Five Reasons to Color in Your Middle School Classroom

middle school, blended learning, color, growth mindset

In a world where technology is always front and center, it can be hard to go back to the simple things in life. No matter the age, I have always enjoyed coloring.

As I grew older, I didn’t do it as much but if a niece or friend’s child was coloring, I would grab a book and some crayons and color right beside them. I always enjoyed it. In my older years, I think it made me reflect on how calming it was.

     As a middle school teacher, I didn’t think my students would feel the same way. I have opened their eyes to many different apps and programs to infuse technology where appropriate but I felt they would roll their eyes at the thought of coloring. However, I started to see new lessons and activity ideas that used coloring so I did some research. 

Here are 5 reasons why coloring is beneficial to students of any age: 

  •        There are numerous benefits to social, emotional well-being. Boredom, stress, and unstructured environments can be triggers to cause anxiety. Taking the time to focus on an activity and complete it while coloring will help to alleviate these triggers.

  •        Coloring is a technique that should be used in all grade levels because there is research that shows that it helps us to retain information on a deeper level. Coloring activates both sides of the brain’s hemisphere to help us remember, concentrate, solving problems, and using our fine motor skills to fill in each section.

  •       Unplugging can tap into different forms of creativity. While technology most definitely has its purpose in and out of the classroom, it doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all in our teaching. Coloring can bring back nostalgic feelings for students, much like it does for us as adults, therefore, student engagement will be higher.

  •       Promote that positive mindset. Everyone wants to change the way we think. Stop those negative thoughts and emotions and step up into a more positive, growth mindset. Coloring can help you do just that. Studies show that as we color, our thoughts change from negative to positive. So, if you are trying out the growth mindset with your students, try sprinkling in some coloring, when applicable.

  •           ANYONE can do it. This is probably my favorite reason. I am not an artist but I do like painting and creating. My students aren’t always into taking the same risks. But, when given crayons, markers, or colored pencils, they can and will. It will seem so much easier to choose a color to use (especially if it is an activity where there is a color key) and complete the activity over having to draw it out. Students know they can color so they will and they will reap all of the above benefits. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! 

microorganisms, middle school, review activity, science
Microorganisms Review Activity

After doing some of my own research, I tested it out with my own students. I couldn’t believe how much they enjoyed it. I didn’t have to repeat directions 12 times, they actually started to complete it on their own, immediately! The quiet chatter among the groups, sharing of the colors, helping one another out, were all things I didn’t anticipate happening but made my heart swell with joy.  While technology will continue to have a purpose in my classroom, so will coloring.

Need some resources to help you get started? I love this Crayola Back to School pack. This Amazon affiliate link includes a bunch of different items to get you started. 

 ease student stress and anxiety by allowing them to color in the classroom
Are you the type of teacher who loves incorporating art into your classroom? Aside from coloring, here are some ideas to incorporate visual note-taking and sketch note strategies into your classroom  

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    Making Independent Reading More Meaningful to Your Students

    Upper elementary and secondary teenagers reading

    Independent reading can be so difficult for students with a disability. It can be difficult to watch students struggling through reading, shut down because it is difficult, or feel distraught because they cannot read what they want. 

    Parents would request that I assign it for homework and I would make excuses as to why this wouldn’t be appropriate

    “They’ll be too confused between what they are reading and what we are reading in class.”

            “It can be hard for them to independently decode text of books they want to read.”

             I felt that I had enough paperwork to grade and didn’t want to add on assignments that I thought would be flubbed because how could I honestly grade an assignment on a book I haven’t read?

            In June, I found out that next year I will be teaching sixth grade English language arts. Right away I was determined to figure out a way to make independent reading work in my classroom so I began to think about how I could make it more meaningful. 

           Over the summer, I love reading. I don’t have much time for it during the school year so I devour as many books as possible. I mostly like ones that I can read by the pool and escape but I do enjoy some professional development ones as well. I started my summer off reading Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. Boy, am I glad I did. 

