Visual Rhetoric and Graffiti or How Banksy Made me a Political Animal
Instructor: Allen Berry
Lesson Objectives: The student will learn how to recognize and interpret the messages presented in
common visuals that they see every day. For the purpose of this lesson, I will
utilize the graffiti of the street artist Banksy combined with other visual images
that compliment or lend context to Banksy’s work.
Prep and Materials: For the purpose of this lesson, the instructor will need a power point presentation
consisting of various art works by Banksy. These visuals have appeared in such
obscure locales as the L.A. River bank and the border wall separating Palestine and
Israel. A search of Google Images will yield a number of Banksy’s visuals. The
preparation for this class for the students only requires that they read the section
on visual rhetoric in The Practical Argument.
Introduction: Students should be informed of the goals of the lesson, and how the visuals
presented in everyday life are filled with encoded messages. Each visual
makes and argument to the viewer. For example, the photo below presents an
argument about McDonald’s meals. The use of color, the neutral background,
and the placement of the food items constitute what I refer to as the McDonald’s
Trinity: the Burger, the Fries, and the Holy Coke.
Contrast that with the second image, a street art piece by Banksy, which is a reply to the Holy Trinity. What is Banksy’s reply saying to his audience? Who is his target audience, and how are you as a viewer of the two images, affected by each?
Ideally, this exercise should take place after either the first or second paper is turned in on a decompression day or the class immediately after. This will give the students a breather from the work that they have done prior to the presentation.
Procedures: Begin the class with a brief introduction of visual rhetoric.
Give examples of the hidden messages found in
TV commercials, Product ad slicks, and pop art.
Ask the class for examples of their own.
Begin Power Point Presentation with a slide of typical graffiti.
Follow up with visuals taken out of context, i.e.
The Balloon Girl. Proceed to contextualized image
from the wall.
Guide students through the slide show engaging them in
a discussion of what the visuals mean and the argument
the artist is making with the works presented.
What is Banksy saying about art, about culture, about societal values in his work?
At the conclusion of the power point presentation, have the students choose a particular image that they found interesting or unusual and write a brief rhetorical analysis on the artist’s message, the target audience, and the effectiveness of his delivery.
Conclusion: The objective of this lesson is to train students to look carefully at the images and ideas
that they are presented on a daily basis. The goal is to teach them to be critical readers
of visual texts rather than cooperative readers. Through an analysis of the rhetorical
strategies of the artist or ad firm, they will increase their understanding of rhetorical
strategies which will assist them in their analysis of written texts.
Lesson Plan for ENG 102, Wednesday, February 16, 2011: The Fallacy Game
Goal: To instruct students as to how to identify and eliminate fallacies in their own writing. The actual game can be found at this web address:
Procedure: The fallacy game is a fifteen question quiz I created on the website: http://www.proprofs.com. The website allows the user to create and host online quizzes. The website will store the scores for up to seven attempts with the free version with a larger number of stored quizzes if the user upgrades to the pay version. For the purposes of this exercise, the viewer or quiz taker will see a mix of text questions and YouTube videos that will guide them through the exercises.
The videos are derived from sources as varied as Monty Python and the Holy Grail to Fox News. Each question/video is selected to correspond with a different logical fallacy. The participants select the proper answer from a list of possible answers, each corresponding with a different fallacy. The exercise was initially conceived as an in class exercise on the order of a game show. The instructor is the host and the facilitator of the game. In its original form, the class answered the questions in mass with all members commenting on the possible answer, the instructor/facilitator would click the button next to the answer that the group chose. However, a perhaps more effective technique would be to divide the class into two teams giving the game a slightly adversarial slant. The team who guesses the correct answer should receive some manner of small reward; be it the equivalent of an “Attaboy” or something more tangible.
In its current state, the Pro Profs website offers the option of a final score and / or a certificate of successful completion. This allows for the expanded possibility for the student to take the quiz online and turn in the certificate as proof of successful completion of the assignment. There is also the added capability of utilizing the quiz as a formal test.
Results: In its first employment, the fallacy quiz was extremely well received. In my 9 am class, who are normally extremely quiet and reserved, all students were engaged and demonstrated a level of participation they had not demonstrated previously. The quiz was greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm, and excitement. As far as participation goes, the Fallacy Game class represents one of my most successful classes to date.