Banksy Revisited: Image Meets Rhetorical Text


Last week I posted about revisiting Banksy’s work to inspire some critical visual literacy work with my students. You can read and see some of their images here. I mentioned in that post my intention of pairing their visual work with some academic, rhetorical writing to anchor the overall experience. I am excited to share some of the results with you. Inside today’s post you will see a few new images (as well as one from last week) paired with the student-composer’s rhetorical explanation and intention for the visual. 

Sometimes you simply do not know how a group of students will take up a task–especially an unusual one. When I first introduced Banksy and visual literacy ideas to my students, I am not sure they knew why we were doing it. Clearly they had not done anything in a similar vain in previous classes. But as I wrote in my last post, students seemed to enjoy the work of making their own Banksy-like pieces. Most took a more critical stance in their creations while others just had fun. While I always hope my students take a task seriously enough to grow from it, sometimes I acknowledge just playing with images and laughter are good starting points.

This past Friday I had students go a step further and take time to interpret one another’s images as well develop their own reason’s why their image exists and has purpose. I started by taking each image a student had made, stripping it of identifiers, labeling them with letters, and setting the images up throughout the room. Students then went around the room in gallery walk style, observing each other’s work and providing their own interpretations of each image. Here are some action shots:



1204151134aAt each image students answered two of the following questions about the image:

  1. What is the tone of the image?
  2. How does the word choice (or lack of words) affect how you understand the image?
  3. What does the image remind you of personally, socially, or culturally?
  4. What theme or universal truth is the image conveying or stating?

Each image got approximately four or five responses to each image. Students then got to collect their images and the interpretations of their peers to begin a dialogue at their tables. The discussions were rich as students debated the meaning of the image and authors wrestled with their own view and the view of their peers.

Finally, this leads to each student writing a rhetorical explanation for the purpose of their image based largely off the form of a rhetorical precis. I had introduced the rhetorical precis about a week prior and spent time practicing its elements earlier in the week, so students were able to transmit the skill to this task fairly well. When the smoke cleared for the day, students had done some strong interpretive, critical, and persuasive work. Below I am sharing with you a few of the images along with a few interpretations of the image and the student’s rhetorical explanation.



*Unfortunately, I do not have interpretations for this image from others. This was entirely my fault as I had forgotten to print this image for the lesson initially. Still, the rhetorical explanation is solid work.

Banksy Explanations_3


52989-759438 - Sarah Salauddin - Nov 30, 2015 843 PM - SSalauddin_banksy

Interpretations: “I think the tone of the image is determined/being free because there’s a picture of a bird with it’s wings out. The word choice ‘They don’t own me” makes me think that the person is free from everybody’s rules” and “I feel like the theme is that you are your own person.”

Banksy Explanations_1


186710-759438 - Kimberly Carpenter - Nov 30, 2015 1201 PM - Kim Carpenter

Interpretations: “Not everyone’s a friend you have enmys (sic) that are living. I watch the Walking Dead” and “A watchful tone. It reminds me of how secretive people are.”

Banksy Explanations_2


186474-759438 - Fiona Jones - Nov 30, 2015 1206 PM - Fiona Jones Banksy

Interpretations: “The tone of this one is serious/important. The word choice makes it strong because it shows how people can be” and “Reminds me of extreme feminism. Unfair treatment amongst (sic) genders. The theme may be rooting for the underdog.”

Banksy Explanations_4

There are so many more I could have shared, but I limited myself to four samples that ran the gamit of what I got from the class. There appears to be some real promise in pairing our work with Banksy with their rhetorical and academic writing. Needless to say, I will be continuing this into my zine unit next semester.

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