Artwork Analysis Day


  • 4-6 piece of Artwork
  • CDA ch. 7 (or comparable visual language instruction)
  • Projection Screen
  • Laptops or printed copies for each student

Divide class into groups and assign each group a piece of artwork, whether it’s classical, clip art, advertisements, or movie posters. The nice thing about this is it can easily be adapted to any topic or unit you are teaching.

The objectives: Each group should analyze and interpret their piece of art by breaking down the visual parts. (I like to use Compose, Design, Advocates Chapter 7 to help create a base of terminology for my students, but use whatever supplement for visual language you prefer to help guide the groups and give everyone a common vocabulary to apply). Each group should come up with a cohesive interpretation (much like a thesis) and supporting visual cues (their evidence).  

Present: Once each group has completed their task,  have each group present their interpretation to the class (and I like to instruct the groups to assign something to say for each member to make sure everyone participates). After each group, have the whole class build on and support the interpretation and then move in to critiquing it. (Practicing and reinforcing the “Believing Game” skillset).

Content: Wrap up each piece of artwork and have the students parce them as a collection to see if they are any bigger pictures or connections to other things you’ve worked on. This can be a good place to offer a supplemental article or reading etc. depending on class time.

Reflection: I like to end with 10 minutes of them reflecting through freewrite about what they learned from the lesson, what questions they still have, and what areas interest them (and might, therefore, make valuable paper topics) etc.

This lesson also works well as a building block towards scene analysis.

Possible Prep Assignment: Have students find a piece of artwork before class and post it to a forum. Then have them briefly analyze its argument in 200-300 words.