Monthly Archives: September 2012

What’s Going On In This Picture?


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IAA embraces Visual Thinking Strategies
This year our staff is learning how to use Visual Thinking Strategies, or VTS. VTS is a teaching method and school curriculum which centers on open-ended yet highly-structured discussions of visual art, significantly increasing students’ critical thinking, language and literacy skills along the way. VTS uses art to teach thinking, communication skills, and visual literacy to young people. VTS as an approach to learning is a perfect match for IAA – as one of our strategic goals is to concentrate on increasing our student’s literacy success.

Through VTS’ rigorous and engaging individual and group ‘problem-solving’ process, students cultivate a willingness and ability to present their own ideas, while respecting and learning from the perspectives of their peers. IAA teachers will be learning how to facilitate student-centered discussions, engaging learners in a rigorous process of examination and meaning-making through visual art that has been carefully selected for age and developmental appropriateness. VTS experience produces growth in all students, from challenged and non-English language learners to high achievers.

Teachers are asked to use only three open-ended questions:
What’s going on in this picture?
• What do you see that makes you say that?
• What more can we find?

Students are asked to:
• Look carefully at works of art
• Talk about what they observe
• Back up their ideas with evidence
• Listen to and consider the views of others
• Discuss many possible interpretations

VTS is an absolutely wonderful program for all of our students kindergarten through grade 5. It’s a whole lot of fun for children of all ages because they are asked to talk about what they see. Try asking your child those three questions when you are looking at books with them. You’ll be surprised at how able they are to respond verbally to what they see. Visual Thinking Strategies

VTS co-founder, Abigail Housen, has been involved in art and aesthetic research for more than 30 years. Abigail’s doctoral research at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education which focused on the stages of aesthetic development provided the theoretical foundation for VTS.
In her longitudinal research studies, Abigail showed that, in addition to developing visual thinking, VTS programs promote creative and critical thinking skills. Her research also demonstrates that students’ application of these crucial 21st century skills transfer to other subject areas across the academic curriculum.

FACT: Approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners.
FACT: The brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text.
FACT: 90 percent of information that comes to the brain is visual.
FACT: 40 percent of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina.
–Visual Teaching Alliance home page (