You can do this with details in a picture, or with the picture as a whole. It works for “stand-alone” individual pieces of art, or for art as a way into a larger concept such as perspectives on a historical event or social issue (see below)...lots of possibilities.
1. Describe what you see--and only what you see--not what you think is happening: The girl is on the ground with her feet in the air. Her mouth and eyes are wide open. = Seeing; The boy tripped the girl. She’s surprised. = Thinking
2. Based on your descriptions, describe what you think: I think that the girl is surprised. I think the boy tripped her because her feet are still in the air, his foot is extended near her feet, and he’s pointing and laughing at her.
3. Start wondering: I wonder why he tripped her? I wonder if they’re friends or enemies?
This is a great way to get kids to separate observation from opinion. Asking, “What do you see that makes you think that?” during the “Think” stage helps them practice backing up their claims with evidence.
If possible, the “Wonder” stage should really push beyond what’s already in front of them. “I wonder if he tripped her?” is really more of a “think” question, especially if there’s evidence in the picture to support an answer. “I wonder why he tripped her?” pushes beyond.
Play See-Think-Wonder with photos of the civil rights movement:
While we’re on the subject, here are links to more photos:
and a fascinating site about the visual coverage of the civil rights movement:
If you're on the un-schooling side of the spectrum, this could be a great way to find a path to follow. You don't have to know much as the parent--just google images of whatever subject you want to learn about, play the game, and wander with the wonder (forgive the silly wordplay).
I used to use this technique when I taught Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (historical context: Harlem Renaissance), as well as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (historical context: Vietnam War). Two of my favorite books, by the way. But because I used these resources each year, I could get elaborate: kids listened to music, examined photographs, read poetry, looked at lists of period slang/jargon, saw clips of movies and newsreels. Such a great way to make deductions, use evidence, learn about a time period, and enrich your experience of a book.
The name of this "game" (See-Think-Wonder) comes from a terrific book called Making Thinking Visible (Ritchart, Church, and Morrison) which is full of ways to, well, make thinking visible--to really help kids understand how they think, and how to think. It's for classroom teachers, but it takes a close look at what thinking is, and how it happens and I highly, highly recommend it.
Well, this post ended up being kind of a rabbit hole for me. But a good one.