Earlier this month, I wanted to find a way to engage my 8th Honors students in collaborative and more critical thinking after we read “The Cyclops” together from Part 1 of The Odyssey in our textbook.  I first designed the analysis tasks:

  • Analyzing the heroic qualities of Odysseus in this “adventure”/episode
  • Analyzing the no so heroic qualities of Odysseus in this “adventure”/episode
  • The 4Cs (a Making Thinking Visible strategy); I provided this group this resource to scaffold their thinking.
  • Circle of Viewpoints (another Making Thinking Visible strategy)
  • Analyzing External and Internal Conflicts

Students had a little over three class days to complete their poster work, and I allowed students to choose their own groups.  Some groups were very focused, while others struggled the entire time to have a solid strategy for collaborating while also dividing the smaller tasks to create the final product.   Since this is an Honors class, I was not expecting this to be an issue, but moving forward I will make sure to provide more scaffolding to help them stay on track with their group tasks.

We previewed the rubric before starting our work, and I also incorporated this into our instructions in Canvas as well as the peer review tool I created in Google Forms for our hybrid gallery walk/peer review of poster sessions.  I decided to go with a hybrid format for the gallery walk/peer review because:

  • I’ve been wanting to try this approach after reading about it earlier this year.
  • Even the best 8th graders sometimes have difficulty controlling their social nature in a 100% face to face gallery walk, so I felt a hybrid approach was the best of both worlds—the starting point was the virtual gallery, but students could get up and visit the posters in person at any time.
  • Attendance has been a major issue already this school year, so the hybrid version allowed remote learners to participate.
  • We are fortunate to be a 1:1 Chromebook school, and I love utilizing the power of technology when it enhances the learner experience.

Once students completed their products, we hung them up, and I photographed/video each poster after school.  These photos/videos were uploaded into a Google Drive folder I created for each group; I linked these folders to the virtual gallery walk slide, so it was actually very easy to design and create the virtual walk.   Students could get up and look at the posters during our hybrid peer review/hybrid gallery walk of posters, but they also used the multimedia in the virtual gallery as they evaluated each group’s work through the Google Form I created.  In addition, my principal visited the classroom to examine student work and my fellow/lead 9th Honors English teacher Ms. Briscoe also participated in the virtual/hybrid gallery walk to provide another set of eyes on student work.  I had told my class we would have some guest judges joining us, so I feel that element helped enhance the “scholarly” feel to our endeavor.

I am still assessing student work, but in my first pass at looking at their poster sessions, I can see the students were strong in finding relevant textual evidence to support their answer.  Our area for growth moving forward will be making sure we explain our textual evidence and examples and connect our thinking back to the critical thinking task/question(s).  Even as I visited groups and pointed their commentary was missing or incomplete, they did not follow up on correcting this gap.

This is a challenge I have seen with every level of 8th grade learner I’ve taught the last three years, so I will continue to support them with additional scaffolding and low stakes writing/thinking opportunities to practice this skill.  Even the students picked up on this area for growth as they evaluated each other’s work and indicated that the work, while of good quality, had room for improvement in adding depth and detail.

Overall, I am pleased with how well the hybrid peer review/gallery walk went!  The technology piece was very easy to design for the virtual gallery walk; designing the Google Form is what took the most time since there were sections, but once I got the template for a section created, replicating it for the other sections (one per group) went quickly.  I also included a final section for students to assess themselves and their learning.  The students did not have any trouble navigating or using any of the technology pieces for this hybrid peer review/gallery walk, and I will definitely use this approach with my other classes later this semester!

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