Poetry Analysis Using Color

This activity can be used with any poem and at any grade level — high school, middle school, even elementary school. To get students in the right headspace for this kind of analysis, we brainstorm the connections between colors and feelings, we consider our personal associations with certain colors, and we discuss how color can be used to tell a story and illustrate mood.

Remember mood rings? Are these even still a thing? They were very popular back in my Gen-X days. Even if your students don’t own one or know what they are, they can still easily match up their mood to one of the colors on this opening slide of the activity.

You could have them free-write their response, do a turn-and-talk with someone next to them, or have them discuss in small groups. The second slide is similar in that it gets students thinking about how colors can represent different feelings; colors can even represent the story of how our day has been so far.

Next, we go through several different colors and the associations we have with them. For this part, I have student call out what their associations are, but you could also have them free-write or discuss with their classmates.

To emphasize the importance of color, I briefly touch on the ancient Chinese tradition of Feng Shui. Being careful not to appropriate Chinese culture, I provide students with a brief lesson on the definition and history of this ancient practice. This National Geographic article on their Education page is very helpful and short enough that you can read it out loud to the class in just a couple of minutes. I call students attention to the part that says, “In modern times, people all over the world use Feng Shui rules to decorate their homes” for these next two slides of the lesson. It is important to remind students that Feng Shui is so much more than just color, as noted in the article, but for the purposes of this lesson, color is the element we are focusing on.

After going through all this brainstorming, it’s time to ask students to discuss the BIG questions that get to the heart of this lesson:

In my 11th grade American Literature class, we are currently reading Richard Blanco’s How to Love a Country, and in 12th grade AP Literature, we are reading Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Oceanic. Students are able to choose any poem that they have read so far for the next part of the lesson. Your students don’t need to be reading a full collection of poetry to do this lesson, though! They could all read the same individual poem or small groups could each read a different poem, or students could find their own poems using the Living Poets Digital Library. So what exactly are they going to do with their poem in regards to color?

Before they get started, I show them my example using The Great Gatsby. You may wish to switch out this example for a text that your students are familiar with if they have not read Gatsby.

Finally, this is the slide where students will perform their own color analysis of their poem. Come to think of it, this activity would work for any text, wouldn’t it?

That’s it! When they are finished, you could do a gallery walk of all their finished products, or have students share their analysis with a partner or in small groups. I’m sure a rubric could be whipped up pretty quickly based on their assignment requirements if you were so inclined.

Since students are going to have to edit the slides, I provide them with this link that will force them to Make a Copy of the Slides presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1E4aT6_KJKoZMSDlw61jBnTW6_5KK4DeKfu8uSBFHr3I/copy

And for you as well – here is the set of Slides that you can edit to your liking. I do ask that you keep the #TeachLiving Poets credit slide at the end. 🙂

Student Samples

The first two student samples are on poems by Aimee Nezhukumatathil in Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018) and the following are on poems by Richard Blanco in How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019).

If you liked this lesson and have the means, you can leave a #TeachLivingPoets donation to help support the site and the work that goes into it! I am so grateful for all the teachers who share their amazing ideas and reactions to our lessons!

Also, check out this amazing generative lesson using color: Shades of Green that would be a perfect pairing with this color analysis lesson!

3 thoughts on “Poetry Analysis Using Color

  1. Home Depot was so nice- they gave me a stack of discarded paper paint samples. I had small groups randomly pick from a bag and write poems or stories inspired by the colors. They had fun incorporating the unique names each color was assigned by the paint company.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s