Without launching into a detailed description, Visual Thinking Strategies is a great way to get learners of all ages and abilities to talk about and learn about visual art together. In fact, seeing it in action–seeing children as young as kindergarten or first grade quickly start to develop their visual literacy–is so inspiring that it makes me wish there were an analogous tool in music education. What would it take to adapt VTS’ approach of close looking to close listening?
There are a few challenges that present themselves immediately:
One recent approach to adapting VTS to music, Critical Thinking in Music (CTM), begins to tackle some of these challenges. Following VTS’ lead incredibly closely, CTM uses 40-second clips of musical recordings where VTS would use visual art. These clips are followed by nearly the same questions used in VTS:
On the surface, this straightforward adaptation of VTS makes a lot of sense. We focus on 40-second segments, for example, because that is an appropriately short clip to keep in one’s mind after listening, enabling us to interact with the music as if it were an object that can be turned over, rotated, inspected closely, and so on.
The CTM approach does leave some lingering questions, however: