Visual Thinking Strategies

Children will naturally explore what they find interesting. And they love looking and watching things. Yet children’s sharp observation skills are rarely used in education, where abstract thinking without visual support is regarded as a valuable skill. Yet children can often observe and detect aspects and ideas in pictures that may be difficult in a text.

Philip Yenawine describes visual literacy as

“…the ability to find meaning in imagery. It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification (naming what one sees) to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. Many aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing. Objective understanding is the premise of much of this literacy, but subjective and affective aspects of knowing are equally important.”

Using art to support visual thinking is a way of inviting children to explore their own ideas and to listen to other children. Children discover how other children may interpret the same painting.

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

These questions are an invitation to not only describe what you see but to search for a story behind the painting. The looking is not passive description of what you see. It is an active think dive into the painting.

Asking questions and exploring ideas are vital skills that help to build a foundation for thinking. Open-ended questions  sparks an interest in exploring ideas. Some questions may be difficult for a child to answer but it is the attempt to look for possible answers that is fun and which provides them with a rich learning experience. It is also important for the child to ask questions that looking at the painting may spark. A visual approach helps to build  thinking, language and visual literacy skills.

Why not post a photo of a painting in the classroom or kitchen. No caption, headline or clues about the origin and then everyone gathers information by looking at the image. Then you have some fun talking about “What’s going on in this picture?”

Go here to visit Visual Thinking Strategy’s website.

Thinking Through Art from ISGM on Vimeo.

Sparking Thinkibility Book Tips

You find some Art Books for children here.

Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines

Yenawine book


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