Spotlight on Strategies

Artful Thinking

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What is Artful Thinking?

Artful Thinking was developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a strategy to strengthen student learning through an appreciation of art. The strategies are designed to be used within the core classes to "help develop thinking dispositions that support thoughtful learning-in the arts and across school subjects"(2016).

The Artful Thinking framework is comprised of six "thinking dispositions". Below is the Artful Thinking Palette which outlines the thinking behaviors that help students explore art and makes connections across curriculums.

Strategies vary in complexity and length. Each strategy requires the use of a visual aide. Students are presented with questions about the work of art to invoke deep thinking. These activities encourage the students to analyze, synthesize, comprehend, apply and evaluate in order to explore works of art.All of the strategies can also be connected to one or more thinking maps to further aid in student understanding.

Although these strategies are meant to encourage the use of art in core curriculums, it can also be used to further support writing and reading skills in the Art curriculum.

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Example- Think, Puzzle, Explore

Think, Puzzle, Explore is an Artful Thinking strategy that is great for introducing a unit of study. It encourages students to connect to their prior knowledge and challenges them to develop their own inquiry questions.

This activity is used as an introduction into our unit on Vincent Van Gogh. Students begin by viewing the short trailer for the movie Loving Vincent on YouTube. Students are presented with a series of questions referring to the artwork.

1) What do you think about the subject of this video?

2) What puzzles you about this subject?

3)What does the topic or artwork make you want to explore?

The video clip and questions are posted on a class Padlet board for everyone to access. Students access the board through a shared link in the classroom or access the site through a QR code on their phones. Student then contribute their thoughts to each of the questions by posting to the message board. When all students have contributed, we review and discuss the questions as a class.

Loving Vincent - Trailer 2016 (web)


This strategy can be used with any unit of study.

  1. Choose a work of art or video clip that is related to the topic of study. To challenge them further you can present the students with a brief overview of the topic and allow them to choose a suitable work of art from a museum database.
  2. Present students with the 3 questions to encourage exploration and activate prior knowledge. Today's Meet can also be used as a collaboration site for answering questions. Questions can be presented one at a time and students can start a feed of questions to be reviewed later. The feed can even be left open to allow students to ask questions and make connections while outside of the classroom.
  3. Have students discuss the artwork as a group. They can use a circle map to record their ideas and agree on one answer for each question to post to the class discussion.


Artful Thinking. (2016). Retrieved April 10, 2016, from

H. (2016). Loving Vincent - Trailer 2016 (web). Retrieved April 10, 2016, from

Lesson Plans and Resources for Arts Integration. (2012). Retrieved April 10, 2016, from

Seltzer, L. (2012, August). Arshile Gorky Fiorello La Guardia at the opening of the Federal Art Gallery [Digital image]. Retrieved April 10, 2016, from