Visual Thinking Strategies

Visual Thinking Strategies engages students in discussion.
Visual Thinking Strategies engages students in discussion.

A popular book study in our K-12 Professional Development offerings was Visual Thinking Strategies by Philip Yenawine. Teachers at all grade levels found this strategy helped expand student discussions. Special Education teachers found Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) very helpful to explore new content. 

In VTS discussions, teachers support student growth by facilitating discussions of carefully selected works of visual art/photographs or media literacy. Teachers are asked to use three open-ended questions to engage student discussion.

  • What’s going on in this picture?

  • What do you see that makes you say that?

  • What more can we find?

Teachers use facilitation techniques to expand student responses. By pointing at the areas being discussed and paraphrasing student comments, teachers helped link and frame student answers. For those teachers being observed using an evidence-based tool, the following evidence can be seen when using Visual Thinking Strategies.

Questioning/Discussion Technique

  • Students are engaged in exploring new content through effective questioning.
  • Engages all students in discussion.
  • Allowing “Think Time” before responding.
  • Topics can be expanded through follow up, rephrasing and applying student responses.

Engages Students in Learning

  • Examples are used to illustrate new learning.
  • New learning connects student knowledge, interests and culture.
  • Problem solving is highlighted as a technique in student learning.
  • Examples are differentiated to meet student needs.

VTS As An Assessment Tool

  • Teachers and peers comment on student responses.
  • Uses Non-verbal cues (nods, quizzical looks etc.) to encourage students.
  • Effective feedback is specific and descriptive.
  • Teacher comments help clarify student responses.
  • Feedback is immediate to support student learning.

Visual Thinking Strategies helps students to truly understand and transfer learning.  It helps them explain, interpret and apply new learning.   

Isn’t education ALL about reaching the kids?

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