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Art & Writing Projects from WritingFix: Color Poems and Colored Layers Collages

A Writing/Art Project inspired by Music
Writing Project: A Color Poem Art Project: A "Layers of Color" Collage

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Barbara Surritte-Barker has been a Northern Nevada Writing Project Teacher Consultant since 2006. She teaches middle school in Sparks, Nevada.

Barbara keeps a personal portfolio of work here at WritingFix.

The Writing Lesson:
Song-Inspired Color Poetry

This writing and art project was created by Northern Nevada Writing Project Consultant Barbara Surritte-Barker. This page contains the lesson plan for the writing portion of this lesson.

Click here to access this lesson's accompanying art project.

Yellow Is…
by Michael, seventh grader

Yellow tastes sweet as honey in my tea.
Yellow is as bright as the sun that irritates my eyes.
Yellow looks like a shear batch of dandelions in a meadow.
Yellow taste sweet like a lot of candy corn in my Halloween bag.
Yellow sounds like the sun burning space, warming up the earth.
Yellow feels like you’re shaking Winnie the Pooh’s hand.
Yellow smells like waffles being made in a waffle iron on a sweet Sunday morning.
Yellow sounds like a screeching school bus picking up kids in the morning.
Yellow feels like a yellow jacket stinging you in the arm.
Yellow tastes like a Lemon Head rushing through your mouth.
Yellow is the color of a street crossing sign.
Yellow is the color of my language arts room at my middle school.
Without yellow in the world, it would be like a bad poem.
Without yellow in the world, there would be no SpongeBob.
Yellow Is…

Lesson Background:

Just like writing, art has a process that must be completed to reach the finished product.

Inspired by Julie Steiner, a middle school art teacher, and the book, The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art by Beth Olshansky, this lesson was created for my struggling writers to help them experience layers of writing that were inspired by simple art illustrations.

Lesson Materials:

Writing Lesson Instructions:

Introduction: Share the song, “Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. I like to pass out the lyrics out so students can follow along. Discuss the colors of the rainbow. Working whole group, brainstorm all the colors of the rainbow. Create a list on the back of their song sheet and list them on the board as well.

Writing Lesson, step 1: Introduce the book, Hailstones and Halibut Bones, to show students what good color poetry can sound like. Because this book is quite long, I like to limit it to What is Gold and What is Red. I provide students with a copy and have them follow along as I share those to poems. Once we’ve read these two poems aloud, I have students “dissect” the pieces. We discuss word choice, descriptive language, imagery, rhyming patterns, and highlight our favorite sections.

Transitioning to what their favorite color is the next step. What color would they write a poem about? Allow students the time to really think about it. I like to conduct a think aloud at this point, asking the questions and providing my answers, while students ponder their own. Guide them with questions like…

  • What color would you write a poem about? My think-aloud response: I like the color blue.
  • Why would you choose that color? My think-aloud response: I like the color blue because it reminds me of the ocean, where my family takes their summer vacations.
  • What experiences do you have with that color? My think-aloud: I have a lot of experiences with the color blue. I like to lay on the grass and stare at the clouds floating by in the sky. I like to drink blue slurpees from 7/11. I like the way blueberries roll around in my mouth when I eat them after school.
  • Where have you seen that color? My think-aloud: I’ve seen blue everywhere! Blue is on my computer screen when I open up my word processing program, blue is the color of the gum I chew, my dog's eyes and my mom’s hair! Blue is all around me!

From the brainstorming list generated earlier in the lesson, have students choose their favorite color. Pass out the graphic organizer and fill out the first page.

Note from Barbara: The art project and the poetry piece can and should be done simultaneously. After reading and discussing selections by Mary O’Neill, you can start Step #1 of the art project lesson.

Writing Lesson, step 2: Now Listen to the song, “Color Me Blind” by Extreme. As students listen, have them highlight what words, phrases, and images they believe to be the most interesting. Have a question about being blind, or something else they’d like to discuss at the end of the song. Discuss their responses.

On side two of the graphic organizer, complete the phrase: "Picture the world without _________________. "

Have students fill in their color and write their responses. What would the world be like without blue, for example? Because this is such an abstract concept, depending upon your grade level, you might want to complete this piece whole group. For the two remaining boxes on page two of the g.o., discuss--as writers-- what words they might use in their piece and what writing skills would they add to their writers tool box that the band Extreme shared.

Based on the books of the great Katie Wood Ray, I always include a "Writer’s Tool Box" box on my g.o.'s when using any mentor text. We can always learn something from a published author, and this box is just an opportunity to record those ideas and as they occur to us. Students now have completed the pre-writing process and should be ready to write their own color poem, step 3.

Writing Lesson, step 3: Using the structure of Hailstones and Halibut Bones' poems, the graphic organizer and the student examples provided, have students write their own color poem. If students are struggling, have them start off with, [Blue] looks like _______________________________.

Once they’ve written their rough draft, I like to spend some time working on peer editing, word choice and sentence structure before writing their final draft. Once this piece has been revised, edited and their final draft is completed, continue with the art lesson under step 3.

Some Teaching "Hints" from this Lesson's Author:

The student samples that have been provided were written by some of my reluctant writers. Keeping that in mind, please use them as a teaching tool, discussing three compliments, three corrections and what could be done to strengthen the pieces? Write down their ideas in the box titled Writer’s Tool Box.

Student Samples for Discussion:

by Kaytlynn, seventh grade poet

Black sounds like a ghost moaning in the night.
Black looks like the dress you wear on Friday night.
Black feels like a silky smooth spider bite.
Black smells like the fluffy cow you sleep with at night.
Black tastes like the melted dark chocolate you eat when sad.
Black is the belt you get hit with when you are bad.
Black is the nightmares you have in the middle of the night.
Black is the pants that you wear that are too tight!
Black is the color of your best friend’s hair.
Black is the color that shows you just don’t care!
Black is the silent screams of a horror movie.
Black is the depression of a little girl sitting on the playground all alone.
If there was no black, the world would be full of depression and anxiety.

What is Green?
by Jose, seventh grade poet

Green looks like the happy birds flying all around.
Green looks like my money as I go to buy lots of delicious honey.
Green sounds like trees blowing in the wind, like a roaring monster.
Green looks like a bunch of fantastic grapes being eaten by a boy.
Green feels like crinkling grass being stepped on by my brother.
Green feels like cool wet trees blowing in the wind.
Green smells like the fresh morning trying to wake up.
Green smells like the new clean house you just bought.
Green tastes like the sweet onions burning your eyes.
Green taste like a sour lime squirted on my delicious taco.
Green is the color of a really sour lime.
Green is part of the color on the great Mexican flag.
Green is the color of an island with a huge crowd of people.
Green is the rain forest being ruined by people.
Green is a treehouse with kids playing in it.
Without green there would be an ugly world.
Without green people wouldn’t have a great time.
What is Green?

by Connie, seventh grade poet

Blue sounds like the warm breeze blowing gently across my face.
Blue sounds like the gentle ocean crushing against the shore.
Blue feels like the beautiful wet ocean
when you take a romantic walk as the sunsets.
Blue feels like salty teardrops rolling down your soft gentle cheeks.
Blue taste like salty water in your mouth
when you swim in the lake on a hot summer day.
Blue taste like an icy blue popsicle on a hot summer day.
Blue looks like a sad family who has to say good-bye to one another.
Blue looks like the cloudy blue sky above your head.
Blue smells like sweet cotton candy at the carnival.
Blue smells like blueberries from a vine.
The world without blue would have no sky or beautiful blue ocean.
The world without my color would be gloomy. It would no long be joyful.

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