Gallery Walk Teaching Strategy | Facing History & Ourselves
Students adding post-it notes to a white board.
Teaching Strategy

Gallery Walk

A gallery walk activity gets students moving as they explore a range of documents, images, or student work displayed around the classroom.


At a Glance

teaching-strategy copy
Teaching Strategy


English — US


  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies




What Is a Gallery Walk?

During a gallery walk, students explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room. You can use this strategy when you want to have students share their work with peers, examine multiple historical documents, or respond to a collection of quotations. Because a gallery walk activity requires students to physically move around the room, it can be especially engaging to kinesthetic learners.

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How to Do a Gallery Walk

Select the texts (e.g., quotations, images, documents, and/or student work) you will be using for the gallery work. You could also have the students themselves, working individually or in small groups, select the texts.

Texts should be displayed “gallery style,” in a way that allows students to disperse themselves around the room, with several students clustering around each particular text. Texts can be hung on walls or placed on tables. The most important factor is that the texts are spread far enough apart to reduce significant crowding.

Viewing instructions will depend on your goals for the activity.

Provide Instructions for the Gallery Walk

If the purpose of the gallery walk is to introduce students to new material, you might want them to take informal notes as they walk around the room. If the purpose is for students to take away particular information, you can create a graphic organizer for them to complete as they view the “exhibit,” or compile a list of questions for them to answer based on the texts on display. Sometimes teachers ask students to identify similarities and differences among a collection of texts. Or teachers give students a few minutes to tour the room and then, once seated, ask them to record impressions about what they saw.

Students can take a gallery walk on their own or with a partner. You can also have them travel in small groups, announcing when groups should move to the next piece in the exhibit. One direction that should be emphasized is that students are supposed to disperse around the room. When too many students cluster around one text, it not only makes it difficult for students to view the text but also increases the likelihood of off-task behavior.

Once students have had a chance to view a sufficient number of the texts around the room, debrief the activity as a class. Depending on the goals of the gallery walk, this debrief can take a variety of forms. You might ask students to share the information they collected, or you might ask students what conclusions they can draw about a larger question from the evidence they examined.

Virtual Gallery Walks

During a virtual gallery walk, students explore multiple texts or images that are placed in an interactive slideshow. You can use this strategy to offer students a way to share their work with each other and build class community, or you can use it to introduce students to new sources that they can analyze.

  1. Select Texts
    Select the sources (e.g., quotations, images, documents, and/or student work) that you will be using for the gallery walk. You can also have students select the sources, working individually or in small groups.
  2. Create the Gallery Walk Slideshow
    Decide if you would like students to be able to comment directly on the sources or take notes in their own document. Then, create a slideshow of the sources. If you would like students to be able to comment directly on the sources, create your slideshow using an interactive application such as Google Jamboard or VoiceThread.
  3. Explore Sources
    You can share the slideshow with students during a synchronous session or ask them to look through the slideshow asynchronously. Viewing instructions will depend on your goals for the activity. If the purpose of the gallery walk is to introduce students to new material, you might want them to take informal notes as they view the sources. If the purpose is for students to take away particular information, you can create a graphic organizer for them to complete as they view the slideshow, or compile a list of questions for them to answer based on the texts on display. Sometimes teachers ask students to identify similarities and differences among texts. If you are using an interactive application, such as Google Jamboard or VoiceThread, you can also ask students to leave comments on the sources.
  4. Debrief the Gallery Walk
    Once students have finished viewing the sources, debrief the activity together. You can ask students to share their impressions or what they learned in small group breakout rooms or with the whole class.

