Afraid that Color by Number is a Waste of Time in Secondary? These 7 Tips Will Make it Work and Make Sense in Your Classroom.

Everyone knows when back to school shopping for elementary students that crayons are a must have! You fully expect younger students to engage in activities that require them to “color all of the words starting with an ‘A’ red” or “color the math problems with an answer of ‘4’ blue.”

For many secondary teachers, that is the type of activity that is associated with the term color by number. It doesn’t sound like making the best use of valuable time in the classroom for some.

Let me help you dispel that myth! Coloring has many benefits that continue into middle school and yes, even the high school classroom. Here are two big ones:

  • Engagement – I have seen even the most disengaged learners pick up the coloring pencils to complete an assignment.
  • Relaxation – There is a reason that coloring books are marketed to adults! Coloring is an excellent way for students to relax and decompress.

So how do you make color by number activities work in the secondary classroom and not feel as though you are wasting class time?

Use color by number activities for early finishers. There will always be times when you have students who finish their assignment or assessment before other students. Color by number activities are a great way to keep those students quiet and engaged while you work with other students who require more assistance.

Use color by number activities as informal assessments. Have students complete the answer sheet as a quiz or do a quick spot check to see which students have mastered the material and which students need more practice. Have students keep the crayons or colored pencils put away until after their work has been checked.

Use color by number activities in your sub plans. As a former substitute teacher, I can assure you that these activities are a gift for both your students and substitute! Students are engaged in the activity and they are an easy assignment for a substitute to check with the provided key.

Use color by number activities as extra credit assignments or homework. If you truly don’t have time to use them during class, why not make them something the students can do at home? Providing engaging assignments for at home leads to a much higher completion rate!

You don’t have to give the students an entire period to color! Set a time limit for the activity and allow students to complete the coloring in their free time or at home. Allow them to take it out during transition times or when they have finished early on other assignments. I have so many students bring me their coloring page the following day to show off their efforts.

Display student answer sheets along with the coloring page. Students love seeing their work displayed, even in middle school. An added benefit is that any principal or other visitor entering the classroom can make an immediate connection to the purpose of the activity.

Provide alternatives to those students who don’t enjoy coloring. I occasionally have students who balk at the idea of coloring. Instead of forcing them to color the image, consider allowing them to color in the box of the appropriate answer. With the two keys provided, you can easily see if the student has the correct answers.

Do you have other tips or ideas for using color by number in the secondary classroom? Please share in the comment section below!

The Morehouse Magic

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