Posted 15/7/12

In early 2011, an abandoned Los Angeles water tank was turned into an interesting piece of street art. In this picturetelling activity, students analyse the artistry and the story behind Banksy’s elephant.
  • Language level: Intermediate – Upper intermediate (B1 – B2)
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 20 minutes + homework
  • Activity: Picturetelling
  • Topic: Street art
  • Language: Look like; Detailed description of objects
  • Materials: Image and text
Banksy\'s elephant pdf [downloaded 6234 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Ask students if they like street art. If necessary, show some photographs (see here for example). Ask students if they can describe any specific examples of street art from their / your environment.
  2. Tell students that you have a photograph of a piece of street art. Tell them that you want to describe it to them. Make use of the folliwng text for this purpose.
  3. “This is a photograph of a piece of art. I suppose you would call it street art although the work isn’t in a street – it’s an object on the side of a road – a highway to be exact – in Los Angeles. The object is, I think, a piece of farm equipment – it looks like some kind of water tank. It looks like it was designed to be pulled by a tractor. It is long and cylindrical, it is made of metal and it’s got wheels. It’s supported by a number of vertical structures – let’s call them legs. The water tank is white and it’s got a horizontal pipe sticking out the end. It’s old and it looks like it has been abandoned. I imagine that the artist drove past the object and saw it as an opportunity. He clearly thinks that it looks like a certain type of animal and in order to draw our attention to this similarity, he has added something to it. In other words, he has made a subtle change to the object.”
    Note: In a picturetelling activity, the teacher looks at an image and communicates it to students. The teacher should be able to see the picture but it should be hidden from students’ view. Although you might want to make use of a prepared text as a prompt (the one above, for example) it should not be apparent that you are reading from a script. Try familiarisng yourself with the text and consider how you are gojng to deliver it to your learners.
  4. Repeat the description a number of times. This will allow students to strengthen the mental images that they develop.
  5. Ask students to consider the following questions:
    • As you visualise the water tank, what kind of animal do you imagine it could look like?
    • Specifically, how has the artist changed the object? In other words, what has he done to draw our attention to its animal resemblance?
  6. Let students share and compare their ideas.
  7. After asking students for their suggestions and discussing ideas, show students the actual image of Banksy’s water tank elephant.

Follow up 1

Dictate the following sentences and draw student’s attention to the look like + noun / clause structure:

  • It looks like some kind of water tank. (noun)
  • It looks like it was designed to be pulled by a tractor. (clause)
  • It looks like it has been abandoned. (clause)
  • It looks a bit like an elephant. (noun)
  • I think it looks nothing like an elephant. (noun)
  • I think it looks more like a camel (noun)

Ask students to express their opinions about the water tank. Do they agree with the artist or do they have different ideas? Encourage students to make use of the dictated structures.

Follow up 2

Banksy’s water tank elephant found itself at the heart of a story of ownership, overly-priced art and homelessness. Ask students to go online and find out who or what each of the following are and how they are connected:

  • Banksy
  • Mint Currency
  • Tachowa Covington
  • Calex

Students can then write a summary which explains the people, the companies and the events involved in the elephant water tank story. Click here for an article.

Posted 15/7/12

14 Responses to Banksy’s elephant

  1. sandra says:

    Thanks for sharing your priceless work

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    This is for me (Jamie) or Banksy?
    J :)

  3. Renee says:

    Thank you for making your lessons available. ESL becomes a much easier subject to teach when there are creative resources available that create interest in the minds of the students. This particular lesson can appeal to all ages – it’s trendy and smart. Keep it up!

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Renee
    I’ll do my very best to keep it up!
    Glad you are enjoying the site
    Jamie :)

  5. Danielle says:

    I love your lessons! Thanks so much for putting them up. I’m not sure who is more grateful me or my students that they aren’t looking at tired old course books all the time ;-)

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Danielle
    I might use your comment one day – it’s a lovely thing to say!
    Say hello to your students
    Jamie :)

  7. Chris says:

    Thanks for your great work, I have just landed a job teaching English to French teens in a design school. I have very little teaching experience, but they asked me to help due to my profession. Your site has just given me great inspiration for my next lesson.

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Great to hear it Chris
    Good luck!
    Jamie :)

  9. Moses says:

    As the others have already said, Jamie – Thanks so much for sharing your insights and your lesson plans! It is very much appreciated and very helpful!

    Keep up the awesome work! :)


  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Mo
    Really appreciate that
    Jamie :)

  11. sally's class says:

    Hi Jamie,
    We are Sally’ students from Edinburgh School of English in advance level. We have spent 5 hours + homework on this topic.
    We really enjoy this kind of lesson
    We have some suggestions for you and other teachers using this material to adapt this lesson for advanced students:
    – We do not consider follow up 1 necessary
    – We suggest teachers to encourage students to be as creative as possible in their research and in the way they express their research because there are many ways of reading into this topic. Everyone can develop a different theme after researching. For example, ‘Banksy, the room in the elephant’ is a new play about the story and ‘’ where you can find a lot of information about the story.
    We think that the story can capture students’ attention as it’s unusual and it touches on thought-provoking topics like poverty and art.
    We hope our suggestions are useful for other teachers.

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Sally’s students.
    It’s very nice to hear from you. Thank you for getting in touch.
    I appreciate your feedback and I am sure that other teachers do as well.
    It sounds like your teacher is did a good job in adapting the activity for you. Lesson plans like this are just recipes. And good chefs never follow recipes exactly.
    Hope everything is well in Edinburgh (my home town)
    Thanks for your comment
    Jamie :)

  13. Dan Caffers says:

    Your website is inspirational. Great work.

  14. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Dan :)