How to use ‘See Think Me We’ thinking routine to create personal and community connections with artworks
Every month in the Visible Thinking Membership we have a specialist thinking routine class that gives us the opportunity to discover a new thinking routine or to dig a bit deeper into one we already know. This month, we discovered thinking routine See Think Me We. Here’s how we used See Think Me We thinking routine to make personal and community connections with an art work.
What is ‘See Think Me We’ thinking routine?
See Think Me We is a thinking routine for connecting to the bigger picture. It invites participants to make personal and community connections with works of art.
4 Stages of ‘See Think Me We’
There are 4 parts to this thinking routine:
SEE: Look closely at the work. What do you notice? Make lots of observations
THINK: What thoughts do you have about the work?
ME: What connections can you make between you and the work?
WE: How might the work be connected to bigger stories— about the world and our place in it?
About ‘See Think Me We’
This thinking routine was developed as part of the Arts as Civic Commons (ArtC) project at Project Zero. ArtC develops tools and resources that encourage learners to explore the complexity of contemporary civic themes through looking at and making art. ArtC’s tools help us to make connections between works of art, ourselves and big themes about community or civic life.
We started with 30 seconds silently exploring the artwork with our eyes. For the observation and description part, the ‘SEE’ part of the routine, participants were split up into 3 breakout rooms and each group had to observe a different part of the image: the central figure, the background, the details. After 5 minutes, the groups came back to share their findings with the group as a whole.
We then moved on to the ‘THINK’ part. I began by asking the question ‘What thoughts do you have about the work?’ which generated a variety of responses from ‘She is thinking about crying’ to ‘I think she just finished reading the book and feels a bit sad because the book ended in a sad way’
A few participants were wondering about what she was reading so I shared the title of the book in front of her at this point (‘Africa since 1413′) and the title of the artwork ‘SOB, SOB’. I then asked ‘What thoughts do you have about the title of this artwork?’ This small piece of information carried the discussion further with many participants wondering about the meaning behind the title – one participant asked ‘Isn’t sob a word to use for people dwelling in their sadness, like not really crying, but silently shedding a tear?’ and ‘So she is sad reading the history of Africans?’.
I then shared some more information with the group – that the artist Kerry James Marshall had based the young woman’s pose on that of the female figure in Christina’s World, a painting by Andrew Wyeth, in which a young paralysed woman faces a physical challenge getting up a hill. I asked participants to think about the two figures’ inner thoughts and struggles and consider what connections they could make. They considered the posture (same position, but in reverse), both figures are young women (one black, one white), thoughts of longing and struggles (physical and metaphorical): ‘she’s moving forward from the challenges of the past’.
The ‘ME’ step of this thinking routine asks learners to make personal connections, so it’s a moment when a safe and trusting atmosphere is especially important. You definitely want to establish this at the start of your session and you can also remind participants on it at this point in the discussion too. I decided to do this step in Breakout Rooms so that participants could discuss freely in small groups and choose whether they wanted to share their personal connections beyond the walls of the breakout rooms afterwards. I always work with the mantra that people should be encouraged but not required to participate.
You may also want to model this step by sharing your own personal response first. I shared my own personal connection with this artwork – that I had read about it for the first time in Amy Herman’s book ‘Visual Intelligence‘ and it had made me question what the word ‘SOB’ meant – did it mean being upset, or was it an abbreviation of an angry expression or something else entirely. It is important not to assume that everyone has the same perspective as you do when you’re looking and discussing an artwork – be open to all interpretations.
The groups went off to discuss ‘What connections can you make between you and the work?’ for 5 minutes and were invited to share any connections when they returned. Many participants made personal connections with the bookshelf behind the woman in the painting, being avid readers as children, learning stories and histories from books which made participants aware of their own place in history and the feeling of sadness you feel when you finish a book. Participants also talked about loneliness and being alone.
By asking for ‘bigger stories,’ the WE step invites participants to reach for connections beyond themselves. For the final part of this routine, the ‘WE’ part, I asked the group to consider the question ‘How might the work be connected to bigger stories— about the world and our place in it?’. I asked small groups to enter their thoughts via Mentimeter so that we could all see the different strands of thought emerging from the breakout rooms. It worked extremely well as a sort of ‘thinking wall’ – although some participants found it slow to refresh. A variety of broader themes emerged from the general struggle of women, empowerment, privilege, responsibility and more.
See Think Me We is a straightforward and accessible thinking routine to use with a variety of groups to make personal and community connections with artworks
This thinking routine will work best if you establish an atmosphere of safety and trust at the start of the discussion and then remind participants of this before you start the ‘Me’ and ‘We’ parts. Reiterate the importance of active listening too!
See Think Me We can be used with a huge variety of artworks – especially those that highlight specific themes. The discussion will bring up surprising and fascinating connections and lines of inquiry too. Moving from personal to global connections, reminds me of many of the global thinking routines that I teach in the VTMO course – routines that encourage us to inquire about the world, understand multiple perspectives, and take part in respectful dialogue.
The Ultimate Thinking Routine List
‘See Think Me We’ is just one of 90+ thinking routines that I’ve compiled into a handy reference list for educators. If you’d like to receive a free copy of ‘The Ultimate Thinking Routine List’, then click on the button below. Get inspired!
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