The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

What Do You See?

I learned about an interesting teaching method a few years ago from the Engagement Director at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. (He also does a lot of coordination with the Education Coordinator with the Krannert Art Museum.) The method is called Visual Teaching Strategies. (I have mentioned this from time to time over the years but have yet to do a detailed blog post about it. I will one of these days, but not yet.) One of the core elements of Visual Teaching Strategies (VTS) is for students to answer the question, “What do you see going on here?”

I have used this method this year during our social & emotional learning lessons, which always include an enlarged photograph showing a particular situation that students will confront. I ask the class to share what they see going on in the picture before we discuss it as a group. Sometimes I will have students share with a partner before sharing out with the class so that more of them get an opportunity to share.

Another way I have used VTS in my room has been much more individualised. Taking advantage of the iPad that I use for a variety of teaching activities, I will occasionally take a picture of what I see students doing. If a student is off-task, I will show them the picture in a one-on-one setting, usually back by my desk, and will ask what is going on in the picture. The student will quickly identify what he/she sees and will honestly acknowledge areas for improvement. I always end the brief conference by saying, “Can you fix it? Show me!” Then I delete the photo and allow the student student to carry on with his/her task.

Other times I will ask the students to close their eyes and picture what the classroom should look like at a given moment. I’ll prompt the visualisation with questions like, “What should the students be doing?” or “What should we see on the floors?” or “How should our desks look?” After everyone has had a few minutes to reflect, I direct them to open their eyes, look around the room, and correct what needs to be fixed.

I find these strategies are most useful in redirecting students because, many times, my students don’t even realise they are off-task! So when I try to redirect them they don’t understand what I am asking. But if I show them first, they can see it, understand it, and correct it on their own. It was a great way to empower students to be accountable for their actions and to be aware of their environment. One of my goals for each of my students is for them to learn how to better self-regulate themselves; to be aware of what they are doing, to monitor behaviour, and to correct errors before they become a hindrance to learning. Asking them to ask themselves what they see is a wonderful way to do this!

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