Thursday, August 16, 2018

What Is a Gallery Walk and Why Should I Use One in My Classroom?

The first time I ever heard of a gallery walk was at a collaborative meeting with my fellow sixth grade teachers. I'll be honest...none of us even wanted to be there. It was a cold, December afternoon, and all of us were drained. All we could think of was s.u.r.v.i.v.a.l for the next few days until winter break.
Yet another cause for dread was that we were supposed to share a video of ourselves teaching a lesson. Yep, that's what our administrators had cooked up for our monthly PD session. In December. Before the holidays. During a snowstorm. 

I know what you're thinking--because we were thinking it, too--"What a snoozefest!"

After much hemming and hawing, one brave soul said, "Let's just get this show on the road. I'll go first."

I don't want to be overly dramatic here, but that five-minute snippet of her lesson completely changed how I think about teaching. Seriously!

During those magical few moments, I watched twenty-five sixth graders fully engaged and having fun finding prepositions in sentences. Yes, you read that right--prepositions and fun...together. With sixth graders. In December.

We watched in awe as they read the sentences at each station, conferred with their partner, jotted down their answer, and headed to the next card...smiling!

As soon as the clip was over, we peppered the teacher with questions.

Did you bribe them with money or grades to get them to be that excited? No.

Was that your best-behaved class? No, it was the class with the most behavior challenges.

Were they able to find prepositions on their own when they had to do independent work later? Yes, they seemed to have a better grasp on prepositions than the class that only did independent work.

Well, I was hooked! I had a formal assessment coming up the next week, so I created a figurative language gallery walk just for the occasion. 

Now, I don't mean to brag, but it was one of the best lessons I have ever taught in my life!  Better yet, my principal wrote that it was one of the best lessons HE had ever seen.

But best of all, my students LOVED it and thought it was the best lesson THEY had ever done!


Have I piqued your curiosity yet?

If so, read on!


First of all, you're probably wondering what exactly IS a gallery walk?  I don't think there's any hard and fast rule, but here's my quick answer...
About once a month, when I want to introduce, review, or reinforce a concept, I usually create a gallery walk for my kids. I try to come up with 18 to 30 different task cards that revolve around the topic.

I then print out the cards (I tend to favor full-size pages) and tape them throughout the hallway. Which brings me to an important point: Why limit yourself to a teeny, tiny space all. day. long when schools have an abundance of unused space for most of the day?

Case in point: Here are the crowded conditions of the typical classroom in my building...

Kids pretty much have to stay in their seats because it's so crowded! Once we get thirty kids in a teeny, tiny room without windows, we can literally feel those brick walls crowding in on us by the end of the day!

So I ask you...

Why wouldn't I want to take advantage of all this lovely space that is virtually unused during class time?

Kids can walk up and down the hall with their partner and quietly discuss the topic at hand. 

I know what you're thinking...

Because I thought it, too...

Don't they goof around if they aren't in the confines of a classroom?

Surprisingly, no.

Here's why:

1. We discuss the expectations FULLY before they are ever set loose. I model behavior that is expected in an art gallery, and I tell them that is what I will see from them as well.

2. They are truly engaged in the learning activity. After sitting in a desk all day, most students are thankful to be able to move around and not be doing another worksheet.

3. This type of activity is beneficial for many different kinds of learners. It's obviously a great choice for kinesthetic learners because they're up and moving, but it's also helpful for those linguistic and interpersonal learners who need to talk things out. Think about the kiddos that generally have behavior issues in your classroom. If you're really honest, they are usually the students who fit the above learning profiles, and they welcome the chance to learn in their own way.

If you'd like to try a gallery walk but you're really not quite sure where to start, I have several available in my TpT store. Once the cards are printed, they can be laminated so you have them ready for years of use! 

Go on and give it a try! You'll thank yourself...and so will your students!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Back to School Popsicle Bulletin Board

Are you looking for a fun, easy "Getting to Know You" activity AND a quick, low-prep bulletin board? Do I have an idea for you that is totally cool!

This festive bulletin board kit has three levels of prep for your convenience:

*Kickin' It Old School -- Think of Friday afternoon art projects from the 1980s. You have time to gather supplies before class (scrapbook or other colorful paper, tongue depressors or craft sticks, glue, scissors, and tape). These supplies are NOT included in my TpT product--sorry! Your kiddos also have time to select paper, trace patterns, cut, and glue.

It's a great bonding time, and you get to gauge the creativity and fine-motor skills of your new charges. Early finishers can create extra popsicles for a bright, colorful banner for the classroom, too!

*No Frills -- You and your kiddos have a lot of ground to cover, but you'd like to have a quick, simple craftivity to print out and decorate. There is a popsicle pattern all set to print, and the troops just need to decorate with markers, color pencils, etc., and cut out.

*Ain't Nobody Got ANY Time, but I Need a Cute Bulletin Board! -- No worries, we've got you covered! Simply print out the writing page of your choice with the popsicle already printed on it. Kids can complete the writing portion and decorate the popsicle as time allows. They can still be colorful and creative without all the fuss!

The writing portion of the project can also be modified for time. One option is to have students interview each other to find out "COOL" facts about their classmates. (A popsicle partner-up page is also included!) Students then write about their new friend, and if time allows, they can introduce him or her to the class.

If you need a time-saving option, students can write about themselves and maybe share one or two "COOL" facts with the class or a small group.

When students have their writing assignment and popsicle put together, they can be displayed in an eye-POPping fashion! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

The letters for "Our Class is Cool!" are provided in the kit--you just need to print out on the paper of your choice. This is what the font looks like...

If you're pressed for time, the heading is also available in rectangular frames so you don't have to cut out around letters. Simply print out on colored paper and use the paper-cutter to cut around the frames. Voila!

Whichever option you choose, your class is sure to have a COOL time! To check out this SWEET resource, click on the picture below...

Happy crafting!