Social Sundays: Best practices for implementing Gallery Walks

Gallery walks (also called walkabouts) are one of my favorite ways to introduce new topics.  

What are gallery walks: gallery walks are a discussion technique which gets students up and moving around the room to engage with informational text, primary sources and more.  Students are typically grouped into groups of 3-5.  Each group starts at a different station with a graphic organizer.  Students take notes and discuss material at each station.  Groups rotate approximately every 4-5 minutes.  At the end of the walk, students might engage in a discussion or an analytic activity.

Benefits of gallery walks:  
  • Engages kinesthetic learners
  • Encourages active discussion
  • Can easily be teacher-created or student-created.
  • Can be used for introduction, deeper-exploration, and review.
Gallery walks aren't just as easy as putting up some pictures on a wall and sending students around to examine.  An effective gallery walk has the goal of engaging students with the material on multiple levels.  Here's my top 5 of ways to make a great gallery walk:

1. Purposeful Graphic Organizer:  the graphic organizer should be appropriate to the desired outcomes.  If there are specific ideas or facts students are to be searching for, then the questions on the organizers should reflect these.  Sometimes the purpose of a gallery walk is simply for students to extract ideas and information to provide a general picture.  A graphic organizer for such a walk is likely to be more open-ended with space for notes about each area.

2. Clear transitions:  gallery walks can (and should be) filled with discussion.  When time is up at each rotation, though, it is important for smooth rotations.  At the end of each station, I ask groups to rotate to the next station quietly and then signal the start of the next station.  This allows students to transition and for no one to be missed.

3. Well-designed displays:  As with the graphic organizer, displays should be designed with a distinct goal.  Gallery walks might include primary sources, text, readings, and art.  Each rotation might have multiple pieces or a single item.  A mix of text and images within a display or between displays can appeal to different learning styles. 
4. 6-8 Stations per day:  I typically use gallery walks for 1 50-minute period with an analysis activity in the following class, but walks can be designed for multiple days.  Regardless of how many days you allocate for the walk, a good rule of thumb for the number of stations per class is 6-8.  For 8 groups to rotate every 3-5 minutes plus transitions will take at least 45 minutes.  Think carefully about the information that needs to be included to effectively meet the desired outcomes.  
5. Discussion and Analysis: 
the purpose of a gallery walk is not to just gather or review information but also to explore a topic on a deeper level.  At the end of the walk, students benefit by the opportunity to put the ideas from the walk together.  This can be accomplished through discussions.  I like to break up the original groups into new groups for more dynamic analysis.  I provide guided questions for the groups to get them started.   Additionally, students often complete individual analysis activities such as a Venn diagram or visual tool to analyze the information.

Need more ideas for gallery walks?  Read how we use student-created gallery walks here.  Find my full collection of ready-to-use gallery walks here for social studies.

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.  



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