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
Lesson plan outline
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat the description a number of times. This will allow students to strengthen the mental images that they develop.
- 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?
- Let students share and compare their ideas.
- After asking students for their suggestions and discussing ideas, show students the actual image of Banksy’s water tank elephant.
“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.
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:
- Mint Currency
- Tachowa Covington
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.