Walk into most classrooms and you’ll find that they are typically bright colorful places. Most teachers love the color. We geek out over things like multipacks of post-it notes, Sharpies, or dry erase markers. Did you know that brain research actually backs up the benefits of using color to enhance learning?
It’s true! When we use color in a systematic way it can help students retain information better than just using black and white.
Color coding is especially beneficial for students who are non-readers or who are just learning to read. When color is involved, grouping, material organization, and differentiation become much, much easier.
When grouping students, color is key. Students can remember the group they are in based on color. Sometimes differentiation feels overwhelming for teachers. They might think: “You mean, on top of all my other planning and preparing I not only have to plan a day’s worth of instruction but do so for multiple groups of students?!?” It can feel like typical planning times three or four! Luckily, it’s not as hard as it might seem. By color coding, you can plan the same activity but simply differentiate the content. For example, if your class is divided into groups for spelling, each group can have their own list of words but the whole class can do the same activities to practice their spelling words. This type of differentiation works well especially when students are doing centers or other independent work. It’s also great if you happen to have an extra helper pop in.
When teaching a complex concept, color helps break concepts down and make them easier to digest. A few ways you might incorporate color are:
With up to 30 students in a class, keeping all their stuff organized is often challenging. Color coding makes this much easier. When a pair of scissors or a pencil is found on the floor, instead of wondering who it belongs to having things color-coded means that items can be returned where they belong quickly and easily. Students can find what they need for a variety of activities if their items are color coded as well. If a student has different notebooks or folders for different subjects the colors can help them keep straight which is which. They might remember that their reading folder is red and their science folder is green.
Color coding isn’t just for kids. It can help teachers keep things straight as well. Teachers deal with a LOT of paper. Keeping all those papers straight can be a challenge. Send home notes that are brightly colored so they stick out among other papers. Use a certain color paper for assessments. Also, a color-coded to-do list helps prioritize what needs to be done first. You can color code binders with a color for each class, group, or subject.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.