Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is an inquiry-based teaching strategy for all grade levels. You do not need any special art training to use this strategy. The goal of VTS is not to teach the history of a work of art but, rather, to encourage students to observe independently and to back up their comments with evidence.
How to do VTS
- Project artwork. Choose a work that is not abstract.
- Ask students to look closely and silently at it for a minute or two.
- Three questions guide the discussion.
- Open with: “What’s going on here?”
Summarize student responses using conditional language (“Raoul thinks this could be…”). This keeps the conversation open to other interpretations by other students.
- If appropriate: “What do you see that makes you say that?”
This encourages students to back up their statements with things they see in the work of art.
- Ask the group: “What more can we find?”
This continues the conversation.
Tips for doing VTS
- During discussion, link responses together—compare and contrast what other students have said.
- Avoid inserting information. Let students look closely and reason out their responses, rather than discussing the facts. If a student comes to a factually incorrect conclusion, gently correct if absolutely necessary during your classroom lesson, not during the VTS conversation.
- Allow the conversation to go where it will, even if it gets off topic. Remember, the goal is not to share information, but to encourage critical thinking.
- At the end of the conversation, continue with your lesson, linking the content with comments that students made.