Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is an inquiry-based teaching method that is used in museums and school classrooms across the country, however you do not need any special art training to use this strategy effectively. The goal of VTS is not to teach the history of a work of art but rather uses art to teach visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills - listening and expressing oneself. This strategy encourages students to observe art independently and back up their comments with evidence while participating in peer group discussions, facilitated by you, the volunteer.


    • Begin by allowing the student to look silently at the artwork for a minute or two.
    • Open with:

      "What's going on in this picture?"

      Paraphrase student responses neutrally using conditional language ("Johnny thinks this could be..."). This keeps the conversation open to other interpretations by other students.

    • Then:

      "What do you see that makes you say that?"

      This encourages students to back up their statements with things they see in the artwork.

    • Ask the group:

      "What more can we find?"

      This continues the conversation.


    • Paraphrase comments neutrally - there is no wrong observation so long as there is evidence to support it.
    • Point to the area being discussed.
    • Link student comments if and when possible.

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