Visual Thinking Strategies

Visual Thinking Strategies Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines

Philip Yenawine
Pub. Date: October 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-611-1
paper, 208 Pages
Pub. Date: October 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-609-8
Price: $30.00

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2014 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice

“What’s going on in this picture?”

With this one question and a carefully chosen work of art, teachers can start their students down a path toward deeper learning and other skills now encouraged by the Common Core State Standards. The Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) teaching method has been successfully implemented in schools, districts, and cultural institutions nationwide, including bilingual schools in California, West Orange Public Schools in New Jersey, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


You don’t have to convince me of the power art has to open the mind to new ways of seeing and thinking. I’m sold on Visual Thinking Strategies. This insightful book unpacks a technique that transforms classrooms into engaging, exciting laboratories for the critical thinking and communication skills our children need to master. — Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human and A Whole New Mind

Practical and inspirational, this is arts integration for the twenty-first century. Distinguished museum educator Philip Yenawine presents a persuasive argument for using the art discussion approach called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to develop the sophisticated thinking skills required by the Common Core. A lively blend of theory and practice, this book shows how VTS has sparked creative teaching in schools across the country. — Peggy Burchenal, Esther Stiles Eastman Curator of Education and Public Programs, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

To read Visual Thinking Strategies is to enter into a companionable and substantive conversation with a master teacher who has spent a lifetime noticing and caring about how children learn. Yenawine’s passion for nurturing growth across a variety of disciplines by tapping into young people’s innate responsiveness to art is supported with research and a wealth of examples; his vision and method offer a provocative model for inspiring curiosity, motivation, critical thinking, and civil discourse in centers of formal and informal learning. Those grappling with the Common Core Standards will find Yenawine’s ideas timely; in fact, they are timeless. — Wendy Lukehart, youth collections coordinator, D.C. Public Library

Eloquently written and easily accessible, the book is organized in a way that permits teachers working in a broad variety of settings to be successful, including those working with English-language learners, special education populations, and others. — S.T. Schroth, CHOICE

Visual Thinking Strategies allows teachers to help students grasp unfamiliar material, define new problems and find innovative solutions collaboratively, while giving students what Yenawine calls “permission to wonder,” Full of real-life and classroom examples, this is an insightful and inspiring book, valuable to schoolteachers, museum educators and parents alike. — John Strand, Museum Magazine

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About the Author

Philip Yenawine is cofounder of Visual Understanding in Education (VUE), a nonprofit educational research organization that develops and studies ways of teaching visual literacy and of using art to teach thinking and communication skills. VUE’s curriculum, Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), is in use in schools across the United States and abroad. Director of Education at the Museum of Modern Art from 1983 to 1993, Yenawine also directed education programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art earlier in his career. He was founding director of the Aspen Art Museum and consulting curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. He has taught art education at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and Massachusetts College of Art. He received the National Art Education Associations Award for Distinguished Service in 1993, was the George A. Miller Visiting Scholar at the University of Illinois in 1996, and was the first Educator-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 2012, among other honors. He is on the board of the Art Matters foundation. Yenawine is the author of How to Look at Modern Art, Key Art Terms for Beginners, and six children’s books about art. He helps with image selection as well as acts as a moderator for the Learning Network feature, “What’s Going On in This Picture?”

Yenawine attended Princeton University from 1960 to 1963, and holds a BA from Governor’s State University in Park Forest South, Illinois, and an MA from Goddard College in Plainfi eld, Vermont. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Kansas City Art Institute in 2003.

Table of Contents

E-book available through online booksellers

"'What’s Going on Here?'" in Harvard Education Letter

Blog Post: "Seize the Opportunity"

Other books in Classroom Practice

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Assigning Blame

Mark Hlavacik

Other books in Classroom Practice

English Language Learners and the New Standards

Margaret Heritage, Aída Walqui, and Robert Linquanti, foreword by Kenji Hakuta