Teaching Opinion

Reflections on a Classroom ‘Gallery Walk’

By Starr Sackstein — January 24, 2017 2 min read
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Gallery walks can be powerful learning experiences for students that get them out of their seats and allow them to take in the hard work of their classmates. In year’s past, I have used this method with students, providing them opportunities to both share their diligence, and learn from each other.

Recently, I tried this for the first time at my new school.

The walk was originally planned for Friday and Monday, but my son fell ill on Friday and I wasn’t able to make it.

Last year, I would have been able to assume that my students would keep with the schedule with or without me there. So I reached out to a responsible student and asked her to Facetime with me in class, so I could try to get them back on track so we didn’t lose the day.

The students weren’t used to a teacher who checked in on them even in her absence so this was a unique opportunity for both of us.

Despite my repeated requests for students to sign up for Twitter accounts prior to the class walk, many were unprepared and not working since I wasn’t there to keep them on track. Realizing this, I’m working on ways to create a more developed classroom environment that thrives on learning and uses the technology we are fortunate enough to have to keep the learning seamless.

Two students in class did make it to the hashtag on Twitter on Friday and although it doesn’t seem like a lot, I felt like it was a small success.

When we arrived in class today, I greeted students at the door, inviting them to open their projects on the computers and prepare to do the gallery walk. Because I didn’t want to waste too much time going over directions I’ve already gone over and even sent through email in advance as well. Today was going to be all about learning and feedback, so off we went.

Here’s what I learned:

  • More time needs to be spent going over protocols with the opportunity to practice them to ensure all students are getting something meaningful out of the experience. Just because it has worked for my students in the past doesn’t mean it will work for every class. Next time I will model the behavior more effectively and draw the necessary connections before we try again.
  • Some students enjoyed moving around and took the opportunity to really learn from their classmates. Their notes were thoughtful and they clearly understood the purpose of the activity.
  • Despite the activity not working the way I wanted, it still worked. Kids read each other’s work. Either tweeted or took notes and then emailed me their learning. I saw a variety of feedback that was aligned with the standards and criteria of the task and they looked at the work with a critical but empathetic eye.
  • Even students whose work was incomplete participated and no one made disrespectful comments about the lack of completion. They focused on what was there and the quality of the research provided. They even noted when sources were cited appropriately or not. So clearly more is getting through than I think. That’s a good thing.
  • Much of the feedback provided was exactly what I would have said and that to me means everything. Some students missed the focus, but I had the opportunity to respond to their independent work and help them find their way back.

Overall, it wasn’t a complete loss. I’m not giving up. Sometimes I expect so much from my students and myself that I skip steps and when it fails I’m hard on myself, but this is such an opportunity. I may even share this observation with students.

What have you tried recently and what did you learn from it? What will you do differently next time? Please share

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