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Lesson Plans


Fwd: VTS in Minneapolis

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Mcracker
Fri, 21 May 1999 17:39:17 EDT


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Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 12:03:41 -0500
From: "Amanda Thompson" <athompso>
To: <mcracker>
Subject: VTS in Minneapolis
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I was forwarded the messages from your recent dicsussion of the Visual Think=
ing Strategies, and felt inclined to reply about what we are in fact doing h=
ere in Minneapolis with VTS.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is part of a pilot program coordinated by =
VUE and funded by the Annenberg Grant (also in place in San Antonio, TX) tha=
t partners public school teachers and students with docents and staff at The =
MIA. We just finished our second "round" of partnering. Teachers volunteer=
ed for the program, and two groups were trained by VUE, one group last fall =
and one this spring. Docents and staff went out to the partner schools and =
did VTS in the classroom for one of 5 classroom lessons developed by VUE for =
grades 4 and 5. The students then came to the museum for a "pure VTS tour" =
where the technique was used to look at works of art in our collection.

The students only saw 3-4 works of art on their visit because VTS dicsussion=
s normally last 15-20 minutes. Because the teachers involved "bought into" =
VTS and the program, they were ok with it. However, on our regular tours fo=
r school groups, we would probably get complaints that the students did not =
see enough. Our Docents that use VTS with regular groups usually do so on =
a limited basis so that they can get to our standard 6-10 works of art durin=
g the tour.

VTS is envisioned as a K-6 curriculum that teaches kids (and adults) how to =
look at, talk about, and analyze art by using the visual evidence in narrati=
ve works of art to develop hypothesis and engage in dicsussions about the wo=
rks they see. =20

Some of the messages in your discussion of the topic express a concern about =
the lack of a scholarly/research focus. Although the only segment of the cu=
rriculum being widely used and taught curently is the grade 4-5 set of three =
questions (What's going on in this picture?, What do you see that makes you =
say that? What else do you see?), in it's full application, VTS would invol=
ve K-2 appropriate activities and a 6th grade and up component that involves =
research and writing.

Another important aspect of VTS is that is is not designed for art specialis=
ts. It is specifically designed for regular classroom teachers as a way to =
promote arts in public schools where art departments and programs are contin=
uosly cut. VTS allows teachers who may have little or no training in studio =
art/art history to feel comfortable using art in their classrooms. VTS does =
not require that the facilitator knows a lot about the work of art to engage =
the group in discussion. (I like to intentionally choose works I am not fami=
liar with so that I am not tempted to jump in and shut down the students' di=
scussion with my own knowledge.)

I know from talking to our docents and from using the technique myself on to=
urs other than those that are part of this VTS project that although VTS alo=
ne is not always enough to satisfy tour-goers at the MIA, when used in conju=
nction with more "traditional" tour methods that give visitors information a=
bout objects, it is a great tool for engaging groups in discussion about wor=
ks of art.=20

I do not always use "pure" VTS, but the principles of the method inform a lo=
t of the dicsussions I facilitiate in the galleries. I have found that in t=
he majority of cases, if I use VTS to get a group started looking at an obje=
ct, that they will usually discover for themselves the major points I had pl=
anned to make about the object - just by looking and discussing as a group. =
I use this initial discussion as a starting point for the information I shar=
e about the object. Once the VTS discussion winds down, I can then add to w=
hat the group has discovered on their own and fill in any holes that remain. =
By reiterating and expanding on ideas members of the group have shared, I ca=
n validate their visual thinking skills and help to eliminate some of the fe=
ar that comes with looking at art (especially for adults new to museums/art)=
.

Like any technique it has its limitations, but I guess in the end I buy into =
(or have been brainwashed by VUE into believing in) VTS. It seems to work w=
ell for us with novice art lookers of all ages, especially in conjunction wi=
th other teaching strategies we use on our tours.

Amanda Thompson
Coordinator,
Collection In Focus Guide Program
Education Division
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612)870-6317

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