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Teaching Colour Vocabulary

Exploring colour in film stills can be a great way to extend your pupils’ vocabulary of colour and to encourage them to choose more precise words.
© Into Film (2020) All rights reserved. Images: Bjørn-Erik Aschim © (2016) All rights reserved.

Exploring colour in film stills can be a great way to extend your pupils’ vocabulary of colour and to encourage them to choose more precise words.

In the still below from Ciclope, different shades of green help to create the lush forest setting. How would you differentiate between the greens in this scene when writing about it?

Building a Vocabulary of Colour With Your Students

Showing students a still like the one above is a great way to help them to understand how specific word choices can add dimension and create a more vivid, realistic picture.

Building on from this, you could allocate a colour to an individual, pair or group and have students brainstorm or research online to devise a list of shades, tints and tones of that colour. The vocabulary lists they generate can then be compiled for future reference. You could create a vivid vocabulary display board in your classroom or have pupils design their own colour vocabulary pages in a word journal at home.

Colour Vocabulary Practice

Pupils can continue to practise using their new colour vocabulary by creating their own word searches, containing alternative words for a basic colour, which their peers can then complete. There are many online word search generators or templates that they can use to do this, but word searches are easy to draw out if pupils do not have access to a printer. You could also put a ‘ban’ on basic colour words and play a game of ‘Taboo’, where pupils have to use their new colour vocabulary to get their peers to guess the basic hue they’ve been assigned.

Colour Vocabulary and Mood

To take their colour learning further, learners can explore the connection between colour vocabulary and mood. Select five or six still images from Ciclope, which you can watch in full via the course’s Vimeo playlist (Password: TeachLiteracy), and share them with your students. Task them with making a list of the colours they see in the still and the feelings that the still evokes. Be sure to highlight that different shades of a single hue can convey very different emotions. Imagine if the orange tones in the still above were described as ‘amber’ or ‘rust’. Would these words ‘match’ the feeling of this still?

This task works particularly well as a group activity, where each group is allocated a different still and students can share their different perspectives on colour symbolism. Even if students are learning online, the forums, comments sections or breakout rooms in virtual learning environments and conferencing platforms can enable group discussions to take place.

All of these activities could form the scaffolding for an extended writing piece, where pupils focus on using colour to develop a vivid setting or particular mood at the start of a story.

Crazy for crimson or partial to periwinkle? What are some of your favourite ‘colour words’?

How have you previously explored colour in your Literacy lessons?

© Into Film (2020) All rights reserved. Images: Bjørn-Erik Aschim © (2016) All rights reserved.
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Using Film to Teach Literacy Online and in the Classroom

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