“You can’t color the clouds purple”!
“Why aren’t you being more careful about coloring in the lines”!
I too cringe at hearing such sentences directed at a child.
So, when Lauren Ornstein recommended the post: “Coloring Books and Worksheets: “What’s the value of staying in the lines” by Steve Drummond, I read it with great interest.
Yes, and yes.
I don’t care about children coloring in the lines and I do agree that having children create their own drawings is certainly better for them than being limited by the drawing on a printed page.
But please don’t abolish coloring pages in classes of English as a foreign language! They can be a useful teaching aid!
For starters, coloring pages are great for exercises in following instructions. They can be quite creative and hilarious, but such activities can only be used if all the students are holding the same coloring page. Let’s take, as an example, the activity I call “Can you keep a straight face?” One by one the teacher calls on a student to stand up and give the class an instruction to color in one object/person/element on the page. The instruction should be as wacky as possible (the more unusual and ridiculous the better!) and the student must not smile or laugh when giving the instruction. If he /she does, the instruction must be given again (I teach special education, I don’t have children lose a turn!). Then the following exchange can take place:
Student: “Color the cat purple and yellow”.
Teacher: “Which cat? There is a cat on the sofa and another cat on the rug. ”
Student: “Color the cat on the rug purple and yellow”.
Another student in class asks about the color of the eyes in whatever form you imagine your students might be capable of asking.
Teacher (addressing the student speaking): “Please tell the class which color to use for the eyes. Remember, don’t laugh!” Note: It gets harder not to laugh when someone tells you not to laugh!
Student: “One orange eye and one brown eye”.
This activity can have a million variations. Students can write instructions for other students and then check to see if the result matched what they wrote. Students can look for pages matching descriptions they received, etc.
You might say that some of these activities would work equally well with drawings that students made on their own.
The quality and quantity of how a student colored in the page is totally irrelevant, there just has to be enough color that one can tell what’s what. This way you are leveling the playing field. A child’s artistic ability is totally not a factor and there is no room for being judgemental or competitive on that score. And that matters. A great deal.
I can’t end this post without bringing up the calming aspect of coloring pages. I’m a Special Ed teacher – having a box of interesting coloring pages is a life saver for everyone in the vicinity of a child that needs to calm down and collect himself/herself. Perhaps just giving a blank page and nice crayons would work for some students, but certainly not for all.
If you invest a bit of effort in the coloring pages you bring in, you sneak in some general knowledge as well. It’s a really good feeling when a child raises his eyes and comments: “So this big clock is in London?”
That’s good too.