Get to Know You Gallery Walk

You know it’s going to be a long day when your students can’t talk about anything except what they’re going to do over the long weekend – and it’s only Monday.

Between lesson plans and grading, planning a yearbook theme and preparing for back-to-school night, it’s easy to just get sucked into the whirlwind of the work week. Time flies and, before you know it, your students are racing for the parking lot on Friday afternoon.

But every now and then, a moment stops you and tells you to just slow down and enjoy yourself.  It’s important to embrace those moments.  It’s in them that relationships are formed and you begin to build trust with your students.

My frosh classes had a quiz today.  Generally I like to follow up a quiz with an independent assignment.  That way, students can work at their own paces and they each have something to work on once they finish.  Today was a bit different though. Last week when I informed the classes that we’d have a quiz on Monday, they told me that many of their other classes were giving tests and quizzes as well.  I hated to add to their stress, so I promised them some “lighter work” after the quiz.

So after the quiz, we did a little in-school service and I sent the girls around to take out the classroom recycling bins.  I consider this one of those moments I mentioned earlier. It’s easy to get caught up in the work. In the curriculum. In the grades. It’s easy to want to plow onward. To get caught up in our own goals. To forget that learning is a cooperative act. And that students are much more willing to cooperate if they know they are respected, cared for and part of a team.

So I slowed down. I took a moment to do something else and it was a good experience for all of us.  The students got a well-deserved break during a stressful day. The teachers got their recycling cleared (yay!). And it gave me the opportunity to get to know some of my students better – which ones jumped right into the task, which were hesitant, which had the most fun with it.

After the recycling was taken care of, we began the last of the icebreakers I use with the frosh.  Last week, I assigned them each to create an “About Me Collage”. I showed them an example of my own and required them to include specifics about their families, interests/hobbies/skills and virtues.  They were encouraged to decorate the collage and to use pictures.  I use Interactive Student Notebooks with my freshmen so the collages go on the first page.

So today we did an About Me Gallery Walk.  I asked for nine volunteers to share their collages (we will do three sessions of this activity, so everyone will take a turn eventually).  The nine volunteers each claimed a spot around the classroom as their station.  The rest of the class was divided into pairs. Each pair took a turn at each of the stations where the volunteer shared their collages.  90 seconds per station and then we rotate.

My class requires a lot of collaborative work among the students, so I want them to learn a little about one another.  This icebreaker is a fun no-stress activity that allows them to do so.  I take a turn at each station also and make it a point to comment on each student’s collage.

Seems as though the school year is in full-swing now.  Grading, planning, prepping, and writing another article for the school’s publications (this one was on an award the yearbook staff just received) = 11 hours today.

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