‘Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear’ by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Photo credit: The Courtauld
Photo credit: Dave Madden Photography


Since the launch event in October 2023 (Valuing Visual Literacy Launch-Jan24), members of SSTEC have been busy exploring and developing different ways of using the amazing Superpower of Looking website. We have recognised that visual literacy, is an essential element across the curriculum, and is part of children’s entitlement in learning. In a world where the use of visual imagery is increasing, enabling all children to be visually literate is essential. In order to explore visual literacy further SSTEC sought to respond to three questions.

  • Can we meaningfully use the Superpower of Looking in Initial Teacher Education?
  • Can we develop subject specific materials for mentors to use when supporting beginning teachers to develop their art subject knowledge?
  • How can we use the Superpower of Looking with children with English as an additional language. In the next section we share how we have begun to respond to this third question.

Questions In addition to using the Superpower of Looking website, we have used materials from the Bell Foundation to support pupils with English as an additional language benefit from visual literacy. Initially we have focussed on The Superpower of looking, ‘Surprised by a Tiger’ resource

We considered:

What vocabulary might it be useful to pre-teach to support EAL learners to discuss this painting?

Our responses included: Tiger, Jungle, leaves, weather, line and colour.

We then thought about using speaking and listening frames from the Great Ideas section of the Bell Foundation’s website to help to model language structures and vocabulary for children. The following questions and sentence starters could be presented on flashcards. A confident speaker can ask the question, another models a response before an EAL learner has a turn, using the modelled sentence starter. A fourth child could then be invited to add a sentences of their own. Here are some examples:

Child 1: What can you see in the painting?

I can see…

Child 2 might model, I can see the tiger’s whiskers

The EAL child may then have a turn

Child 4 may add ‘ I can see the tiger’s whiskers are being blown in the wind.

Other questions and starters could include

Would you like to be in the jungle?

Yes/No because….

What is the weather like in the painting?

The weather is….

What colours has the artist used?

The artists has used…..

What is the tiger looking at?

I think that the tiger is looking at….

How would you feel if you were there?

I would feel…..

What sounds might you hear?

I can hear…..

Would you like to say anything about the painting?

I would like to say…..

This is just one application of one of the Bell Foundation’s Great ideas to one piece of art. We will be pleased to share more with you as our project develops.

Photo credit: Dave Madden Photography


We are also looking forward to sharing with you further resources as these are developed as we make best use of the Super Power of Looking website. Plans are in progress for

  • The creation of a short advocacy film showcasing trainees and mentors using the Superpower of Looking in initial teacher education
  • The development of subject specific visual literacy resources for mentors to use when supporting beginning or novice teachers. We are looking forward to working with teachers from St Barts Multi Academy Trust as they consider how to build on SSTEC’s art focussed questions using the Superpower of looking website.
  • And we will continue with our focus on increasing access to the Superpower of Looking for children with English as an additional language.