country.

Exploring our own identity through personal narratives is not only a captivating exercise, but it is also a valuable way of using our own stories to acquire new knowledge. The curriculum is designed around the theme of identity as it can be expressed in portraits and self-portrait. This allows participants to explore how they see themselves as well as how they are perceived by others. Participants have an opportunity to develop literacy skills while investigating their own identity, a very complex and layered concept.

Pedagogical Approaches

CALTA21 utilizes the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) pedagogy and stresses pedagogical practices that best serve adult immigrants through small group collaborative work. Units integrate cooperative learning and communicative language teaching. In pairs and small groups, students will have conversational practice by facilitating art viewing discussions and discussing one another’s photographs and writing. Art images and the students’ self-portraits will be used as the jumping off point from which to practice all the language skills. In addition to conversational practice, students will respond in writing to their own works and to their peers’ photos, as well as to literacy assignments.

Learning through art and culture offers students the opportunity to immerse in content. It provides them with opportunities for language learning to emerge as they use language within a visual context that enables them to understand the subject matter. Students revisit the same concepts of “Identity, Portraiture and Photography” in many different ways, allowing them to reinforce new concepts, vocabulary and language skills. They also can use their immigrant expertise to learn new content. They learn through topics that are relevant to their lives and activate background knowledge and prior experiences to build new knowledge.

Each curriculum unit includes: looking at art, speaking and engaging in facilitated discussions, listening, reading, researching, writing and taking photographs. Units rely on student’s background knowledge,

Each unit will start with a Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) discussion in which students will engage in looking at art images and teachers in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and museum educators will facilitate conversations based on three open-ended questions:

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

Facilitators will paraphrase students’ responses, carefully avoiding judgment, pointing at the evidence students are presenting and linking students’ comments. Adult immigrant English language learners find this methodology particularly helpful since it does not require prior art knowledge and fosters the development of interpretative skills. By using predictable questions, VTS avoids any unexpected question that can trigger a sense of discomfort among adults for lack of background knowledge. Given that art addresses complex issues in a visual manner, each viewer can visually connect to a work of art. Trained facilitators provide a positive experience where language need not be a barrier to communicating, assisting students in strengthening their respective voices.

Students become facilitators of VTS discussions in small groups in Unit 3 and continue to do so until the end in Unit 10. During their first trip to the museum in Unit 6 and after the museum educator has modeled VTS, participants take turns facilitating discussions of works of their choice. In Unit 10, at the end of the curriculum, they curate the museum experience and are the leaders for their families and friends.

Every unit also incorporates in lessons 2 and 3 each student’s personal immigrant story through written narratives and photography. These lessons dig deeper into the concepts of identity, portraiture and photography and build vocabulary to address them. Each unit responds to the following questions:

  • Where do I come from?
  • Who am I today in my new home?
  • What are my hopes and dreams for my future?

The curriculum also emphasizes speaking and listening with practice activities modeled on the StoryCorps’ website and its interviews. Cooperative learning activities incorporate techniques from the counseling-learning approach in order to provide an opportunity for self-expression as well as an opportunity to practice effective listening techniques, such as paraphrasing, follow up, and feedback and question formation. This question making supports the development of the research questions that students will generate after their first museum visit.


In many cases, photography will serve as the springboard for the activities and has been designed with Roland Barthes’ theory as explored in Camera Lucida.[1] According to Barthes, four aspects of a person are present when an individual poses for a camera:

  • Who the individual thinks he is
  • Who he wants others to think he is
  • Who the photographer thinks the subject is
  • Who the photographer tries to make visible in his art.

Students will examine notions of identity by taking their own self-portraits. Using self-portrait photography in the adult ESL classroom has the potential to provide a high level of motivation for learning and is uniquely suitable for an exploration of the theme of identity. As Henri Cartier-Bresson states in The Mind’s Eye, the camera is the sketchbook and to take photographs is to put “one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis”.[2] Students can use old photos but will also be encouraged to take new ones in response to assignments.

