Lately it seems more and more teachers are becoming afraid of being caught providing activities to their students that seem to have little or no educational value.
Today’s classrooms have become all about academics and getting students reading and writing before they can walk (not really, but doesn’t it feel like that’s where we are heading?).
Remember play in kindergarten? Board game day? Puzzle centers? Block play?
There are a lot of things to be said for these activities. I bet there is also some research out there to back the benefits of including all of them in today’s classrooms too.
So why are we afraid to have our administration walk in and see the students, gasp, coloring?
Learning to color is a skill, just like learning to hold a pencil, that students need to develop. Here are just a few of many more benefits to including coloring in your classroom.
Benefit #1 – Coloring fosters creativity.
Perhaps the most obvious of the benefits of coloring is that it fosters creativity. Students are free to create imaginary worlds through coloring. They can dream it and draw it. Usually, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to a box of crayons and a piece of paper.
Coloring freely is a time to just enjoy the process.
A great way to encourage this creativity is during writing. Allow time during your writing to have students draw out their story. I know we are often really pressed for time but students LOVE to draw elaborate pictures and most of the best practices for writing stories ask for detailed pictures. Those mentor text picture books you love to use? Lots of detailed illustrations on every page that often enhance the story.
Start with publishing a story that includes very detailed illustrations a minimum of once a quarter. I would bet you will see some amazing stories!
Coloring in the classroom is a great way to reach those kinesthetic and visual learners. Encourage their creativity by having them draw out vocabulary words, draw a picture to show their understanding of a science concept, or even just have them write their sight words in new and fun ways using crayons. Crayons have a more tactile experience than just using markers which will help to make their learning stick.
Benefit #2 – Coloring encourages language.
I love to sit back and watch when my students are coloring.
Conversations naturally start among the students. When we color, we do not need to concentrate as fully on the task as we would if we were completing a worksheet or writing a report. This frees us up for, well, talking.
Sometimes talking is not always a bad thing.
I usually like a pretty quiet, calm classroom. However, my students (seeming to grow increasingly with each year I teach) like the opposite. Rather than be at “war” with my class, I need to channel that talkative energy into something a bit more productive. Providing opportunities for them to color helps with that and the noise level is generally pretty quiet even though they are talking with their neighbor.
Remember when I said they start having conversations when they color? Think about how beneficial this is to your new ESL learner. Or the extremely shy student who only talks quietly to her friend and never to the class?
The conversations can be meaningful too if what they are coloring is based on concepts you are learning in class. My favorite activities for centers provide an opportunity for coloring AND for language development because they are based on popular themes and holidays the students love to talk about.
Benefit #3 – Coloring strengthens fine motor skills.
The strongest argument you can make to your admin for allowing your students to color daily or a few times a week in class is that you are building up your students’ fine motor skills.
Fine motor skills are necessary for writing and proper pencil grip. Coloring helps to improve both of these in an enjoyable, low stress activity students naturally love. During coloring is also a great time to talk about crayon grip and how they can transfer this to when they use a pencil during writing.
Benefit #4 – Coloring builds confidence.
Coloring a picture helps to build a child’s confidence. When they create a picture of their own masterpiece they are excited to show it off. Also, knowing they’ve successfully matched the colors with a color the room activity can be a great source of pride.
Students can also gain confidence when they experiment with blending colors. Crayons are especially great to use for creating shades of color.
Benefit #5 – Coloring deepens focus and improves endurance.
Last, but not least, coloring helps students to develop more focus and endurance for the classroom. Students enjoy coloring so they will often sit and spend countless minutes drawing and coloring a picture that they would not normally spend on another activity.
While your students are coloring (or drawing) offer praise for their masterpieces. Not only will their self-esteem rise, they will be more focused and color for longer each time. This will eventually transfer to being able to have more stamina during other school activities such as reading and writing. It’s a win-win!
Have you noticed other benefits of letting students color in class? Leave me your comments and questions below. I love hearing from you!