Gallery walks in a classroom mimic what would happen when you were visiting an art gallery or museum. Most often, the visitor goes from picture to picture, or exhibit to exhibit trying to understand the artist’s meaning of the picture, or the purpose of the exhibit. That is exactly what you hope to gain in a gallery walk in your classroom; students critically studying pictures or questions and making responses that would cause others to stop, think, and reflect. Gallery walks are a great way to stimulate engagement, choice, and collaboration in the classroom.
There are different ways to do a gallery walk in a classroom. Some Gallery walks are meant to encourage questions and curiosity, while others evaluate student understanding of concepts and unearth misconceptions. Used effectively, gallery walks can be used as an introduction to a unit or theme, as a concept attainment lesson, or as a way to gain peer feedback. Obviously, gallery walks can be done in art, but they also lend themselves nicely to:
Most commonly, gallery walks are done with questions or pictures. A gallery walk is a way to create movement for students while they dialogue. Simply put, students get out of their desks and move through the room past the pictures or the questions. Students can be recording thoughts, ideas, and answers on their own paper, or putting questions and thoughts up on the chart paper that has been provided so that others can enter into what has been recorded before they get to the gallery walk exhibit. Depending on your outcome, gallery walks can be done individually, in partners, or small groups. The number of exhibits can vary for a gallery walk, but realize the more stations the more time that is needed to complete the gallery walk. Rotating through the exhibits can be a formal organized process where each station gets approximately 3-5 minutes, while other gallery walks can be more fluid allowing the students to choose how long they stay at a station. Teachers can move through the room collecting observations to inform future lessons, or to stimulate conversations. It is always important that at the end of the gallery walk that there is some type of synthesis of thought.
Key pieces to keep in mind when creating a gallery walk are:
- It is most effective when the gallery walk is set up with open ended questions, or a focus that engages in higher order thinking skills
- Clear step by step instructions and expectations of how the gallery walk should progress and how students should record their learning is important.
- Arranging the room so that it is conducive to students moving through the different exhibits.