In both the use of technology and the artistically creative portions of this curriculum, students are encouraged to find creative solutions to the art assignments. Technological constraints should be viewed and presented as possibilities for creative invention. Students should be encouraged to use any camera available: their own, cell phones, or disposable cameras and/or a program’s digital camera that can be provided for those students who do not own a camera.   Students should be encouraged to be as creative as possible by responding to assignments individually.

Family Literacy

The curriculum also incorporates family literacy. The curriculum prepares students to curate a museum experience for their families and friends and to be the facilitators during the two curriculum units that are done at the museum. This intergenerational component of the curriculum empowers the adults who are parents by positioning them as their children’s teachers.



Notes for teachers and museum educators who implement the curriculum

The curriculum is divided into 10 units of study. Each unit is divided into (3) fifty minute lessons

Units 1 -5 and 7 – 9 are taught in the classroom by an ESL instructor

Units 6 and 10 are taught at the art museum by museum educators, docents and the adult ELLs participating in the program

The partnership between the ESL program and the museum is established in advance during the Professional Development Institute, so planning for the museum trips and instruction should be adapted to the museum and to the collection or exhibit to be viewed. Works of art that focus on issues of identity, portraiture and multiculturalism are very conducive to engage students in dialogue and to support what they have been learning in the classroom.

The CALTA21 Manual (available in CALTA21’s website) offers guidance on the partnership development and on the use of trip protocols. Many of the lessons have materials and worksheets that can be duplicated for classroom use.



NOTE: To access the CALTA21 curriculum and its additional materials, email calta21info@gmail.com with your request. You will receive login information for the CALTA21 website (www.calta21.org) and access instructions.

  • Powerpoints with the images and/or the guiding questions for class discussions are available for download through the CALTA21 website. They are organized by unit and by lesson. Each powerpoint with works of art has reproduced images and links to additional images. Where links are provided, we strongly suggest you use these images.
  • Reproducible worksheets for all the curriculum activities
  • Included in the full curriculum are reproducible, full-page images to photocopy/print and distribute for small group discussions
  • Above materials are available, free of charge, on CALTA21’s website
  • Smart-boards or projectors and laptops to project images for class discussions
  • Digital camera (optional – sometimes needed if students don’t have access to cameras or cell phones)
  • Postcards with portraits – one per student for Unit 1 “Postcard Activity”– Teachers can build their own collection from postcards, posters and calendars images with portraits for the “Postcard Activity” and they can be bought in most museum stores or in museums’ websites
  • Journals – Blank journals exlusively dedicated to the CALTA21 curriculum are a great way of modeling museum literacy. Students can record their progress, write their literacy assignments, paste their photographs and sketch and document their museum experience and their research.

A very economical blank journal can be purchased at www.barebooks.com – Product #2705 – Portrait Blank Bare Book. They have blank hard covers that each student can make their own by creating their own designs. They are small enough that they can be carried around the museum easily.

[1] Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.

[2] Cartier-Bresson, Henri. The Mind’s Eye – Writings in Photography and Photographers. (New York: Aperture, 1999), 16.


Table of Contents

UNIT 1 : PORTRAITURE AND PHOTOGRAPHY: How does a portrait show who we are?

Lesson 1 Introduction to CALTA21Writing Sample: Pre-VTS (20 minutes)VTS Class Discussion # 1 (30 minutes)Materials and Images:
  • Pre-VTS Writing Sample handouts
  • Eduoard Manet. The Railway. 1873
    Japanese Department of Education. John James Audobon, Bird Naturalist.
    Eastman Johnson. A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves. c. 1862.
  • Additional image suggestion(s):
    Picasso, Pablo. La Soupe. 1902

50 minutesDate:

Lesson 2What is a portrait? Literacy Activity: Postcard “ I am…”Materials and Images:

  • Barebooks or notebooks
  • Postcards or printed images
  • “I am….” handout

50 minutesDate:Lesson 3Portraiture and PhtotographyLiteracy Activity: Venn Diagram: Comparing two photographs. Comparing a portrait and a self-portraitLiteracy Activity: Writing: Comparing my childhood and current neighborhoodMaterials and Images:

