Classroom graffitiA Syn (image modified). Creative Commons.
Curriculum Tips and Tricks

Graffiti Can Be an Educational Tool in Your Classroom

Students use art to enhance learning skills.

Graffiti is an expressive art form that dates back to early Egyptian times, but is still very much alive in our culture today. What originally emerged as stone-carved symbols has transformed into paintings, drawings, written words, and colorful art seen on walls, buildings, subways, and bridges.

Did you know that it can also be a useful tool in your classroom?

Graffiti can be an interactive way for student to share voices and cultural understandings & facilitate change in your classroom environment. It’s also a great way to add some color to your classroom!

Here are three ways to use graffiti can help your classroom climate:

1. Illustrate history

A brief lesson on the origins of graffiti will bring the idea of wall art in your classroom to life. Uncover the types of graffiti used in ancient times, and discuss the messages that were displayed. Explain how simple scratch marks evolved into elaborate wall paintings and spray paint art. What kinds of pictures were used back then? What methods were preferred and on which surface? Who was the message intended for and what was the meaning? Talk about the diversity of wall art displayed today, and collaborate on the similarities and differences.

2. Design a graffiti wall

Cover a classroom wall or table with butcher paper. Ideally, a space where several students can write at the same time. Use markers so that messages can be read from a distance. There are may uses for a graffiti wall in your classroom:

  • Brainstorm on a single topic and have the students graffiti their thoughts and explain their art to the rest of the class. It’s a great way to build images in their minds, which can help with recall.
  • Create a question, such as “How did the book/passage inspire you?”, and allow students to sketch their answers.
  • Use a graffiti as an ice-breaker for the first day of school. Use sentence starters such as “I learn best….”
  • Introduce a lesson and encourage students write sticky-notes of what they hope to learn learn from the lesson. Circle back to see if the students did.
  • Design a vocabulary word wall and suggest students illustrate the meaning of each word in pictures, or correct the grammar.
  • Let Geometry take shape on graffiti walls or even hallways to show angles. Ask students to solve the problem on paper, create the shape on the wall, and fill the shape in with graffiti. Self-assessment sticky notes can be placed inside.
  • Ask students to make predictions in reading or science and use one-word illustrations.
  • Write a vocabulary word on the wall and have students draw what it visually means to them.
  • Make a motivational graffiti wall and allow students to discover themselves with only positive images
  • Close a lesson and have students summarize the information they learned with art.
  • Vary their experiences each time, asking for only pictures, words, one color, or use a time limit.

3. Consider the size

While larger graffiti walls are good for collaboration and discussion, individualized graffiti boards can help students deal with personal emotion. These can be sheets of paper, white boards or even chalkboards. Allow older students to express themselves independently after reading a powerful excerpt, hearing an emotional speech, musical composition, participating in an observation, or after a spirited debate. Students are invited to immediately blueprint their feelings in an informal way, and can be invited to later revisit their images to formally create a document.

Graffiti can be a valuable way for students to express themselves individually while learning core skills in a creative and effective way.


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