           To those in the teaching field before the huge emphasis on state testing, much of their ideas aren’t exactly new but more like reminders. Reminders that when we are reading classroom novels to our students, we need to be reading them. Much of the shift has gone to dissecting. Tearing apart the text to find evidence for our questions, analyzing the main character ad nauseum, and having lengthy conversations about an author’s purpose for writing. As teachers, we think.

    “Awesome, they know this book because they can tell me each and every detail about Salva Dut’s personality in A Long Walk to Water”.

            But are these questions really a good indicator of what our students know about the book? Probably not. Our students have gotten used to reading and plucking textual evidence but do they really understand the big picture? Are they really interested and developing that love of reading that I have or are they just silently wishing the book was over? One of my favorite quotes from Disrupting Thinking is, 

    We have sticky noted reading to death Kylene Beers and Robert Probst

            So how do I get back to teaching novels in a meaningful way for my students to understand while still allowing me to assess them?

            I want my students to FEEL the book. I know the books that speak to me and that are the most memorable are those that have changed the way I think or make me feel the character’s emotions. These are also reasons I love to read. I love it when a book can completely capture me and take me away from my pool on Long Island and into that faraway place. That’s what I want to show my students.  

            To do this, I am changing the way I attack books, both guided and independent, with my students.

    First, I am giving them more choices. The anal OCD side of me is shaking already but I know it will benefit the kids so I am telling myself to roll with it. In September, I will give my students two choices for the class novel we will read together. Majority rules on which one we will read.  

    Next, instead of tearing apart each literary element and quote from the story, we are going to read and enjoy. Of course, we will stop, I will clarify information but I want the conversation to focus more on, “how does this make you feel?”, “did this change the way you think about something? instead of “what time of day did Johnny get hurt?”. I truly feel allowing my students to make connections and think about how they are feeling will get them to enjoy reading and think more deeply about the text.

    In addition, students will read independently for homework and sometimes during class. This book opened my eyes to how much a student can grow by reading an extra ten minutes a day. 
    Ten minutes a day of focused independent reading can change a students life trajectory

    It is astounding and I as an educator, especially in special education, need to push my students to do this to help fill the gap. I will work with the librarian to find authentic reads for my students in whatever subject they wish to ensure they are excited to be reading.

    Furthermore, their assignments will follow the same line of being authentic. So, I created a reading calendar that incorporates meaningful questions about any text. It is a four-week calendar that can be used at any point in time for students to answer questions about their text. I tried to include as many thought-provoking questions as possible to hit home on how they are thinking and feeling about what they are reading. I am hopeful that their responses will be genuine and meaty since it is coming from them. Also, I am not as concerned about whether I know what they read because I feel like I will be able to assess their knowledge based on their responses. It’s hard to fluff a question asking what surprised you most about the reading if you haven’t truly read and understood the text. 

    Want access to FREE independent reading calendars? Sign up for my newsletter below. These calendars are part of a resource in my store that includes a lot more. Feel free to simply use this freebie but, if you are looking for more, check it out here

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    choice reading calendar for grades 5, 6, 7, 8
    Check this out for free!

    Or check this out to get all the resources you need... 
    worksheets and Google classroom choice reading activities
    My resource includes printable and digital versions of each activity, teacher tips and tricks, and a student handout of explanations of each activity. 

    Updated: Looking for nonfiction activities? I used the same thinking with fiction text and applied it to nonfiction. Using this nonfiction choice reading calendar, students will still have the opportunity to choose which activities to complete and you will have a rubric to assess their learning but the activities will ask students to make connections to the text, their head, and hearts. Check it out below: 

    nonfiction, choice, reading calendar, independent reading
    Check it out here

    If you have struggling learners in your classroom, assistive tech can help them to develop a love of reading. Check out this quick read to learn about different types of technology that can assist your students

    Need more strategies to get struggling readers reading? Check out this video

    Methods to ensure understanding and a love for reading during class reads in grades 4 5 6

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