10 Ideas for Virtual Gallery Walks

gallery walk, noun: 

  • a go-to lesson for making anything more engaging
  • a perfect plan for when you don’t know how else to teach something
  • a best-practice version of throwing things together and hoping for the best

I’m only half-joking about the last definition! 😉 But seriously, gallery walks always seem to be the lessons that can get me out of a planning funk. Why? Because they’re easy and they WORK! They’re student-centered, kinesthetic, and more engaging than a worksheet or lecture! Sure, they’re not flashy like ~escape rooms~ and they’re not as structured as stations, but they’re rock-solid. That’s why I love them: gallery walks never fail me.

BUT… (THERE’S ALWAYS A BUT)

But then 2020 came and coronavirus failed us all, forcing teachers around the world to reinvent All The Wheels. As a teacher who thrived on facilitating high-energy, collaborative, and kinesthetic lessons, I struggled. My beloved gallery walks became a relic of the past and joined the club of misfit lessons that just wouldn’t work this year. But after wallowing in my gallery walk despair, I became determined to reimagine this favorite lesson. How could we do the walking and talking from behind a screen? From desks spaced 6 feet apart? From home and from school?

Luckily, I landed on a temporary, digital (and pretty dang cool) solution to make it through this year: interactive virtual gallery walks. Thanks to Google Slides, I created a virtual gallery, complete with different exhibits (slides). I even designed a menu of clickable buttons so that students would be able to navigate the gallery at their own pace.

VIRTUAL GALLERY WALKS

I like my newfound virtual galleries so much that I think I’ll keep them, even past the pandemic. While there’s something magical about students walking around the room to explore artifacts, there’s something pretty cool about linking up all sorts of multimedia for students to explore from behind a screen.

The best thing about virtual gallery walks? Like their physical counterparts, they’re easy, efficient, and engaging! In other words, virtual gallery walks are still the solid lesson plans they’ve always been.

Ready to create a virtual gallery walk? You’re just a few slides, clicks, and copying & pasting away from creating a set of gallery walk slides that you can use TOMORROW! To help you brainstorm, here are 10 different ideas for creating engaging virtual gallery walks! While you may be frustrated with the challenges of this year, I hope this list helps you see that there are plenty of options for creating digital galleries. All of these will work perfectly with my interactive gallery walk templates, but you can certainly create your own, too!

10 Ideas for Virtual Gallery Walks
10 Ideas for Virtual Gallery Walks

NOVEL/UNIT INTRODUCTION GALLERY

Ditch your slideshow and introduce your next whole class novel or unit with a virtual gallery walk that will preview important ideas and pique students’ curiosity! To do this, choose a collection of different artifacts: images, quotes, videos, and more. You can make the artifacts as straightforward or as symbolic as you want. However you structure it, a gallery walk is a student-centered way to introduce a new topic.

The best part about this activity is that it prompts students to make inferences, generate questions, and connect to the content before you even “officially” introduce it. You’ll be surprised at what students can gather from the gallery. After giving students a chance to explore the topic on their own, all you’ll have to do is fill in the gaps. It’s efficient, student-centered, and just plain smart!

Example: A gallery walk for a novel could contain the following: the cover (or a few versions of it), an intriguing quote or two, a no-spoilers review, artifacts that represent motifs or symbols, a map of the setting, an essential question, any relevant artwork or images, a song that ties in to the theme, etc. The possibilities are endless!

MENTOR TEXT GALLERY WALK

Have a collection of high-quality mentor texts but not sure how to use them? A virtual gallery walk is the perfect solution! As long as you keep the mentor texts short, each one can become its own exhibit in the virtual gallery. Each exhibit could be as simple as one mentor sentence. This does not have to be complicated! In fact, the only question you need to give students to guide them through the gallery is this: What do you notice? 

This powerful question gives students the ownership of the learning experience and allows them the chance to explore the texts on their own. Similar to the novel/unit introduction gallery, a mentor text gallery walk works best when facilitated before a mini-lesson. Instead of telling students what they should see in the sentences, you’ll be giving students the power to notice anything and everything. Prepare to be amazed at what they notice! I am always delighted when a student notices something that even I didn’t observe or consider.

