Stop, Drop and Color

coloring tree I used to think that using coloring pages was a waste of time.  I felt that giving someone a blank paper on which to draw or color was a much better option.  However, my view has changed slightly over the years.  There is a place for coloring pages in students’ physical and emotional development.  Not everyone likes a blank page.  There are even some that get stressed out by it, but that’s another topic.

The other day I was having a casual conversation with some other teachers where we were discussing students’ dwindling attention spans and I made a comment about how many students barely have the attention to sit and color.  The other side of that coin, is that we often don’t give that time to them.  So, that day I did.  It was time for me to stop for a bit, drop all the other things we needed to do, and have my students sit and color.  So, I photocopied some coloring pages and brought them up with me to my classroom.

When I first approached my fourth grade class with my plan for them to color, many were excited.  Their faces actually lit up!  Then I explained to them that it wasn’t just free color, I wanted them to sit in their seats, not talk to anyone else in the classroom (including me) and do quality work coloring.  Many students just smiled happily, nodding in agreement and waited for me to pass out the papers.

But some boys didn’t look too thrilled.  I called one kid out for rolling his eyes.  (Don’t they all know I’m the queen of the eye roll and I can spot one a mile away?)

“Listen, there’s a lot of value in my making you color,” I started to say knowing that telling them this was a serious assignment was like stepping onto a ledge.  “What are some benefits to this?”

1212141126aA discussion was started and a few things were listed:

  • Exercising your hand and finger muscles – a great way to strengthen your hands for fine motor skills.
  • Helping you to calm down and focus.
  • Practicing good posture while sitting at your desk.
  • Focusing on doing quality work.
  • Expressing your ideas through the use of media and color.

These were all the kids’ ideas I am happy to note!

With a few skeptics sill in the room, I forged on, happy that I was making so many other students’ day and wondering how things would pan out overall.  As I allowed the kids time to get organized with their papers and materials, I watched both the eager-doers and the skeptics carefully.  All carried on as I played some quiet music, setting the atmosphere.  No one spoke a word and all worked diligently for over 25 minutes – something they struggle with when it is independent work time.
When the time was up, many students hadn’t completely finished their work, but the work that they did was wonderful!  I asked the students to reflect on their time and their work in a quick discussion and a written reflection.  Here’s what some of them said:

“As much weight you put on the colored pencils it will make different shades.”

“I think that when you take your time and do your best, you’ll like what you do.”

“My coloring was so much neater than usual.  I was calm and it’s hard to describe.”

“I stated in the lines and colored neater.  I was also focused and calm.”

“The longer you try to get it right, the better it will look.”

“I liked coloring a lot.  It was very peaceful with the Christmas music.  It was very fun.  I liked taking my time.”

Still there were those who wanted to make their displeasure known:

“My hand really, really hurts and I am bored.  I like drawing better.”

“Taking the time was very annoying and I was happy when it was finally over!”

“My coloring was neat, but it felt like it went on forever!”

1212141127aOh, well.  You can’t please everyone.  But, that’s not my job.  My job is to challenge students and for some this was a challenge – a challenge to stick with something for an extended period of time.  There’s certainly some value in that!

I can see myself doing this type of activity again: Stop, Drop everything and Color.  We need to give students all kinds of experiences in school, that’s the only way to help them grow.  The hidden curriculum is certainly part of this activity.  For some it was physical therapy, for others it was a way to decompress.  Some practiced independence, while others practice perseverance.

I will certainly do this again.  Will you give it a try?


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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. What a great opportunity for learning and reflection for both the teacher and the student!
    Love it!!!

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