Coloring Activities in the High School Classroom

Coloring is the best thing ever.

High school students like to pretend they are too cool for coloring activities, but that is a straight-up lie. Middle school students love coloring as well, but will also pretend they are "too old for coloring".

When I talk about coloring activities in the high school and middle school Spanish classroom, I don't mean coloring pictures of Dora and staying in the lines. I mean activities with colored pencils (or markers or crayons) that support that day's objective for the Spanish lesson.  Or honestly a lesson of any subject.

Coloring Activities in the HIgh School Classroom

Ideas for how to incorporate coloring activities in the high school (or middle school) Spanish classroom:

1.  During a unit on Color Vocabulary. This one is obvious. I teach colors right after clothing vocabulary. I pass out a handout to students with outlines of clothing items and I pass out my colored pencils. I use this as a listening activity - I say "La camiseta es roja" and students have to find the camiseta on their handout and color it red. I wait 30 seconds or so and then I pick another clothing item on their handout and state that it is a different color. They hear several sentences in Spanish and they have to process that information and color the correct clothing item the correct color. This activity is included in THIS LESSON.

This listening activity could be modified for any vocabulary! Make a handout of the outlines of school supplies (body parts, food items, or items in the house would also work great) and tell students what color to color each item ("El lápiz es azul"). They have to listen to the words and understand the new vocabulary to follow your directions. Or make it a partner activity - each student tells their partner (in Spanish!) what color 4 items are on their paper and their partner has to color in the correct items in the correct color. Students love to boss each other around and play teacher and this way they get both speaking and listening practice!

2.  Teaching present tense conjugation in Spanish 1 (or Spanish 2 review). When students takes notes on present tense verb conjugation, have them color the endings each a different color on their notes. If you can color-code your presentation of the material (on powerpoint or however you present the lesson) keep the colors the same as how you want the students to color their notes. Have the entire class color the yo form of the verb on their notes blue, and the  form red, etc. Then when you are walking around the class and you see a student who is completing his classwork incorrectly or is simply lost, you can say "This verb should be in the blue form".

If you choose to color-code the verbs when you introduce them, you have to keep the colors the same for the rest of the year. If the yo form starts out blue, it cannot ever switch to green or students will get confused.

3.  Reviewing the 89 verb tenses students are required to know in upper levels. Okay, maybe it's not 89 tenses, but it sure does feel like that sometimes doesn't it? Last year I taught a Spanish 2 Honors class and by the end of the year my students knew the present, preterite, imperfect, present progressive, past progressive, future, future progressive, conditional, conditional progressive, present perfect, pluperfect, and present subjunctive. Oh, and affirmative and negative commands. But I digress... instead of passing out a handout to students with pictures of vocabulary words, pass out verbs in various tenses. Think like a Wordle, but with Spanish verbs in as many tenses as you want to review. Tell the class to color all the imperfect verbs purple, all the preterite verbs green, all the future tense verbs yellow, etc. Students have to identify the tense of each verb and decide which color it should be.

Spanish clothing vocabulary and Spanish verb tenses coloring activities

The stages of coloring in a high school classroom:

Stage 1:  Excitement. Students see the colored pencil boxes stacked on my desk. "Are we coloring today?!" There is hope in their voices. This stage lasts only for as long as it takes students to walk into the classroom.

Stage 2:  Everyone complains. Their attitudes turn sour very fast. "We're too old for coloring!" Teenagers don't want to seem uncool in the eyes of their peers because they like coloring so they pretend to hate it, but they really are just pretending. They love coloring. This stage lasts between when students get settled in class and right up until the colored pencils are passed out.

Stage 3:  Selfishness. I pass the colored pencils out and no one wants to share. "Those are my colored pencils! Give me my purple back!" There is yelling and stealing of colored pencils from neighbors. This stage lasts no more than 2 minutes.

Stage 4:  Silence. Coloring is a calming activity and even the most disruptive students are silently coloring. I sit back and smile. This stage lasts the duration of the coloring activity minus the first two angry minutes.

Stage 5:  Happiness. Students quietly share their work and comment politely on neighbors' work. Students share colored pencils and I quietly grade papers in the back of the room.

I'll say it again.  Coloring is the best thing ever.  Don't let stages 2 or 3 discourage you from breaking out the colored pencils every once in a while.

If an administrator walks into your room, you want it to be during Stages 4 or 5. He or she may be initially surprised to see students coloring in a high school classroom, but that's only because your colleagues haven't caught on yet to the wonders of coloring activities. And once that administrator sees that literally every single student in your class is engaged in the activity (even That Student or Those Students who act out in every teacher's class) and students are using their Spanish skills in a creative way, he or she will be impressed with you!

You may be wondering where I get my colored pencils from. I do not rob the art teacher once a month for a class-set of colored pencils. No art teacher would support that for an entire school year, let alone year after year. I bought 20 boxes from This blog post is in no way designed to be an advertisement for them. They have the cheapest colored pencils of high sufficient quality that I have found. They last for years, so however much I spent on 20 boxes 3 years ago was worth it because I still have all 20 of those boxes and all the colored pencils are still in good shape. It's the sharpeners that die. Colored pencils and electric pencil sharpeners are not friends and I do not have a solution for the fact that colored pencils kill electric pencil sharpeners (the expensive ones!) at an alarming rate. Be advised of that.

As amazing as coloring activities are (they truly are amazing), coloring cannot be an every day activity.  It needs to be a special activity, at least in high school.  It can be good for the day before a break, or once every few weeks as a way to break up all that vocabulary or grammar you want students to master.

What coloring activities do you do in your Spanish classroom?

1 comment

  1. Hi Jessica! Thanks for sharing this coloring activities will definitely find a way to apply them. School Supplies