Using Color


Writing Trait/Strategy:
word choice; sentence fluency

Mentor Text Suggestions:
Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill
White is for Blueberry by George Shannon
Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People by Jane Yolen
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra and Myles Pinkney
A Rainbow All Around Me by Sandra and Myles Pinkney
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin

Color is a tool used by writers to enhance their descriptive writing and create mind pictures for the reader. The mentor texts listed above can be used to show students how different authors use the concept of color to develop their ideas. We can even have students borrow the structure of these books and explore colors on their own. The following lesson is an example:

Color Poems
Read aloud Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill. Have each child select a color to write about. Ask, “If you could taste this color, what would it taste like? If you could hear it, what would it sound like?” Repeat with all 5 senses. Have students record their ideas on a planning sheet.

Downloadable sample planning sheets:

Color Poem Planning Sheet 1

Color Poem Planning Sheet 2

On their first drafts most students will use simple sentences such as,

“Blue is the sight of the sky.”

“Pink is the taste of watermelon.”

Encourage them to expand these sentences to include more description to create mind pictures for the reader:

“Blue is the sight of the sky when the cumulus clouds
are moving to different parts of the sky.” by Jaymi

“Pink is the taste of watermelon squirting juice
in my mouth when I bite into a piece.” by Kelly

After students complete their drafts on the planning sheets, have them write color poems using some of the words and phrases and then illustrate.

In other mentor texts, color is used more subtly but just as powerfully:

“The farms in Iowa.  They are pictures: White houses. Red roofs. Green, green
rolling hills and black garden soil all around them.”

from Tulip Sees America  by Cynthia Rylant

“The garden glows with cone flowers, purple-blue, and marigolds, lantana, bright
as flame.  And thistles, too.”

from Butterfly House  by Eve Bunting

“He calls to me with a promise in his voice, and I run, seeing his hand curl
like a flower budding, then unfolding wide so I can see the pink circle of a
worm, the round beetle shining in gold armor, …or the leaf-green mantis
 balancing today on long thin legs.”

from My Father’s Hands by Joanne Ryder

Once you call attention to author’s use of color, you and your students will begin to notice examples everywhere!

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