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NCHE Day Two – Smithsonian art and reading history

Okay, a quick tip for everyone. Don’t go to the 11:15 pm showing of the Friday night 2.5 hour long The Hunger Games movie with your daughter before the 8:00 am start of NCHE day two.

I’m just saying.

But I’m awake and ready to go. Really. Starbucks is a wonderful drug.

The 8:00 session looks good – if for no other reason that it’s by the Smithsonian Art Museum people and a middle school teacher from Wichita.

The Art Museum/Portrait Gallery has over 40,000 pieces and is a phenomenal resource. I was able to spend some time there last fall and every much enjoyed their Civil War exhibit.

Victoria Lichtendorf and Adrienne L. Gayoso from the museum started the session with a hook activity using a postcard template. Use the template to create a card using

Victoria shared the idea of using something called Visual Thinking Strategy. (Use Google to find lots of resources on the VTS idea.)

The strategy is a inquiry-based pedagogy that encourages open ended discussion, scaffolding, and  group collaboration while enhancing thinking skills, verbal communication and visual literacy. Works great for visual things but also other sorts of primary sources.

The concept was designed for non-art sorts of people like . . . well, me. And probably you and most social studies teachers

Based on three basic questions:

  • What’s going on this image?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?

Paraphrase what students say and repeat back to them while introducing new vocabulary. Be careful to remain neutral. It’s basically a feedback system to help kids look for details, support their conclusions with evidence, and to continually look for new clues.

Use a laser pointer or “magic wand” (a piece of white card stock taped to a yardstick ) to point out specific pieces of the image but limit student use of this so that they strengthen their use of verbal skills.

Once students have worked through this activity, provide more contextual information concerning, time, artist, contemporary events, etc. Ask students to revisit the image and

They used George Catlin’s Egghead painting to demonstrate the idea.

Another idea is called Connect / Extend / Challenge. Dave teaches a middle school history class and showed how he used the idea with his kids.

Dave started with an image called States Names by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. He’s got some cool stuff, be sure to get his Prezi here.)

How are the ideas and information presented connected to what you already knew?

What new ideas did you get that extended or pushed your thinking in new directions?

What is still challenging or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings, or puzzles do you now have?

Dave also suggested that the Making Thinking Visible book is another great resource.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Connie Fink #

    Yes, I agree! “Making Thinking Visible” is a great resource for any classroom. It is an easy read and practical routines to implement!

    March 25, 2012
    • glennw #


      Thanks for the recommendation. I have not read it but the Smithsonian people suggested it . . . glad to hear good things about it from someone else.

      Thanks for the comment!


      March 25, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. World War One posters and artwork | History Tech
  2. Got art? Using visuals as part of your social studies instruction | History Tech
  3. Tip of the Week: Seven Social Studies Strategies for Back to School | History Tech

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