Teaching Colors

Updated December 31, 2017

The best way to teach colors is simply to use them repeatedly and comprehensibly throughout the school year in meaningful contexts 1. However, if you desire to teach a lesson ONLY on colors in spite of the flaws of thematic units (perhaps because it is required by a textbook), here are some ways to target colors in a more effective and meaningful way than isolated vocabulary practice. As Leslie Davison points out, there are more important words for beginning language learners to know than 10 colors, so don’t spend too much time on them.

Best Activities & Resources

  • Martina Bex: Martina Bex has a comprehensible reading for sale to teach the colors in Spanish along with the structure wears. She also has the lesson plan available for French.
  • Creative Language Class: If you’re teaching colors in conjunction with clothing, look no further than the Creative Language Class! They have a series of activities to teach the goal “I can describe the colors of clothing” that involves several activities such as La camisa negra by Juanes, TPR with color swatches, and finally describing the colors of outfits on an app.
  • Talk about art: ​One way of using colors authentically is to discuss art! It could be graffiti, Mexican muralists, Picasso, etc. Essentially, this technique is a PictureTalk in which a teacher describes a photo to the class to provide comprehensible input.

TEACHING COLORS WITH C.I. AND STORIES

More Activities & Resources

  • Magic bagAnne Marie Mitchell says: “You put starbursts in the bag and discuss what colors the students pick. You can also add in quiere (wants) by asking the student which color they want then letting them pick and tiene (has) telling what they have. I also like to get the kids to keep their wrappers for me. Then we put them into a bar chart to discuss how many red/orange/yellow starbursts we ate.”
  • Crayon labels: If you teach Spanish or French and have crayons/markers with labels in the target language, Allison Wienhold had the idea of using them to introduce colors.
  • Logic puzzle: Martina Bex made a logic puzzle that uses the structures lleva, tiene, and le gusta (as well as colors). Best part? It’s free, and there’s a French version!
  • Elementary activities: Señora Pelirroja used several activities to teach colors to her elementary students. They’re not all best-practice, but they might give some inspiration nonetheless. Her color wall idea is particularly interesting. That could be modified to do some good PQA.
  • Kindergarten reading: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? or Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo, ¿qué ves ahí? in Spanish is a particularly good book for talking about colors in context 2. However, you could use just about any children’s book to talk about colors.

Spanish-specific Activities & Resources

  • Me gustan los colores: Anna Marie Mitchell created a 2-3 day lesson plan to teach colors called Me gustan los colores. ¿Sabes porqué? 
  • Assessment: ProfeBama on Teachers Pay Teachers posted a free reading-comprehension assessment for colors. It looks geared towards an elementary audience, but a high-school teacher could probably re-work it to their needs.
  • Zapatito blanco: Jeremy Jordan uses an authentic rhyme called “Zapatito blanco” to practice colors in a fun way (Jeremy Jordan).
  • Here is an idea for practicing colors and ordinal numbers (Señora Dentlinger).
  • PQA idea: Zambombazo has a really neat series of worksheets called Gustos y colores. Essentially these worksheets look at the popular “colors of the season” with weird names like boquitas. Students then simplify by looking at the color and saying “Boquitas is basically a light pink.” Even if you don’t use the worksheets themselves, talking about the “colors of the season” is an interesting PQA opportunity (Zachary Jones 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5).
  • Twiccionario: Over at Zambombazo, they have a Twiccionario (collection of tweets by native speakers) entitled Mi color favorito.
  • If your students have learned words for fruits and vegetables, this worksheet from Zambombazo might be appropriate.
  • Orange sheep: Here is a news story in Spanish about a British farmer who colored his sheep orange so that they wouldn’t be stolen.

Conclusion

Do you have any other activities or resources for teaching colors in a meaningful way? If you do, please share in the comments, and I will add them to the list.

References

Want to know how to teach colors in Spanish, French, or German? You will find several lesson plans and ideas for teaching colors in a foreign language or ESL.

  1. Michel Baker, Content Related Instruction and Topic Words: A Jason Fritze Interview Series (2010).
  2. Jeremy Jordan, TPRS year 4 – Zapatito blanco, zapatito azul (2013).

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