Those who are not in the teaching profession may not believe this, but students of all ages love to color. Not just elementary schoolers, but all the way up to seniors in high school kids’ eyes light up if you put markers in front of them. The other surprising thing is how motivating stamps and stickers are. You’d be surprised what a 15-year-old would do for a sticker of a puppy. But that’s a topic for another day. Once I found out that I could get an entire class period of focused work out of students by allowing them to color, I realized I had to come up with legitimate assignments for them to work on. Over the years I devised several staple activities for students to draw/color that are defensible to the standards, curriculum, and differentiated instruction.
The first activity that my students loved was the movie poster. After reading a short story, novel, or drama, I would assign the movie poster. Students had to pretend the story had been made into a movie and they had to design a movie poster to go along with it. I gave them a list of literary terms to choose from and they had to include a set number of those on the poster. For example, I might give them setting, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, tagline, and theme and require them to use 4 of those 6 on their poster. They got really creative (especially with the theme). I got products ranging from pencil sketches to poster-sized colorful creations. I graded using a rubric that accounted for things like neatness and color.
The second activity that I often used was the storyboard. This could be done individually or in small groups. After reading a short story, novel, or drama, students would have to take the (pick a number) main events of either a set number of chapters/scenes or the entire plot and illustrate them in storyboard form. [Note: this activity also works well as a graphic novel/comic book.]
The third activity that was always successful was the word-parts poster. I taught an SAT prep class and we spent a lot of time on prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Each week I would give my students a prefix/root/suffix list and they had to read an assigned chapter and find words with the listed word parts. Then they would pick one of the words and create a word-parts poster. They had to identify the prefix and its meaning, the root and its meaning, the suffix and its meaning, and create an illustration for the word as a whole. You could do this with any unit vocabulary.
The best part of these assignments is that you have amazing work to post on your walls and in the hallways!
An additional bonus I found was that students were able to chat quietly while they completed this work. I also found that students who normally refused to do work in class would engage in these coloring activities. They didn’t necessarily produce the best quality work, but they were at least working and doing something other than sleeping or causing trouble.