Photo of American Art: Searching for Values by Constance Vidor

American Art: Searching for Values by Constance Vidor

By Constance Vidor


American Art: Searching For Values asks students to observe and interpret works of art from several different eras of American history. An advance organizer at the beginning of the VoiceThread shows the students how to describe what they see in the image and then draw conclusions about what these details might suggest about values and ideas that were important to the artist or to the patron. This VoiceThread gives students a glimpse of how artists of different eras have given voice to cultural values and ideas, and gives students practice at using artifacts to gain an understanding of the past. Students are asked to choose 2 images to analyze and comment on.


I chose a variety of images so as to portray a range of ethnicities, economic classes, and historical eras. I wanted students to get a sense of aesthetic and intellectual diversity as well as the range of aspirations people in history have expressed through art. I included instructions on how to frame responses and also included some technical hints so that students could complete the assignment from home. I made copies of the VoiceThread, one for each class working on the assignment.


  • To practice close visual observation.
  • To look carefully at a range of American paintings.
  • To learn strategies for analyzing paintings from different eras as expressions of values, ideas, and aspirations.
  • To connect different eras of American history with important images from art history and to see the human dimension in those images.

Easy Parts

Recording the narration and posting the images was easy!


The biggest challenge of this project was helping students to learn how to connect their microphones at home and to set their audio input preferences correctly. In future iterations of this project the teachers and I will try to schedule more time for students to record their responses on school computers so they can get help with the technical issues.


The most important “tool” I used for creating this project was the Teacher Institute at the National Gallery of Art, which gave me the training and content knowledge for using art to help students practice critical thinking strategies and make connections with their history curriculum.


Write out an outline in advance and have clear objectives. Provide a clear set of instructions for student responses and provide at least one example of how to frame a well organized response. Use a microphone and help students understand how to use a microphone correctly so that their responses are clearly audible to listeners.