Mentor Text Virtual Gallery Walk
Virtual Gallery Walk: Mentor Texts (Click HERE to check out these gallery walk templates)

Example: If you’re trying to teach students to write engaging introductions, pull the first few sentences from essays, articles, and other texts. Then, paste them into your virtual gallery exhibits. Ask students to compile a list of what they notice about the introductions and facilitate a discussion over the patterns. The next day, you can deliver a more relevant, targeted mini-lesson with the very things they noticed, as well as anything else you want to add!

QUOTE GALLERY WALK

Want students to ponder multiple perspectives and thoughtfully answer an essential question? Find intriguing quotes that represent a wide range of perspectives, copy/paste them into your gallery exhibits, and give students time to click around all the excerpts.

This activity works best when you give students a chance to respond to the quotes! Feel free to ask them to analyze as well, but the reader response piece of this activity is the most powerful. This activity works well as an introduction to a unit OR as a way to spark some brainstorming for an end-of-unit essay.

Example: Studying the American Dream in an American Lit course? (This is what structured our curriculum when I taught 11th grade!) Gather various quotes with different perspectives on the American dream, and organize them in a virtual gallery. Allow students to respond to the quotes that are most intriguing, and then ask them to reflect on what they learned after the gallery walk. If you’re looking for this exact lesson, check out my American Dream Mini-Unit HERE.

INFOGRAPHIC GALLERY WALK

Looking for a way to make teaching informational texts more fun? Ease into all the information with an infographic gallery walk. Choose a topic and essential question, and then search for infographics that emphasize different ideas, evidence, and perspectives. I find all of my infographics through Google Images and verify that each comes from a credible source. 

Infographics are a great way to scaffold informational text, especially for visual learners. Students can cite and analyze evidence, determine central ideas, analyze structure, determine point of view/purpose, and compare/contrast, all with infographics. You may even want to use an infographic/mentor text gallery walk before asking students to create their own engaging infographics!

Virtual Gallery Walk: Phones & Social Media
Virtual Gallery Walk: Phones & Social Media (Click HERE to check out these gallery walk templates)

Example: Launching a thematic unit? In the middle of what’s becoming a monotonous info text unit? Flip the script with an infographic gallery walk over your essential question. I recently did this to introduce a “How does social media affect us?” mini-unit, using infographics like this one from the CDC.

POLITICAL CARTOON GALLERY WALK

Mix up your thematic, novel, informational text, or history units even more with a political cartoon gallery walk! Search for relevant cartoons via Google Images, and give each cartoon its own gallery exhibit. You can keep this open-ended with the “What do you notice?” question or structure it with step-by-step analysis. This is my go-to framework for analyzing a political cartoon:

  1. What do you SEE? (List what you observe in the cartoon).
  2. What does it MEAN? What’s the MESSAGE? (What do the images/text mean, and what message is the cartoon trying to communicate?)
  3. What do you THINK? (Respond to the cartoon and its perspective)

Analyzing political cartoons is an engaging, visual way to practice critical thinking and literary analysis. Fewer words and more graphics will force students to analyze small details, make inferences, and articulate each cartoon’s perspective!

Examples: If you’re teaching Gatsby, gather cartoons about the American Dream. (You can find two examples HERE).

ART/IMAGE ANALYSIS GALLERY WALK

Are you catching on to the whole multimedia theme here? Well, let’s add art to the mix! Art analysis is another powerful way to scaffold literary analysis. It, too, can be structured by the “What do you notice?” question. Just like a close read of literature, a close read of art involves noticing all of the important details and analyzing their impact on the audience. It involves considering the artist’s craft, contemplating the message, and responding to the piece of art. 

If that sounds too “artsy” for you, expand your definition of art and think about images or other forms of media. Can you find illustrations of a novel? Maybe a scene from a graphic novel version? What about stills or clips from a film version? Even cover art counts as art! If you can control C + control V it to your virtual gallery exhibits, then it counts. It’s really that simple!

