Bring Engagement to your Classroom Gallery

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Before you hangs various framed images of seascapes, historical times, graphic design and timely works of art.  You take in the image; paying close attention to the details, noticing shadows and hues that may have been overlooked if you had simply rushed by. You continue to evaluate the art; thinking about it and looking intently to give it some sort of meaning.  Finally, you breathe deeply and find some connection.  It is interesting, detailed, meaningful, and makes you feel something.  This time of reflection urges you to share it with others and you look forward to bringing others to its engagement.

You continue to evaluate the art; thinking about it and looking intently to give it some sort of meaning.

How much does an art gallery affect people in different ways?  While I might find the impressionist period to be enchanting, you might find it to be unimaginative.  Where some may be beguiled by Asian art, others are enamored by photography. The various art mediums and styles affect us in different ways because we each see, feel, and connect to things differently.  A student’s experience in a classroom and the lessons we present can be received with similar understandings.  So in the same way that gallery visitors are provided the opportunity to slow down and take in the complete work of art, we too should provide our students with the opportunity to take time to engage in and reflect on the work of learning.

One way that we can provide this opportunity is to engage students in Gallery Walks.

What is it?

A Gallery Walk is a protocol to use that allows students to be actively involved as they walk throughout the classroom, looking at documents, images, problem solving situations, texts, documents, or realia.

When might you use this?

Use this strategy at any point in a lesson to engage students in conversation.  For instance, you might use it to examine historical or scientific documents or images; before introducing a new topic to determine your students’ schema; after students have created posters, anchor charts or other types of displays; to generate ideas; after a story to discuss ideas, themes, and characters; or even after completing lab work to discuss the findings and next steps.

How Do You Use This?

  1. Post around the room various questions, prompts, images, presentations, posters, charts, lab results, or similar items depending on the current topic of study. Each posting should be different from the next.  Creating about six stations is a good number to manage.
  2. Group your students into teams of three to five students, depending on the size of your class. Assign each team to start at a different station. Provide each team with a set of sticky notes and a different colored pen/marker.  Have the teams determine who will be their recorder.  If you’d like to engage more students in the writing, you might have teams switch recorders at each station.
  3. At each team’s first station, have the students read or consider what is posted. They should quietly discuss the question, item, and/or material. Sometimes I like to have them think about specific questions or ideas, such as: “What do you see or notice?  Describe it with vivid words.  What meaning can you get from this item? How do you know? What does this remind you of?  What connections can you make? Compare and/or contrast this item to… What compliments might you give to the team that created the item?” and similar discussion prompts.  I also leave the time open for students to find simple noticing and wonderings.
  4. The recorder will write the team’s thoughts, comments, compliments, and questions onto a sticky note and then place that sticky note on the gallery item. For individual accountability you might have each member of the team write one thought, comment or question on a note-taking form for each station.
  5. After about 5 minutes at the station, have the teams rotate to the next station. (Prior to beginning, determine which direction students will rotate.)  Students first take time to read and discuss the previous teams’ comments and then will add their own sticky-note of thoughts, and questions.  Repeat the rotation until each team has visited each displayed item.
  6. As the teams rotate, discuss, and leave notes, it will be important for you to monitor the work. You may need to be available to answer clarifying questions, redirect engagement, or provide support when misconceptions occur.  This is an important step.  Not only will you be of assistance to your students, but you will be able to glean helpful information about your students’ understanding, stamina, and skills.
  7. After each team has visited each station, have them return to their first station to read all that was added to their first response. If one of the items is a presentation/poster/chart made by a particular team, allow them time to revisit their creation in order to read the comments and questions left by other teams.
  8. Finally, bring the class together to discuss what was learned and to make final conclusions about what they saw and discussed. If the items were student made this is a nice time to have others provide compliments about the work presented.


  • In shifts, have the student that made the item stand by their product so that when teams come by, the creator can orally tell about it and answer any questions. This is nice to use with primary students.  Depending on the number of students, you might have 3 or 4 shifts, with visits being 2-3 minutes each. This allows everyone to be seen and heard by all their peers.  It might be easier to do one shift a day for a week.
  • Graffiti Art Gallery: Use ideas or concepts or even math problems posted on large sheets of chart paper around the room. Students get to write their responses, draw pictures, and record their thoughts right onto the chart paper. Encourage them to use colored markers to make the wall interesting and to be able to identify each student’s work/response.
  • Use the Gallery Walk for students to receive feedback from their peers. Post students’ work, projects, drawings, visual representations, posters, etc.   Have students visit each item and provide constructive, respectful feedback to the creator of the work.  You might even have them record one thing that they liked, one thing that they wondered about, and one tip. This can be done before work is turned in to the teacher so that students can use the feedback to revise and improve their work. I suggest using sticky-notes for the feedback left by students.
  • Instead of having students place sticky notes with thought, have them place a colored sticker if they agree with the solution or data. I avoid having students use another color for disagreement, but you might find reason for this piece as well.  If they do disagree, it would be worth it for the students to explain why they disagree; to justify their reasoning.

If you have other variations to this protocol, I’d love to learn about it.  Please leave a comment below.