  • “Photography and Portraiture Vocabulary” handout
  • 2 Venn Diagrams
  • Consuelo Kanaga. Frances with a Flower. Early 1930s.
    Circle of Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). Portrait of a Young Man in Red. 1505.
    Harris and Ewing. Noted British artist completes portrait of President Hoover.1931.
    Vincent van Gogh. Self-Portrait. 1889.
  • Additional image suggestion(s):

Graciela Iturbide. 7674. Chalmita. State of Mexico. 1984                                                       Paul Mathey. Woman and Child in a Room. 1890.
Cartier Bresson. Coco Chanel.
Cartier Bresson. Self-Portrait with camera.

50 minutesDate:AssignmentsLiteracy Assignment: Comparing neighborhoods writing assignmentArt Assignment: Self-portrait in my neighborhood Date:


UNIT 2: LOOKING BACK: Where we come from

Lesson 1 VTS Class Discussion #2Materials and Images:

  • “Photography and Portraiture Vocabulary” handout
  • David Siqueiros. Peasant Mother.
    Pablo Corradi. Egypt 1. 2012.
    Jean-Léon Gérôme. Prayer in a Mosque. 1871.
  • Additional image suggestion(s):
    David Turnley. Father and Daughter Playing Guitar.     Lewis Watts. Martin Luther King Way, West Oakland. 1993.
50 minutes Date:
Lesson 2 Self-Portrait Photography and Neighborhoods (Part I)Activity: Speaking about self-portrait photography 50 minutes Date:
Lesson 3 Self-Portrait Photography and Neighborhoods (Part II)Literacy Activity using the reading assignment: Comparing NeighborhoodsLiteracy Activity: Listening Comprehension with StoryCorpsMaterials and Images:

50 minutes Date:
Assignments Family discussions:1: On neighborhoods: while growing up and current neighborhood2: On languages: used at home, with friends and at school Date:



Lesson 1 Practicing and Debriefing VTSPart I: Class VTS Discussion # 3Part II: Debreifing VTSPart III: Small Group VTS Discussion #1Materials and Images:

  • “VTS Questions” handout
  • Printed art images for small group discussions
  • Arnaldo Roche Rabell. The Temple.


50 minutes (in total)Part I: 20 minutesPart II: 10 minutesPart III: 20 minutes Date:
Lesson 2 Exploring Multiculturalism and Multilingualism (Part I)Activity: Creating a class muralMaterials and Images:

  • Markers, scissors, gluesticks, colored paper and butcher block paper
50 minutes Date:
Lesson 3 Exploring Multiculturalism and Multilingualism (Part II)Activity: Discussing the class mural and creating a mural labelMaterials and Images:

  • Powerpoint with museum label
50 minutes Date:
Assignments Literacy Assignment: VTS Writing ActivityArt Assignment: “Self-Portrait and Multiple Identities”



Lesson 1 VTS DiscussionsPart I: Class VTS Discussion # 4Part II: Small Group VTS Discusion #2Materials and Images:

  • Frida Kahlo. The Two Fridas. 1939.
  • Printed art images
  • “VTS Questions” handout
50 minutes in totalPart I: 20 minutesPart II: 30 minutes Date:
Lesson 2 Self-Portrait Photography and Multiple Identities (Part I)Activity: Discussion students’ “Self portrait and Multiple Identities” 50 minutes
Lesson 3 Self-Portrait Photography and Multiple Identities (Part II)Writing about the “Self-portrait and multiple identitites” photograph AND “When do I choose to speak English and when I choose to speak (one of) my native language(s)” 50 minutes
Assignment Literacy Assignment: Memorable photographWriting Assignemnt: Museum Experience paragraphMaterials and Images:

  • Memorable Photograph Worksheet



Lesson 1 Practice with Facilitating VTSPart I: Paraphrasing ExercisePart II: Small Group VTS Discusion #3Materials and Images:

