Teach Colors to Young ESL Learners

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The first step is the introductory period. For this, you will need colored sheets of paper. While colored objects might be tempting, this can sometimes confuse the students as to whether the word they are being taught refers to the color or the object itself. However, colored objects may be used once students understand the color words, to encourage using the colors in grammatically correct context, as students combine a color word with the object word. For the colored paper, I would recommend starting with the basic colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, and brown. These colors, in their variations, should cover everything students need to know to begin describing objects of their choice. Once you have the paper, begin by holding up each colored sheet, one at a time, and saying the color. Say the color three times, and then have the students repeat it once. Move on to the next color and repeat this process until you have finished going through the sheets. At this point, the introductory phase is over.


Now it’s time for the recognition phase, to see if students have understood the linkage between English word and color concept, and what they have retained. If you have access to a magnetic board, put up three colored sheets on the board, using magnets. If not, you may hold the colored sheets. Write numbers 1, 2, and 3 above the sheets, which in this example are red, black, and green. (This lesson assumes students have already learned numbers. If not, letters can be used.) Ask students: “Which one is green?” Before students have time to respond, begin pointing to the colors, and asking, as you point to each one, “Is this green?” Wait for students to reply yes or no. Once they have correctly identified green, state “Yes! Number 3 is green!” Have the students repeat “Number three is green. It is green.” Repeat this step several times, switching up the colored sheets of paper under the numbers. Once students begin to get the hang of it, and are correctly identifying the colors, the recognition phase is over.


The next step in teaching colors is the production phase. During this phase, with the colors still on the board, you will point to one of the colors, in this case black, and ask the students “Is this black?” They will say, yes. Then point to another color, perhaps blue, and ask the students “Is this red?” They should say no. Act confused, and then ask the students what color it is (“It is red”), and have them repeat the color name once. Repeat this until you have covered all the colors, repeating any that they miss multiple times. You can really act this section up, acting confused when students tell you that you are incorrect, and pretend to not hear them when they initially tell you the color name.


Finally, put all the colors up on the board, and write the word for the color underneath each one. Have the students copy them into their notes. With this combination of activities, students are sure to remember their colors!