Gallery Walk Examples from High School Classrooms

The reasoning behind a gallery walk is to allow students who really like to make observations and are good at making observations, but might be a little hesitant to raise their hand in class, to allow them the space and time to write down their observations about pictures around the room. So the general idea of a gallery walk is you have Big Paper. If you don't have that Big Paper, you can also put pictures on chalkboards or whiteboards. And you can also tape computer paper up to it, somewhere where students can write around the picture. And I created the gallery walk, in which you have these pictures of memorials that students can then respond to. A gallery walk can be anything from photographs, to political cartoons, quotes, or pieces of legislation, something visual that they are then commenting on. And what I really love about gallery walks is that as students rotate around the images and the big pieces of paper, they can communicate with one another. And this is a little bit more anonymous. So I know sometimes they're like, I know whose handwriting that is. But they can have a conversation, through writing, about what they see. Students really respond well to it because anyone can look at an image and have a thought. And it allows people to enter into the conversation, I think, in a really unique and creative way. Because they can just make an observation, or they can write a question. It doesn't always have to be this profound, historical statement. But it can be, I have a question about this. And then someone else who is rotating around stops and she thinks, oh, I think I have an answer to that, but I'm going to write it down anyways and see if anyone has any thoughts. And it creates this conversation among students by looking at these visual components as they progress around the gallery, playing off the idea of an art gallery or a museum. One of the things that might be challenging is gallery walk has pictures of the memorials throughout the room. And they may not know the full extent of the history behind that specific event. So for instance, when they see the memorial of General Custer's Last Stand, they may not recall what happened there. But I'm hoping that, through conversations with their classmates, by looking at the design of the memorial, they can deduce, they can use critical thinking skills to come up with ideas as to how that memorial represents what happened, the purpose, the intent, and what it was really trying to convey to those who were going to come and ultimately see the memorial. Have you noticed the big pieces of paper on the wall? Yes? We're going to do something called a gallery walk. I'm assuming you've done this in other classes. I know you've done it with me in 10th grade as well. You're going to take a marker, and I want you to walk around the room. And as you walk around, I want you to write down your thoughts on the big piece of paper surrounding the memorials. Think about purpose, intent of the memorial, try to find out about the location. I did write a few notes underneath each image to give you a sense of where it is and what it's about. Some of them you may not be as familiar with in terms of the historical significance. Feel free to ask me questions, but I'm asking that you grapple with it a little bit based on the context I've given you. And think about the materials and the size. I haven't been to all of these, but I know enough about them where I could give you a little bit more information about what materials were used. But again, try to really think about-- discuss with a neighbor. It doesn't have to be super quiet. If someone's next to you, be like, what is this Native American one made out of, I can't really tell. So feel free to talk to each other as you do it, but make sure you write down thoughts. And as you circulate, should you just go to one poster one time? No, keep circulating. I want you to be able to make comments off of one another. So if you see something really interesting, make a comment off of that. Ask questions through writing. We'll come back together afterwards and have a bit of discussion before we transition into the action project. Questions? All right, so come up, take a color, start making your way around the room. Try to spread out. There's about seven posters. [INDISTINCT CONVERSATION] So in that sense, what do you think this memorial is for? The loss of land, maybe the genocide, the way that the people were pillaged and raped. The Trail of Tears? This is-- After that? --slightly-- uh, yeah, the Trail of Tears is in 1830. So we're a fair amount of time after the Trail of Tears. But you're on the right idea here. I want you to all finish up whatever thought you're writing down. And before you sit down, what I want you to do is just take a moment to walk around the room and read all the comments. And once you've done that, then take a seat. Just a couple more minutes to read other people's comments and have a seat. I was walking around the room, and your comments were phenomenal. And hopefully-- I know Caroline mentioned that one of the ones, the Irish Famine one, was what you did for your Holocaust project. So I want to keep everything in mind that you just wrote on, and I want to discuss a couple of these questions. So think back to the Holocaust and Human Behavior. And when we studied memorials, I had you all go to memorials around the Boston area and do a project on them. Thinking about all the comments you just wrote down, comments that you read, I want you to turn to your partners and think about these three questions in relation to the project you did before, so your project. What influenced your memorial designs? What did you attempt to convey in your memorials? And what was the purpose of your monument? So turn to your partner, discuss those three questions. [SIDE CONVERSATIONS] First of all, I wanted to make the message clear so that there wasn't any confusion on what my memorial was about. And it was also meant to honor the people. I think I also put in scriptures of the Torah. I visited one that was a combination of World War II, Vietnam, any war that, any of the vets from my city had fought in. And they had put their names on, but they had also amazing designs and sculptures to honor the people. But I think the emotion that they want to convey is the loss and the grief that the people have went through. I think the lesson went really well. Students were very engaged in the material. A lot of the comments on the gallery walk were so profound, and I think, got me thinking, and were observations that when I originally looked at these, I thought, oh, I didn't even see that at first. So to see their perspective from all these different voices, I was really just pleasantly surprised, as always, that they exceed my expectations. Facing History, for me, has always provided a space to enter the conversation. Because Facing History and Ourselves provides these tools for educators and for students to talk about very difficult material.

This video shows a high school class using the Gallery Walk strategy to consider images of monuments and memorials before embarking on an "Action Project."

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We're going into our unit where we read the memoir Night by Elie Wiesel. It's really important for the students to get a solid background before we read any sort of work, but especially with Night, and we're talking about the Holocaust. Because a lot of the ideas, a lot of the events that unfold in the memoir, they'll need to have a general understanding of the historical time period because you can't just throw students into a time period that they're not familiar with without giving them some background.

We've talked about propaganda. They've definitely talked about propaganda in other classes.

So today we're going to continue our study of the Holocaust in preparation of reading Night. And we're going to look at propaganda. Does anybody need a refresher on what we talked about? Thank you. OK, so someone want to help him out? Henry?

I remember we talked about the way that Jews and other people were treated during this time, and the policies and other changes put in place that kind of sparked the beginning of the Holocaust, such as decisions made to get rid of things like Jewish-run businesses and other things like that.

Mm-hmm, good. So today you guys are actually going to be looking at some actual propaganda posters and images of people that the Nazis used as propaganda.

I do anticipate a few challenges about this lesson. And I think the most challenging thing you deal with when you deal with the Holocaust is the outright discrimination and prejudice against, specifically in today's lesson, the Jewish population. And I think that students today are very accepting and they're very open to people's differences. I think that kids really do have a hard time dealing with that because it's against what they're taught in our culture. So I think that one of the challenges is definitely dealing with how do you deal with students presented with material that really goes against everything that they believe in.

