Pass the Picture

Number of Players

Print outs of 4-6 compelling images or graphs showing different (and even conflicting views) on a single topic or theme. It may be helpful to choose images with repeating colors, symbols, or themes.

What Is It and Why Use It?

Pass the Picture helps students engage in close observations of visual texts to form conclusions and reconcile multiple viewpoints. This is a great strategy to promote empathy, critical thinking, and questioning because it examines a single issue or concept from multiple vantage points asking students to think through an issue from many different angles. 


Get into groups of 4-6 and identify an elbow partner to work with. Each pair should select 1 image from the print outs they want to start with. They will share a single image and have 1-2 minutes to discuss their observations using a format we call DAR-Describe, Analyze, Relate. After pairs have had time to discuss the first image the instructor says “Pass the picture”  alerting students to pass the image to the next pair clockwise and receive a fresh image. Once every pair has examined each image individually the small group (of 4-6) lays images out in the center of the circle look at the collection and discuss how they relate to one another.

  • What unites all of these images? Are there issues or themes they are exploring? 

  • What is each artist’s perspective? How do you know?

  • What stories are being told? Which perspectives are being left out? 

  • What other information would you like to know?

Possible Side-Coaching

If students make assumptions about images ask them to cite the visual supporting evidence to back up their claims.

Possible Variations/Applications
  • Social Studies: Examine how different stakeholders viewed historical events differently by providing images showing multiple sides of events and conflicts

  • Literacy: Preview images from a text, or assemble images that ask students to find themes relevant to an upcoming unit

  • Math: Look at charts and graphs that may be misleading to think through how we might critically look at information we are given

Source Citations

Austin Independent School District. (n.d.). Creative learning initiative: Visual art module.