Thinking Through Craft: Perspective Taking

Renwick Teacher Resources, Primary – Middle School

Media - 2015.28.7 - SAAM-2015.28.7_1 - 119634

Marie Watt, Edson's Flag2004, American flag (from U.S. military burial) with wool blankets, satin, and thread, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Essential Questions

  • What value does perspective-taking bring to developing a deeper and more nuanced understanding of people, events, and issues?
  • What is perspective-taking?
  • What value does considering multiple perspectives bring to learning?
  • What can looking at artworks teach us about perspective-taking?

Arc of Learning

(95 minutes)

  • Introduction
  • Observe and Interpret
  • What’s My Perspective?
  • Optional: Metacognitive Break
  • Considering Multiple Perspectives: What Do Artists Say About Edson’s Flag?
  • Optional: Metacognitive Break
  • Clarifying the Artist’s Perspective
  • Considering Multiple Perspectives: Stepping into the Artist’s Shoes
  • Considering Multiple Perspectives: Shifting Interpretations
  • Reflection: How Do Multiple Perspectives Build Understanding?
  • Application: Using Perspective-Taking to Learn

Download the Full Lesson Plan [PDF]

Download the Student Workbook [PDF]

Reason with Evidence

Artist Marie Watt uses blankets as a major component of her work, drawing upon their personal, historical, traditional, and societal connotations. The unit is structured such that students examine one of Watt’s works through multiple lenses in order to discover the value of perspective-taking.

The first set of learning experiences begins with students sharing their own personal connotations for this familiar object, so that they may later differentiate their own thinking from others’ perspectives. Conducting a close looking exercise focused on Watt’s Edson’s Flag, students differentiate between what they see (observations) and what they think about what they see (interpretation). This is a fundamental skill when reasoning with evidence.

Two teens sitting down and discussing something on a clip board

Teaching Moves

By first documenting their own connotations around blankets, students can differentiate their own perspectives from others’. Next, students carefully examine the artwork and label all that can be seen. Finally, students document their own interpretations of the artwork before they hear the interpretations of others.

Download the Full Lesson Plan [PDF]

Consider Multiple Perspectives

The next series of learning experiences are designed to help the students consider the perspectives of a trio of artists on Edson’s Flag, including that of Marie Watt herself. The intention of these activities is to make apparent the differences in individuals’ understandings of the same object, issue, or event and to examine how those differences might help us better understand the same.

A group of teens looking and pondering at something.

Teaching Moves

Students use a thinking pattern (Word-Phrase-Sentence) to capture the essence of one of three transcribed interviews with artists regarding Marie Watt’s work. Next, groups of students take on the perspective of one of these artists to introduce that artist’s thinking to the whole group, building a more comprehensive understanding of the artist and the artwork’s message.

Download the Full Lesson Plan [PDF]

Reflection and Application

The final series of learning experiences support students’ reflection upon the whole unit so that they might see the impact of perspective-taking and transfer this disposition to other areas.

A photograph of three children in a museum sitting and talking.

Teaching Moves

Students identify how taking multiple perspectives helped shift and change their understanding of the artwork using a thinking pattern (I used to think... Now I think...). Synthesizing their thinking from the whole unit using a Chalk Talk, or silent conversation, students reflect on how taking multiple perspectives can shift and change their understanding of a topic or idea more broadly. Finally, students identify for themselves how they might apply perspective-taking in school and in the wider world.

Download the Full Lesson Plan [PDF]