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Have you used coloring as a teaching method in any of your classes? Or have you tried it as a way to help your students de-stress? I’ve got some ideas for you to actually teach by having students color!
I loved having students color! Now keep in mind I taught high school students. It’s very easy to assume that students of this age and grade level think coloring is beneath them. And they will DEFINITELY tell you that it is. But don’t be fooled by their grumbling. Even high school students love to color. Heck, just browse on Amazon for “adult coloring books” and you’ll find a ton of coloring books geared specifically to adults. It’s a hot thing right now! So once they realize that you’re not making them color “baby stuff” they’ll buy into it!
benefits of coloring
There is some science to back up the effects of color on mood and learning. The effect of coloring on the brain is the same as meditation, helping us to relax and focus. Watching as students focus on the task at hand is one benefit I noticed almost immediately in my classroom.
We can use it to reduce stress and boost creativity. When we were doing some sort of coloring activity my students were quieter overall. This was especially noticeable with my freshmen who typically entered the room like a tornado! Once they got going on their work, they became much calmer.
There are educational benefits as well. I used color in my notes, in informational text activities and close reading, in my interactive binders, and in my labs. It helps students to see how things are related and to highlight specific information.
I always put colored pencils on my supply list that went out each summer. Of course, not all students will come with all of the needed supplies, so I purchased classroom sets as well. I kept a basket of supplies (enough for 2 students) on each of my tables containing scissors, glue sticks, colored pencils, and scotch tape. Since I used these supplies in many of my classes and labs, this saved me a ton of classroom time since students didn’t have to go in search of things. Overall they were good at taking care of the baskets.
This is one of my favorite ways to teach while incorporating color.
Since I often used guided notes in my classes, having students color diagrams, make graphs, and underline information was a way to keep students more engaged and help them to “stay with me” throughout the lesson. For some reason, my students paid way more attention when I was writing the notes and coloring right along with them.
To do this, I used my trusty document camera. I would stand up front at my demo table and do the notes right along with the students, explaining and questioning as I went. It was easy to say “Ok, everyone, grab a green colored pencil” and then use it right along with them.
Sometimes I’d use colored pencils to do drawings with the kids. Drawing cells and organelles together, drawing atoms and coloring the particles, drawing organic molecules … all of these work GREAT as guided notes. And I was able to circulate and make sure that everyone was getting it right.
Labs are a perfect place to have students color.
Graphs, diagrams, anatomical parts, student drawings … all of these are easy to incorporate coloring into. The colors themselves help the students to see relationships between items.
Typically, any part of a lab activity that has coloring in it is one place where students don’t need direct instruction, as long as there are directions for them. They can just grab what they need and get started. This allows you to circulate and help other students.
The image below shows part of a page of one of my labs on evolution. The objective is for students to visualize the homologous structures found in the organisms. When they color them, it’s easy for them to see how the bones are different, yet serve basically the same purpose in each organism. It wasn’t uncommon to hear phrases like “Wow, I never knew that human carpals are so similar to dog carpals!” Of course, this is music to a science teacher’s ears!
There haven’t been many studies done yet specifically on coloring as a way to de-stress since it’s a relatively new hobby for adults. However, there is much evidence to show that art therapy has many benefits.
- It allows your brain to relax.
Focusing thoughts on a simple, repetitive task allows the brain to relax and move away from worries and events that might cause stress. When your students color during science class, they are much more likely to focus on the coloring itself. So when you pair that with instructions such as “Color all of the guanine molecules blue” they learn about guanine and can hopefully see its relationship to cytosine.
- It affects the brain the same as meditation.
Meditation is beneficial because it allows us to move beyond ourselves and be present in the moment. This takes us away from our outside worries and gives our brain a break.
- They can’t really get it wrong.
When I had my students color in class or lab, I certainly didn’t grade them on whether or not they stayed in the lines! And even if they are instructed to color certain things a certain way, it’s almost always easy to figure out for everyone. This makes coloring a relatively “low-stakes” task and takes some of the constant pressure off to “get it right.”
Free Coloring Pages
There are a lot of free pages to color online, even ones for science. These are just a few that I’ve used.
- Ask A Biologist
- Coloring Home – this link is specifically for biology, but they have other science pages as well.
- National Geographic – science as well as other topics
- Supercoloring – has lots of nucleic acid pictures and insect life cycles.
Science Coloring Books
The three coloring books shown below are ones that I’ve used in class and I absolutely love them!
Here are some other general biology coloring books that you might like. You’ll find topics such as anatomy and physiology, marine biology, ecology, etc.
I hope you’ll give coloring a try in your classes. If you do, please let me know how it goes!