How to Implement the Graffiti Boards Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom
Graffiti boards are a communal writing area (e.g., a big sheet of paper or whiteboard) where learners record their comments and questions about a topic. The purpose of this technique is to help learners “hear” each other’s ideas. Some advantages of this method include that it can be implemented in five to ten minutes, it provides a way for shy learners to engage in the conversation, it creates a record of learners’ ideas and questions that can be referred to at a later point, and it gives learners space and time to process emotional material. You can utilize the graffiti boards method as a preview activity by introducing a new topic and assisting learners in organizing any existing knowledge about that topic. You can also utilize this method to prepare for a class discussion or writing assignment about a piece of content by asking learners to share their reactions to the content on the graffiti board.
- Prepare the Space: You will need ample space in your room where several learners can write at the same time. Some instructors cover a section of the wall with butcher or chart paper; others use a whiteboard. You will also need plenty of writing utensils. For this learning activity, markers work better than pens or pencils because they allow learners’ remarks to be read from a distance. Make sure you supply one for each learner.
- Contract with Learners: Before the activity begins, contract with the learners in terms of what an appropriate response is and how to express one’s discomfort with something in a proper way. Learners must be told that they are to remain silent during this activity. Make sure learners know that several of them can write at once. Learners can write their responses to the prompt as well as respond to the questions and ideas that other learners have written. Learners must draw lines connecting their remarks to those of other learners. Some instructors require all learners to post at least one question or comment to the graffiti board.
- Learners Comment on Graffiti Board: Learners are invited to write comments and questions on the graffiti board. It is typical for most learners to stand near the graffiti board during this activity so that they can more easily read and comment on what has been written. Writing on the board often starts slow and then increases as the board contains more comments that elicit learner response. Typically, instructors give learners five to ten minutes for silent writing on the graffiti board, but the activity can go longer if learners are still working.
- Hold a Group Discussion: The concepts on the graffiti board make a useful springboard for a discussion. You could begin a conversation by asking learners to summarize what they see on the board or what they notice about areas of agreement and disagreement.
- Processing Powerful Content: Like the big paper method, the graffiti board method can be useful after a robust, emotional conversation, video, guest speaker, or reading. While the big paper method is helpful for emotional and intellectual processing, graffiti boards are better for debriefing something that has shaken up the learners. It can be a useful strategy when you want to stay away from analytical or intellectual conversations and allow learners to process emotion. This method may be helpful in situations such as these:
- After watching a politician give a speech
- After seeing graphic footage
- After hearing from a witness to violence or a survivor
- After hearing hate speech
- After having someone share a compelling personal story