Colorful Ideas: Activities to practice describing items by their colors

Learning colors is a standard topic for beginners. What contexts could make practice both meaningful and fun? I think the key is deciding what vocabulary to couple the colors with. Here are some ideas to consider. (Note: The second and third activities require an adequate supply of crayons.)

  • Classroom items. Have students write the colors they know in one column in their notebooks. This can be done as a dictation. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black, brown, gray, and pink. Correct their work by calling on different students to read out the spellings. Next, give students 1-2 minutes to try to find one thing in the classroom for each of the colors listed. These items will form a second column. If students cannot find an item of a certain color, they can leave the space blank and move on to the next color. Then have students pair up. Give them 2-3 minutes to compare lists and add more items. Finally, as a class, students will talk about their lists. Each pair will read items on their list for a specific color. “Maria and David, tell us what is white.” Have students use either noun phrases or sentences: “White walls.” / “The walls are white.”


  • Clothing and everyday vocabulary. Select a coloring sheet from an online site such as For example, “Color the Soccer Game” shows a goalie making a dive. It allows color + noun phrases to be built with shirt, shorts, shoe, and sock. You might also choose to use grass, sky, and ball. Another sheet titled “Color the Walk to School” shows a mother walking with her child. It allows practice with shirt, skirt, belt, purse, shoes, jeans, and additional common words such as tree, flowers, sky, and sidewalk. The teacher could first give oral directions, which the students would respond to only by coloring. “Color the mother’s shirt red. Color the child’s shirt blue.” And so on. When the pictures are finished, students can pair up and compare pictures. Then they can take turns describing their work. If statements with possessives are not possible yet (e.g., The mother’s shirt is red.), then simple noun phrases can be used: a red shirt, a blue shirt, etc.


  • Shapes and patterns. If you do a search for “pattern tie” or “tie pattern” on Google or Yahoo images, you will be able to find a dozen or so full-length pictures of men’s neckties. Print each image on an 8 ½ x11 sheet of paper and cut the images out. You’ll need one paper tie for every student in your class. Also, make class copies of a blank tie template. Tape a patterned tie to the back of each student. Have them get in pairs. Partners will describe the ties to the wearers. Each student will try to draw his or her tie on the template based on the descriptions given. Model: “It’s a green tie. It has big yellow squares.” Once both students have had a chance to color their templates, they may compare their drawings with the actual images taped to their backs. You can ask each student to show the class the original image and the attempted drawing. “This is the tie. It’s green. It has yellow squares. …And this is my drawing.”

              Note: You might choose to limit the kinds of patterns among the images you print out; otherwise, the activity becomes more challenging since students will have to learn other vocabulary, such as stripes, polka dots, and checkered.


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