Virtual Gallery Walk: Art/Image Analysis
Virtual Gallery Walk: Art/Image Analysis (Click HERE to check out these gallery walk templates)

Examples: If you’re teaching a book with multiple cover versions (hello again, Gatsby), then ask students to analyze the impact of the cover art. Students can explore the gallery, analyze the covers, and evaluate which ones best represent the novel and its themes.

PRIMARY SOURCE GALLERY WALK

Struggling to help your students understand the historical context behind what you’re reading or studying? A primary source activity is as close as you can get to the inspiration for the gallery walk strategy: museums! You might not be able to let your students stroll through physical galleries, but you can let them scroll through virtual ones!

Create a mini-museum with primary sources, and then give students time to virtually wander throughout the exhibits at their own pace. Here are some ideas of primary sources you can include in your gallery walks: photographs, speech clips or transcripts, interviews, videos, newspaper front pages, diary or journal entries, letters, and other historical artifacts.

Example: When I teach journalism, I ask students to analyze the front pages of newspapers. This helps students learn about headlines, subheads, structure, layout, and more. I’ve also done this same kind of lesson with newspapers covering 9/11, and it’s always an incredibly powerful experience for students. Newseums’ Freedom Forum is a great source for current & historical front pages.

BOOK TASTING GALLERY WALK

Looking for a virtual, COVID-safe way to do your beloved book tasting lesson? Structure it with a virtual gallery of books, and give students time to browse each one. Include just enough information to give students a “taste” of the book: the cover, a quick blurb, and maybe even a sample of the first chapter. You can find free ebook and audiobook samples on Overdrive: all you need is a library card!

Another way to structure this is “speed dating” or even “blind dating.” To do this speed-dating style, give students a set time to explore each book. For the blind dating twist, give students information about the book but keep the cover hidden. Then, dramatically reveal the titles after students have already selected their favorite books. For more information on other speed dating ELA activities, check out my blog post HERE.

Virtual Gallery Walk: Book Tasting/Speed Dating
Virtual Gallery Walk: Book Tasting/Speed Dating (Click HERE to check out these gallery walk templates)

Example: Do this before launching lit circles or an independent reading unit…or any time your students are in need of a new book! 🙂

VIRTUAL FIELD TRIP GALLERY WALK

No field trips? No problem! Bring the setting to life with a virtual gallery! This activity works well for any novel with a faraway setting, and it provides the perfect opportunity to analyze the impact of the setting. 

Feel free to get creative with your exhibits! In addition to photos, you can include travel ads/websites, videos, maps, illustrations, live feeds, or links to interactive 360 views from Google Earth!

Example: If you’re teaching A Long Walk to Water, take students on a virtual field trip to South Sudan before reading. While I didn’t use a gallery walk to do this, I created something similar through pre-reading stations with photos & a map. I’ve found that what works for stations often works for gallery walks, and vice versa! You can check out those pre-reading stations HERE.

STUDENT-CREATED GALLERY WALK

A favorite professor once told me that good teachers never work harder than their students. Instead, they flip the work (and the ownership that comes with it) on their students. A student-created virtual gallery walk is the perfect example of this! Simply ask students to visually represent a novel (or an element, such as symbol), essential question, historical event, or anything, really. With a virtual gallery walk, their options for digital artifacts are endless. 

A twist on this: Create a collaborative class gallery in Google Slides, and ask each student to contribute an exhibit slide.

Virtual Gallery Walk: Student Work
Virtual Gallery Walk: Student Work (Click HERE to check out these gallery walk templates)

As you can see, you can do virtually anything with virtual gallery walks! The possibilities are endless!

If you love these ideas and want to save time creating your virtual gallery walk slides, then check out these interactive templates with clickable buttons. All you have to do is plug in your own content and click “assign.” 🙂


For more tech tips and teaching strategies, check out the following blog posts:

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