Tag Archives: Colour

Sometimes all our children need is a splash of colour: how colour aids learning for children of all ages

According to a whitepaper published by the Malaysian Journal of Medical History, colour is believed to be the most visual experience to human beings.  And we agree.

Colour is critical for young children, and as they grow through each life stage, and pass through the schooling system, so they need to be taught to adjust how they make use of colour, to study and succeed.

We find that in the foundation phase (grades one through three), the younger learners have a predisposition to warm colours, and thrive in a warm environment.  The reds, yellows and oranges that make up the warm palette, showcase more energy, and are dynamic for the eyes.  They convey energy and movement, which is a reflection of the learners.  Children in the foundation phase, are generally used for an audience that is curious and inquisitive.

Intermediate and senior phase learners, that are made up of grade four and above, are are actually looking at cooler, more neutrally aligned colours like blues, greens.  We find that this helps with learning because they are calmer, more relaxed colours.  These colours also aren’t as distracting as the warm colours – and puts them in a good place especially for concrete learning and longer periods of focus.

Where many people go wrong, is that in their enthusiasm to introduce colour is an all or nothing approach.  It is not about splashing the colour everywhere, but finding balance and subtlety.  We encourage parents and teacher to either identify one wall that could be (for example) fire engine red, or opt for a more muted shade or tone of red, that puts the colour in the vicinity, without compromising its intention – to facilitate learning.

Consider choosing different shades of a particular colour, rather than opting for lots of different colours.  Too much colour can lead to children being over stimulated, especially in a special needs school or environment.  This can be quite distracting for the learners.

When it comes to studying, we have a couple of tips for using colour:

  1. General work day – direct learners´ attention to an object or topic – if there is an important information cue, or critical information in a picture, show this either as bolded content, or better yet, use a different colour.  
  2. Sometimes, when there are similar words close to one another, or a lot of different information on a page, we suggest breaking it up into different colours to help learners see this in a contextual block.  It improves readability for learners and assists with information retention..
  3. Especially in mathematics, colour provides useful symbol and function differentiation.  For learners that have visual perception or mathematical learning challenges, the numbers and symbols can sometimes blur together.  We encourage learners to write numbers in blue pen, and allocate a colour to each symbol (or function) so plus and minus signs in a bold colour like red or green.  It stands out – and there are fewer mistakes in the calculations.
  4. Because we are dealing with a 21st century, technology driven learner, we find that colour worksheets help in terms of alleviating boredom.  Learners have become accustomed to colourful, image driven content – blogs, youtube videos and image driven tools that are dynamic.  So their brains are stimulated by this type of dynamic content and PowerPoint presentations, delivered using colour projectors, have become a useful teaching aide
  5. Emotional expression is critical, especially in the younger grades, when children don’t always have have the vocabulary to express their feelings.  Using colour in their workbooks on in drawings, allows them to get that emotion out, but make sure you are clear on the context of what they are feeling.

There is no right age to introduce colour, but we would always suggest this happening as early as possible.  More important than introducing colour, is ensuring that as your child grows and progresses through their schooling career, so too does his/ her exposure to colour both as a visual and learning tool. But be specific – don’t just give learners a bag of crayons or coloured pencils and sit back and get a rainbow from them.

Provide your child with guidelines, on how best to integrate colour into their learning processes.  For example, pre-determine what colours you would like to be used to show the symbols (functions) in Maths.  When they are learning study skills, attribute a specific colour to certain content – for example, everything related to plants could be in green, keywords related to photosynthesis yellow.  

Assign a purpose to the use of colour, and specific colours for learning.

But also consider context and don’t automatically decide on the emotional connection of a colour, without asking a child first.  We had a child in class in the foundation phase, who was drawing houses, and friends and siblings beautifully, but all the images were dark – lots of use of black and brown crayons.  Parents and teachers were all called together, and a concern was expressed that this child was very depressed.  When the child was called in to ask about the drawings, he explained that he sat at the back of the class, so by the time the crayons got to him, the only colours left were the browns and blacks.  

While it is amusing to recall this example, it is a good reminder to also put colour use into context, ask the child and check that assumptions aren’t being made about their emotional state.

Because we believe in inclusivity and celebrating diversity, Sparrow Schools support the Color Run, and will be participating at the superhero color run in September in Johannesburg, after all, everyone covered in coloured powder looks the same!  If you’d like to feel  how happy colour can make you feel, and celebrate inclusivity, please join the Sparrow Schools team (click for more info) for the Color Run on 10 September 2017

Warren Thompson, Learning Support manager at Sparrow Schools. 

To sign up, email your details through to us: sparrow@mweb.co.za