Image of Perceive Card.The PERCEIVE cards guide the essential underlying process of careful observation or perception. The cards are intended for use with the accompanying visual art images, but this process may be useful with other forms of text as well. (Download your own PERCEIVE card here)


Here are the PERCEIVE steps:

What do you notice? Imagine using all your senses. What do you recognize?

(SLOW down. To guide looking, paraphrase student remarks and check understanding. Point to details mentioned. List and take inventory)


  1. What does this image remind you of? What is going on? What other meanings could there be?

(Reveals students’ prior knowledge and honors their experiences. Can prompt metaphoric thinking.  Follow with, “What do you see that makes you say that?”)


  1. What feelings do you get from the image? Is there a mood or tone?

(These can be the most challenging responses to express. Follow with, “What has the artist done to create those feelings?”)


  1. What does the image make you wonder about? What more do you want to know? What questions does the artwork raise?

These questions lead to the viewer’s thoughtful speculation about what the artwork might mean. Getting started requires only the image or text being investigated and the viewer’s prior knowledge and experience. It provides the steps to begin to tackle any artwork, no matter how daunting!

Working through the perception process can be done individually, but it can be particularly effective as a guide to facilitate group discussion. Sharing perceptions, responses, and questions about a single work can be dynamic and rewarding whether the dialogue is between partners or in the facilitated discussion of a larger group. Puzzling out meanings from a rich image, students build on each other’s ideas. Use the steps to facilitate the investigation of a dense poem, work of literature, or an artwork in any other discipline. Make this inquiry strategy a habit in your classroom.

Follow with artful writing activities, art making, research or further inquiry framed by the questions, issues, or topics generated.