My students have recently turned in their "Road to the Civil War" projects. It's evident that they put a lot of time and effort into them. It seems a shame for them to simply hand them in, and have the only audience be me, the teacher.
Those of you that know me, know that I believe the most important step in student work is, "publishing." I have a bulletin board outside my classroom expressly for this purpose. However with over one hundred projects coming in, and limited display space, not every student can see their work in the case. Additionally due to fire codes, I can't simply cover all the walls of my room with them.
How then, do we ensure that students get to view each others work in meaningful ways. How do we ensure that the work students are producing is viewed by not just me, their teacher, but their peers as well?
Some may say "present." We do in fact do presentations throughout the year, but many of my students have anxiety around speaking in front of the class, and that ends up clouding the sense of accomplishment they should feel about their work. It's a constant struggle of pushing them outside their comfort zones, and not diminishing their enthusiasm for the work.
One of the things I love to use when students culminate a large project, is 'Gallery Walks'. They can be used in various ways depending on the class or the assignment. Below I've detailed three ways that I have used them. There are many more! 'Gallery Walks' are nothing new, I certainly didn't invent them, but there's definitely something to be said for them.
Option 1: Hang projects around the room. Half the students stand next to their projects, the other half work their way around the room, as though in an art gallery. I usually have them staggered in small groups so not every student is in front of one presenter. Students are encouraged to ask the "presenter" questions about their project and engage in dialogue. After students have made their way to each project, the groups switch, and the "presenters" become the viewers.
Pros/Cons: It's a low-risk way of presenting. Students are only speaking to a small group, rather than the class at large. However some students will still find this to be uncomfortable, you have to know your students. It gives students a chance to really engage with their peers and ask questions, however (especially in younger grades), students may have trouble initiating a discussion. I find giving them question starters can help with this.
Option 2: Hang projects around room and place students in small groups (no more than 5). Give each group a pack of post-it notes. Groups will work their way around the room adding post-its with compliments, suggestions, and observations to each project.
Pros/Cons- This doesn't require a student to stand next to their project, which is a great way to ensure you are still involving students who didn't turn one in, or are too shy to be in front of their classmates. I find it helps to have "parameters" in other words, at each stop the group should make at least one suggestion for improvement, one compliment of something done well, and one general observation. I find this helps students to give better feed back than if they were left to their own devices.
Option 3: Set up desks in groups of 4-5. Have students place their project on their desk. Give each student several post-its (or have them tear small pieces of paper). Have students critique as in option 2, but have them rotate from table to table.
Pros/Cons- This is a good option if you don't have a lot of wall space. You could do it until every student has seen every project, or simply have them critique one project in each group (whatever seat they are in). For this, i have them write all of their critiques on one piece of paper (to keep it simple). Sometimes I have them write a compliment, a suggestion, and one new thing they learned. It all depends on the students.
There are many, many other ways to do gallery walks. Students can use their notebook to write observations, rather than putting them directly on the projects. You could have students simply converse and not write anything. There's a lot of possibility.
One thing I will note is that you need to iterate with your class that they are "critiquing" and giving helpful feedback. There should be nothing mean spirited in this. This is why I always have them write both a compliment and a suggestion.
After the Gallery Walk is complete there is a final important step, reflection. Too often we rush students to the next activity (I was guilty of this today) and we don't give them time to reflect on the feedback they receive. Allow students to go through their feedback. Ask them what their favorite compliment was. Ask them which suggestion they agreed with and would consider in the future. Ask them which suggestion they didn't agree with and why they felt that way. Give them a chance to put some thoughts into words about their project.
Overall I find this a great way to "present" without presenting. I don't use it all the time, but for the right project, it can be great.
Do you use Gallery Walks? What does it look like in your classroom?