Engaging Readers with Graffiti Walls

Graffiti walls are an effective way to boost reading engagement in your classroom.

Our literacy team took a new direction this year with our school-wide reading incentive program. We wanted to establish a literacy-rich environment where all students were given the opportunity to participate in literacy celebrations.

We did away with required nightly reading minutes, signed reading logs, and rewards given only to students who completed the reading challenge. Instead, we focused on creating opportunities for students to enjoy authentic reading, writing, and discussions.

We planned several school-wide activities throughout the year to promote literacy: Flashlight Fridays, book swaps, mystery readers, and graffiti walls.

For today's post, let's take a look at our school-wide graffiti walls. We chose this activity based on an idea presented in Donalyn Miller's book, Reading in the Wild.

Here are the steps we took to implement our graffiti walls:

Step One: Prepare the Canvas 

Provide a space for students to write about their reading.  Simply hang a sheet of butcher paper on an open wall.

Graffiti walls are an effective way to boost reading engagement in your classroom.
A snapshot of a blank graffiti wall.

We hung paper throughout the building so that every grade level had a space for writing. We chose black paper and students used colored chalk and chalk markers to write. I would recommend the chalk markers, since they won't smear.

Step Two: Invite Participation

Encourage students to choose lines from a book that have special meaning to them. Students may want to quote something funny, highlight the big idea, or share an important lesson from their reading.  
Graffiti walls are an effective way to boost reading engagement in your classroom.
This graffiti wall is hanging in our fourth and fifth grade wing.

We wrote one quote on each wall as an example. In the upper grades, classroom teachers explained to students that they could share words or lines from books that were meaningful to them. In the younger grades teachers suggested that students write about a favorite character or part of the story.

Step Three: Revisit the Wall

Provide time to discuss the quotes and writing on the wall. 

Graffiti walls are an effective way to boost reading engagement in your classroom.
This student chose a quote that spoke to her about perseverance.

As quotes started to appear on the walls, we took time to recognize the contributions that were made. Students engaged in meaningful conversations and started choosing new books to read based on the graffiti wall discussions. 

Have you tried using graffiti walls? We would love to hear from you! Please share your comments below or post a picture of your graffiti wall on our Facebook page.  

Thanks for reading!


  1. I love this idea! Thank you for sharing!

    1. It was super easy to implement. Our students loved it, and they made meaningful contributions to the wall. :)

  2. I love the graffiti wall idea. We plan on implementing it next year for the students. I'm curious to hear about the Flashlight Friday's, book swaps, and mystery readers. Please share. Love your ideas.

    1. Hi Jill,
      I think I'll have to write another post. :) Until then, here's a quick run down:
      Flashlight Fridays - One Friday each month teachers turn out the lights in the classroom and everyone reads in the dark with a flashlight. Our principal, counselor, reading specialists, etc. all join a classroom and read too.
      Book Swaps - Our PTO gives us a generous allowance to buy books. Students can bring in their gently used books to trade for for tickets to the swap. We use their gently used books and the books we purchase to stock the tables. We make sure every student gets a book even if they had none to trade.
      Mystery Readers - Once a month (sometimes more) a guest reader will read a poem over the morning announcements. Students listen and guess. At the end of the announcements the Mystery Reader is revealed. (Usually a classroom teacher, principal, nurse, secretary...)
      Thanks for your comment! ~Wendy

  3. I can't wait to try this with my second graders as we write about the favorite books we've read this year! Thanks for sharing such a great idea!

    1. This is a great time of year to have a graffiti wall! Please stop back and tell us how it goes. :)

  4. My students love anything that has "big paper" involved, so I'm sure this would be a hit! I'd love to incorporate this in my classroom next year. Thanks!