  • “VTS Paraphrasing Exercise” handout
  • Printed art images
50 minutes Date
Lesson 2 Sharing “A Memorable photograph” 50 minutes Date
Lesson 3 What is an art museum? Why do we go to an art museum? Literacy Activity: Writing: “A memorable visit to an art museum” OR “My expectations for the museum trip”Materials and Images:

  • “Museum Vocabulary” handout
50 minutes Date
Assignment Researching the museum’s websiteCreating a cover for the sketchbook or journal
Museum Trip Preparation For the instructor:

  • Instructor checklist
  • Consent and Release Form



Museum trip Museum introduction and VTS discussions facilitated by museum educator (#5)Materials and Images:

  • Museum trip time log (instructor only)
50 minutes Date
Gallery navigation and selection of one work of art for small group VTS discussion 10 minutes
Small group VTS discussions facilitated by students (#4) 35 minutes
Selection of two works of artMaterials and Images:

  • “Selecting a Work of Art” worksheet
  • Journals and pencils
15 minutes
Group reflection 10 minutes
Assignment Literacy assignment:“Sharing the museum experience”Research and short essay: Artist or work of art chosen during the trip“Portrait at 80 years old”


 UNIT 7: LOOKING FORWARD: Imagining our future

Lesson 1 Class VTS Discussion # 6Materials and Images:

  • Carmen Lomas Garza. Camas para Suenos (Bed for Dreams).
    Utagawa Hiroshige.Yoroi Ferry, Koami-chō (Yoroi no Watashi Koami-chō. 1857.
  • Additional image suggestion(s):
    Paul D’Amato. Girl Reaching for Rose, Boston. 1986.
50 minutes Date
Lesson 2 Debriefing the VTS Experience – Researching Works of ArtPart I: Sharing the Museum ExperiencePart II: Researching Selected Works of Art 50 minutes Date
Lesson 3 Listening and WritingStoryCorps Activity: “I have a 16-year-old heart, a 33-year old mind and a 73-year-old body”Materials and Images:

60 minutes Date
Assignment Art Assignment: Self-portrait with someone relevant to our livesLiteracy Assignment: Students start to research their “Selected Works of Art”



Lesson 1 VTS DiscussionsPart I: Class VTS Discussion #7Part II: Small Group VTS Discusion #5Part III: Understanding VTS ProtocolMaterials and Images:

  • Carmen Lomas Garza. Curandera (faith healer).                                                     Masanobu, Hills of Dyed Color: Models for the Bedroom. Ca. 1740.
    Lewis W. Hine. Self-Portrait with Newsboy, 1908.
  • Additional image suggestion(s):
    Flip Schulke. Martin Luther King Jr. Eating with his Family.
80 minutes (in total)Part I: 30 minutesPart II: 30 minutesPart III: 20 minutes Date:
Lesson 2 Sharing Resources 50 minutes Date:
Lesson 3 Listening, Speaking and WritingLiteracy Activity:Speaking and Writing about self-portraits with a person relevant to our lives 50 minutes Date:
Assignment Literacy Assignment: ResearchOptional Assignments: Letter and Family Literacy



Lesson 1 Class VTS Discussion # 8Materials and Images:

  • Schiele, Egon. Portrait of the Painter Paris von Gutersloh.
    Vincent van Gogh. First Steps, after Millet. 1890.
  • Additional image suggestion(s):
    Wyeth, Andrew. Christina’s World. 1949.
    Hopper, Edward. 1942.     Munch, Edvard. The Storm. 1893.
50 minutes Date:
Lesson 2 Debriefing the Use of Art and VTS to Learn EnglishPost-VTS Writing Exercise 50 minutes (In total): Part I: 20Part II: 30 Date:
Lesson 3 Preparing to Be a LeaderMaterials and Images:

  • “Experiencing the Museum” handout
50 minutes Date:
Assignment Literacy: Preparing for the Museum Trip
Museum Trip Preparation For the students:

  • “Experiencing the Museum” handout

For the instructor:

  • Instructor checklist



Museum trip Structure, Content and Logisitics for the Museum TripMaterials:

  • Museum time log
  • Certificate of Completion
2 hours Date
Assignment Reflection on the experience






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