Saturday, March 9, 2013

Columbian Exchange Art Gallery Walk

A few weeks ago, we covered the Columbian Exchange in Obertopia.  It would be very easy to just tell students what it is, or to show them a picture or short movie.  However, for a more meaningful activity, we turned to the Art Gallery Walk.

Students were given two days to create a visual depiction answering these two questions:
1. What was the Columbian Exchange
2. Why was it a big deal?

They were also told at the end of two days that we would have an art gallery walk.  Students would walk around and peruse the work of all the other students.  Then they would be allowed to vote for their favorite (and they could not vote for their own).

Students worked harder than I have seen them work all year!  It was so sweet and quite impressive.  Once we were ready for the art gallery walk, students cleared their desks of everything except their poster.  We put 5 minutes on the timer and students were not allowed to vote during those 5 minutes. Their only purpose was to walk around while studying, reading, and viewing the thirty-something illustrations.  When the timer went off, students were allowed to vote for their favorite.  They voted by putting a piece of paper (with their name on it) on top of their favorite poster.  Votes were tallied, and each class had 3 winners.  3rd place got to pick 1 prize out of the Obertopian Treasure Box, 2nd place picked 2, and 1st place got to pick 3 prizes while also receiving a special Obertopian Champ trophy.

Below you will find the overall winners from each class:

My favorite aspects of this activity are:
  • the competition (keep it friendly!)
  • the respect students gain for their peers' abilities
  • how students have to look at 30+ different interpretations of the chosen concept, giving us the opportunity to deepen understanding
I definitely recommend art gallery walks for the middle school classroom.  You could use it in any subject and with many different concepts.  

Quick advice: Try to cultivate a high level of respect in your room during the year before attempting the Art Gallery Walk.  During the walk, be quick to stomp out any negative comments.  I usually tell students that if I hear anything that sounds even remotely negative coming from their mouth, then they will be immediately disqualified from the competition.  I also give the entire class a pep talk prior to the walk.  I tell them how proud I am for their hard work and dedication to the assignment.  I tell them they should be proud of themselves based on their hard work and not on how many votes they receive.

Try it out in your own class and tell me how it goes!

Friday, March 1, 2013

"I think we all need a pep talk..."

A few weeks ago, at a faculty meeting, they closed our gathering with this inspirational video.  I immediately felt a sense of purpose and hope.  That might sound a little idealistic, but I don't care.  Watch the video below and see what I mean...

Hey.  How ya feeling?  Well, I hope you're feeling awesome.  Isn't this what life is all about?  Isn't this something we can all aspire to?  Regardless of religious or political beliefs, the message of this video can bind us together to reach for one goal: To make the world more awesome.

I showed this video to all of my classes the day after that faculty meeting.  In one class, a student said, "That is the best youtube video I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of youtube videos."  In another class, I flipped the lights on to find one student wiping tears from her eyes.  As I passed out some papers and walked by her desk, I asked her if she was okay.  She replied, "I just am so happy that a little kid understands what it's all about, especially when there are so many adults that don't even get it."  It blessed my heart when they continued talking about it days afterward.

We are a team.

"This is your time.  This is my time.  This is our time.  Let's get out there."