Zoom In is one of my favourite Visible Thinking Routines for art discussions – particularly for online classes. However, it does take a bit of preparation. If you’re new to Zoom In, don’t worry, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to prepare and use Zoom In for art discussions. 

What is Zoom In thinking routine?

The thinking routine Zoom In invites participants to pay close attention to detail and explore ideas. In this routine, you are fostering close looking, interpreting and reasoning with evidence. Despite the nature of the slow reveal, it is NOT a ‘guess the artist/name of the image’ game. 

Stages of Zoom In

There are several parts to this thinking routine which have similarities to See Think Wonder – although here you only reveal part of the image at a time.
Reveal some of the image:
  • What do you see or notice?
  • What is your hypothesis or interpretation of what this might be based on what you are seeing?
Reveal more of the image:
  • What new things do you see? 
  • How does this change your hypothesis or interpretation? 
  • Has the new information answered any of your wonders or changed your previous ideas?
  • What new things are you wondering about?
Repeat until whole image has been revealed
  • What lingering questions remain for you about this image?

About Zoom In

  • The thinking routine ‘Zoom In’ asks people to observe part of an image closely and develop a hypothesis or theory. More of the image is revealed and we are asked again to look closely and reassess our initial interpretations in the light of the new information. The process is repeated until the whole of the image is revealed. 
  • By only revealing part of the image it requires participants to pay close attention to details. This in turn fosters curiosity and engagement about what the image might look like as a whole and encourages participants to act as art detectives looking for hidden meanings and symbols. 
  • By getting participants to make tentative hypotheses or interpretations, this routine also emphasises the importance of being able to change your mind about something when presented with new information. Being open minded and flexible in your thinking is important for stimulating creative thought.
  • Zoom In is perfect to use with an image on a screen or in online guided discussions. It is great to use with complex or large paintings where you want to break up the image into more manageable sections for observation and discussion. You can also use Zoom In in-person too. 

Preparing a Zoom In Art Discussion

Choosing an image

With Zoom In, it is all about the preparation. First of all, select an image to use. Consider:
  • What do you want participants to understand & appreciate?
  • Look for ambiguity, mystery or intrigue
  • Work with a high-quality image e.g. Google Arts and Culture or a museum website with open access (Rijksmuseum, for example)

Experiment with different cropping techniques

  • Divide the image up into 4 equal squares
  • Divide the image up into vertical rectangles
  • Divide the image up into horizontal rectangles
  • Zoom in on certain parts
  • Remove parts of the image and show what remains

Image Cropping Options

  • Zoom In Thinking Routine Cropping Options
  • Zoom In Thinking Routine Cropping Options
  • Zoom In thinking routine cropping options
  • Zoom In Thinking Routine Cropping Options
  • Zoom In Thinking Routine Cropping Options

Using Zoom In in a museum or gallery

There are many many ways to do Zoom In – even in-person:
  • Divide everybody up into groups and give them a part of the image to discuss before coming together to share and then seeing the image as a whole. 
  • Share one or more parts of the image with the group in another gallery before walking to see the whole image together. Then discuss. 
It’s a great routine to get creative with.

Preparing your ‘Reveals’

  • Think about which elements are you going to isolate and in what order?
  • When you are preparing, walk yourself through each reveal to think about what you are seeing and how much information will be revealed at each stage. 
  • Try changing the order around and see what happens.
Have you used Zoom In thinking routine before? I’d love to hear how you used it and what your key takeaways were?

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