Arts & Activities Magazine - Why teach graffiti in your classroom
graffiti diplomacy
eager ambitions and expected all my middle-school students to want to be in that classroom as much as I did. The
administration asked me if I could "get the kids hooked on art." That's exactly what I planned on doing.

Upon meeting each class, and introducing them to the art room, I asked what they would like to learn in art class. They
bombarded me with great ideas: fashion design, painting, clay ... Then, one child raised his hand and said he wanted to learn
how to create graffiti. I added it to my list, but was thinking to myself that it was far too controversial for me to actually teach.

Later, as I worked on final lesson preparations for the semester, I looked again at the word "graffiti" on my fist. I began
researching it and started to look at it with a child's eye: It's colorful, it's fun and it can be used to get important messages
across. I then prepared a lesson, to which I have made many improvements over the years and has served me well.

THE IMPORTANT DISTINCTION to get across was that we were looking at graffiti as an art vs. graffiti as vandalism. I showed
them a PowerPoint I created with several examples. We discussed that it is art when created on a surface that we have
permission to use. I discussed how some of the first paintings were done on cave walls, and that even Leonardo Da Vinci's
The Last Supper was painted on a wall. This opened a discussion on murals and frescos.

I told them that we were studying our graffiti as art, not as vandalism, so it did not need to be put on a wall. As a class, we
looked at the technique that went into creating the letters. We studied examples of graffiti, with an artist's eye. We discussed
color, shading and creative letter manipulation. Students were fascinated. To this day, I've never presented a lesson that
gets kids as excited to create as this one did (and still does).

After viewing examples, I made sure each student could make a bold letter. I told them to print a capital letter on their page
and outline it (for those who cannot visualize how to make bold letters). Then, together we worked on how to create shadows
for those letters. Once the students figured out how to add a shadow to a standard bold letter, we discussed how to
manipulate that letter into a graffiti font.

letter--they need to add to it. We started with the top, and changed the shape, then the bottom piece(s) of the letter. If the
letter had a center piece, it also had to be changed. Once they mastered changing their letters, they worked on adding a
shadow to it.

FOR THE ASSIGNMENT, students chose a word (not a name) with five letters or more. A shorter word would be too easy.
They had to make sure that some part of their design touches each edge of the paper. They also needed to draw one letter
backwards. Finally, when it was time for them to color each letter, each needed to have five colors in it.

The students worked on their projects for about a week and the outcome was amazing. When I displayed them on the
bulletin boards outside the art room, they captivated the entire student body. Passers-by stopped in awe of what the art
students created. And, I heard many of them say, "I want to take art!" That's when I knew I had accomplished the goal I first
set out for--to get students to love art.


ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE: PAGES 29 & 44
"Graffiti-Style: Text Warp" - by Stephanie Syrakis
Lake Gibson Middle School in Lakeland, Fla.
"To this day, I've never presented a lesson that gets
kids as excited to create as this one did (and still does)."
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