Monday, September 15, 2014

Graffiti Walls as a Teaching Tool


I love using graffiti walls as a teaching tool in my classroom.  They are easy, adaptable to many subjects, and great for any subject or age.

The basic idea is that the students are creating a layered and creative visual representation of what they are learning.  Just like most graffiti, there isn't a definite plan, it is more impromptu than planned out, and has layers of overlapping additions.

My favorite way to use graffiti walls like this is in literature, especially with a read-a-loud or in lit circles.  They of course would be great for teaching a topic in religion as well.  I plan on using them as I continue my introduction of the Sacraments this school year. You can add anything to them, but here are some basic ideas:

1. Start with a large piece of paper.  It can begin on a table or floor, but then should be hung up and continued to be added to as more learning happens.
2. Group work is best.  The ideas and contributions of many students are better for a graffiti wall than just the work of one.
3. There isn't a plan- even from the teacher.  There is no "right" final graffiti wall.  It grows and changes as the learning continues, and represents important parts, new ideas, connections, etc.  Teaching even the same topic in the same way will result in very different final walls.
4. Layer, layer, layer.  Just like the ideas in our heads, the representations on a graffiti wall are not stand-alone, neatly organized, or perfect.  We start at the beginning of a new topic add information as understanding grows and changes.
5. Use both words and pictures.  Visual is key with a graffiti wall.  Pictures are important, but so are words.  However, the words that are chosen to be added should be fewer and boldly represented.

The graffiti walls that I have in this post as an example are from reading the book Esperanza Rising.  We started with plain paper at the beginning of the book (a different color for each group makes identification easy as they work over days or even weeks).  During the beginning part of the book, students would add names of characters, images of the setting, pictures of events, and even (short) direct quotes that impacted them.  Sometimes they would do this while listening to the book be read out loud, and sometimes it was after reading on their own.
We would go back and add as we continued to read the book, lending to the messy, busy look that you see on the original paper.  We also added more info on top of the wall by gluing or sticking on more paper.

Some activities that I can see here include:
-drawing of an object from the book that held great symbolism for the main character
-sequence of events quick comic strips
-adjectives that describe the main character as she grew and changed
-quick questions, using post it notes
-themes seen throughout the book

 Oh, and graffiti walls are a super fun activity to do outside as well!
Anything goes!  Maybe a graffiti wall would be a good formative activity for you to try in your classroom- pick a topic and give it a try!


  1. LOVE this idea! It is so simple and easy to implement, yet quite powerful in content and learning. Thanks so much for sharing! Now to decide how to include a graffiti wall in my room... hmmm?


    1. Glad you like it Angela! I think you and your students will enjoy trying one!

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