What I'm going to have you do is something very different, today, than we've done before. Everybody is going to need a writing utensil. What we're going to be doing is called a gallery walk. I'm going to ask everybody to get up, and you're going to walk around the room, spread yourselves out.

And you'll notice that there's Post-its kind of all around where the posters are. Take a Post-it, and I'm going to ask you to do one of three things. You're either going to comment on the picture, you're going to ask a question about the picture, or you can just come up with a phrase or a word that you think of when you look at the picture.

Some of the pictures do have German writing on them. And I did kind of translate for you underneath. So make sure you read the captions. Take your time looking at the pictures. Really kind of try to take them in. And then write your comment, question, or your phrase or word, and then leave it up on the wall near the picture.

Make sure that you get every single one. Take your time looking at them. Really think about what you want to write. And then once we're all done-- I'll give you about 15 minutes for this-- once we're all done, we're going to get back together. So get up and walk around.


All right, everybody, so good job with that activity. You guys had lots of thoughts. I was reading some of the things you wrote-- really good questions you asked, really good observations.

So now what I'm going to have you do is work together in groups. I need you in groups of four or five, and I need five total groups. I'm going to assign you one of these five questions to talk about in your group. I'm going to give you some time to talk about it. Somebody should be writing some notes down, and another person should be nominated to speak out to the class. And so you guys can decide within your groups who will do that. Once you get into your groups, I'll assign you a number, and then you'll discuss, and we'll come back together, and your reporter will share out.

Five groups total.

Let's see, why was it so important?

Well, for one thing, they needed it in order to convince most of the citizens to follow some of their more intense ideas that they wouldn't be able to get them to follow directly.

The influence through the children and different ways, through advertisements and through children's books.

And even just teaching it in schools, too.

Yeah. And the audiences were directed towards the everyday citizens.

It's easier--

You have so many more platforms--

Yes, it's way easier to share, it's easier to rile people up. Because people are already on edge with history between countries.

So let's start with the first question. So the first question we had was, who were the audiences for these messages, and how were the messages conveyed? So group 1, what did you have to say about that?

We said that the audiences of these messages are everyday German citizens. And the messages are conceived in positive ways by showing or stating "joining the Nazi party will give you protection." And they target some of their propaganda towards the youth because they know the youth would be the next generation. So by brainwashing them to believe in the Nazis, they already will have a huge audience.

And then they conveyed this message through posters, paintings, teaching children negative things about the Jews in schools, advertisements, and children's books.

Good-- really good. So I like that you focus on-- I think that you focus on the Hitler Youth. And I'm assuming the children's book kind of had something to do with your answer.

So yeah, so it's really important to, when you're looking at these, to remember that it's not only adults that we're trying to convince of these messages. It's children. And why would-- and this is open to everybody-- so why would the propaganda posters that geared themselves towards children, why are those effective, and why would those be used?

Children are not mature, so they're not great at making decisions for themselves. So if they get repeatedly taught, hey, you should believe that the Jews are bad people, they'll start to believe it. Because unlike adults, where adults can tell whether something's right or wrong, children aren't as good about that. So they're kind of easier to convince.

Easier to manipulate, right?

Based on the images you analyzed, how do you think the Nazis used propaganda to define the identities of individuals and groups? And what stereotypes did it promote?

Nazis were trying to distinguish themselves from the Jews while looking like the dominant race. And then in the certain cases, like the picture of Hitler holding up the Nazi flag as a knight was showing himself as the leader, or kind of the overall king of the land or something.

And then it was like-- the other one was that all the Jews are worthless and they have no place in the world, kind of like those signs said, and how it was like "all Jews must die" and stuff.

I liked what you said when you said Hitler and the Nazis tried to distinguish themselves from others. So that idea that there's something about them that's special or more important than others. And what poster exactly were you referring to when you were thinking about that idea?

I was mostly thinking about the knight picture, and how it kind of pictured Hitler as kind of, just their knight in shining armor over the land.

When I saw that, I kind of thought that the portrait portrayed him to be superior. So I thought-- and especially with the Nazis, they thought they were the superior race. And I thought that was a good portrait that portrayed that.

I think it's really important for the students to be able to grasp something like the Holocaust. I don't necessarily love the question, "what would you do if you were here?" But more, maybe put yourself in this kind of mindset, and kind of look at the experiences of other people who would be in your position during this time period. This happened to people who were just like them. And people who witnessed this event were just like us.

I definitely think that my students met the learning outcomes for today's lesson. I wanted them to be able to speak intelligently about the propaganda images that they were faced with, and I also wanted them to engage in a meaningful discourse with their peers, and share out that important information that they gathered from their peers, giving the students a strong foundation in, think about the choices we make, and think about the way we react to the things that happen around us. And I think, as true with any sort of topic that you go through in class or book that you read, it's really important for them to connect. Because if they don't connect to something, then they don't care about it.

In this video, a high school class prepares to read Elie Wiesel’s Night. To build their historical understanding, students participate in a gallery walk to learn about the power of Nazi propaganda.

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