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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Exploring Art and Thinking

In this lesson you will introduce your students to  Visible Thinking and one of the basic core thinking routines developed through Harvard's Project Zero called See, Think and Wonder.

Visible Thinking is a flexible and systematic research-based approach to integrating the development of students' thinking with content learning across subjects.Visible Thinking is for teachers, school leaders and administrators in K - 12 schools who want to encourage the development of a culture of thinking in their classrooms and schools. Thinking Routines loosely guide learners' thought processes and encourage active processing. They are short, easy-to-learn mini-strategies that extend and deepen students' thinking and become part of the fabric of everyday classroom life.

Visible Thinking is a broad and flexible framework for enriching classroom learning in the content areas and fostering students' intellectual development at the same time. Here are some of its key goals:

Deeper understanding of content, Greater motivation for learning, Development of learners' thinking and learning abilities, Development of learners' attitudes toward thinking and learning and their alertness to opportunities for thinking and learning (the "dispositional" side of thinking).  A shift in classroom culture toward a community of enthusiastically engaged thinkers and learners.Note:  If this the first time you introduce this routine to your students use the  images in the order they appear to allow for the students to increase their skills in"seeing". The simpler and more straightforward the narrative the easier it is to discuss.  Please note that  when choosing other artwork  it should have several elements to support questions.  As students increase their ability, challenge them to look and discuss more abstract works  that contain many elements  within the picture plane but less obvious narrative . Please note that images should present a topic that aligns with students grade.

 The See, Think, Wonder routine will encourage students to think about why something looks the way it does or the way it is. This routine works best at the beginning of a unit to motivate students interest. It can also be used with an object that connects to the topic during the unit of study. You can also use this routine at the end of the unit to reinforce their knowledge and ideas of the unit of study.This routine focuses on experiencing and appreciating art, rather than making art.

Materials: Art images that can be enlarged or projected for the class to see, a large poster board, post- its brand,  or a whiteboard projector if you have one and ink marker or whiteboard pen. The image can also be presented in a large printed format so that all of the students can view it as a group.

Preparation : On a large white poster board or whiteboard, draw three columns vertically and title each column with one of the three questions.  I See, I Think , and I Wonder

You will lead  students by asking the questions and another person, if possible can write the responses. This will become a class chart of observations, interpretations and wondering for all to see and return to during the class. This chart is similar to using KWL.

To begin, ask your students to look at the image, then ask What do you see?  Give everyone time to look. After about 20 seconds begin to ask questions.

Write what they say in the first column. Then ask after a few minutes, What do they think about what they see? Write the responses in the second column. Ask the third question and repeat writing the comments in the third. Continue asking and encourage your students to provide evidence of what they say. Keep in mind that paraphrasing some of the responses after you have written them down helps scaffold ideas for further inquiry. Students may answer all three prompts on their turn instead of waiting for the next questions.

At the end of the session, allow for some time to tell your students about the artist and the work. Please see the slide notes next to the images.

When looking again and comparing and contrasting with the last slide use your chart to make connections between the ideas or themes that remain constant from when they first looked at the image and afterwards with new knowledge acquired.


Pedagogy: Making Thinking Visible, Harvard Project Zero, Artful Thinking, See Think and Wonder Routine ( see link below)

Florida Next Generation Standards, Common Core,


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