Making Learning Relevant: using street art in lessons

I came across a Tweet by DLFresources which showed four new pieces produced by the interesting street artist Banksy. Using graffiti in the classroom does not go without controversy but it does give us the opportunity to examine why artists and ordinary people, ever since the Roman times, have turned to producing messages of various kinds on walls and buildings in their own surroundings. Banksy is a prime example of how graffiti artists mirror their view of a particular aspect of society in their work. There’s a brilliant opportunity for students to learn from studying street art. Take a look at the examples below:

Banksy piece 1
Banksy piece 2

We could begin by asking why a specific piece has been created in a particular way and what the artist is trying to convey. Perhaps an even better idea is to allow students to create their own pieces which reflect e.g. the most significant time period in history (piece 1), a critical eye on environmental politics (piece 2), or the dark side of tourism. This requires them to really think about the core of the message they are trying to put across. Alternatively get students to think of headings to existing artwork, for example what could they name these Banksy images:

Caption/Title?
Caption/Title?

Using street art in the classroom is an excellent opportunity to involve students in something many of them are already familiar with whilst at the same time introduce them to new ideas and concepts that could otherwise be difficult – in true ‘sticky’ style : ) . As a side issue, it’s also worth exploring the history behind graffiti and why we, ‘humankind’, has always expressed ourselves through drawings on everything from cave walls, in catacombs, on ceilings, city walls and buildings.

You can explore more of Banksy’s work in his book: Wall or Peace

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Johannes Ahrenfelt

Johannes Ahrenfelt has previously worked as County Advisor for Learning & Teaching with ICT, Head of Department and University Lecturer. He has taught for 10+ years in schools around Norfolk, UK, and is currently leading an inspirational team in Norwich as Head of Faculty. Johannes shares his passion for pedagogy on his blog, social media and when delivering training in the UK and abroad. He has also published several books worldwide, one of which has been translated into Mandarin and Malayan.

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