How I “teach” colors…

Among some of the first things a Spanish student might learn are THE COLORS.

How do I do it in my class?

Well… first a few disclaimers

  1. “Teaching” colors is not my goal. My students “acquiring” the language for colors is my goal. So this means I do not have a “color unit” or few lessons memorizing the colors and then move on expecting my students to be able to understand and use that vocabulary with great proficiency from that point on. My students are going to hear aboutx colors in a sprinkling of context throughout the whole year.
  2. My expectations are that students will be able to…
    • FIRST they will – begin to understand the colors when they hear them in Spanish. At first they will be hearing them with very slow, limited language and lots of visual support if not direct translation. The language will get more complex as they process the language faster from more exposure to the colors in context. (Reading proficiency of the colors will also begin to develop if your students are literate but I start discussing colors with my pre-literate Kindergarteners so no reading yet.)
    • THEN they will – be able to say (not perfectly) a color or two in Spanish but it will come in different orders (some can say green but not red while others can say other colors) and not in complete sentences. (“rojo” not “El elefante es rojo.”) They will start to need less and less visual support and translation.
    • EVENTUALLY they will – be able to say colors with varying accuracy in context and with simple sentences.
  3. Students will not learn all colors in the same order at the same level of proficiency– I still have 8th graders who have to stop and think about “pink” in Spanish while some 3rd graders immediately know “pink” but stumble over “white” Why? Because I have not done enough “color” flashcard drills and vocabulary games with those classes so they know ALL their colors with EQUAL PROFICIENCY??? Uh…no sorry, not all vocabulary is acquired equally. Some students will make a mental connection to “red” in Spanish for who knows what reason but struggle to remember “blue.” Because that is how language works. It is messy and somewhat unpredictable. But if my students really need to acquire a certain word, phrase, tense etc. then the solution is always MORE COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT.
  4. I am more focused on using color vocabulary in COMPELLING CONTEXT instead of in lists. – I want my students to hear and understand the color vocabulary in context to compelling content. Which means I am going to include it in stories, questions, etc. I am going to try and find ways to make the communication/message compelling. For example, in the activity I discuss below, a golden question for young kids “What is your favorite color?” Just listing the colors and pointing to them is fine but not as powerful as story and conversation.

Now that I have given you some “context” on to the practical stuff.

Here are a 2 activities I might do with my K-2 students that involve colors…


  • I use it as a call and response where I start singing it and students join in. When we are done everyone should be looking my way, nothing in their hands and not talking.
  • I sometimes “teach” students directly by having them echo after me and then sing with me. We then review it with activities like passing out colored strips of construction paper and students get one piece. They raise their strip of paper when their color comes up in the song. (We might repeat doing it fast, slow, silly, serious etc.)
  • I start singing it when I am “searching” for a color during a story or some other context. After a while students will start to sing it with me.
  • I have a separate song for “orange” since ANARANJADO is such a big word. Anytime that color comes up we all stop and sing it. At first I am the only one singing but then kids join in as they learn it.

I couldn’t find a link with the song I use so below is audio of me singing.

*** Not a professional so no judgement! 😉

I have included 2 versions of the colors song, (I usually sing the one with café.)

Color songs

PQA – What is your favorite color?

This type of PQA question works well for my class for multiple reasons.

  • It is compelling. Kids take this question VERY seriously
  • Answers are not obvious. This kinda goes with compelling because obvious questions (What is the color of Aiden’s shirt? that everyone can see) are kinda boring. I want anticipation for an answer because it is unknown.
  • I can communicate/review using simple high-frequency language – The language I need to discuss their favorite color is very simple “Maria likes red. She doesn’t like black. Does she like red or black?” as opposed to a question like What do you want to be for Halloween? Kids would most definitely have to answer in English and then I am using lots of random, “out of bounds” vocabulary.
  • Answers can be easily represented visually. I like to make answers to PQA questions visual especially for my little learners. For this question I take a mini-post it strip and put the child’s name on it and stick it to my wall poster of colors in my room. I leave it there for a long time, sometimes all year. It makes it easy to review the information (Who else likes blue?), summarize the information (How many people like blue?) and compare (Do more people like green or blue?).
  • I don’t have to ask every student the question in one class time. – Attention spans would never last in kindergarten if I went through all 20 students in one class period (45 min) AND be able to get the repetition I want. So I “interview” 2-4 students each class time until we have everyone. This also gives an authentic reason to review the answers from before. It can be a small segment to multiple classes instead of a long time-consuming activity for one class period. I like to use a digital spinner like or you could use popsicle sticks to choose students.

So those are two things I do in my classroom to “teach” colors but there are many activities that include colors in the conversation for example…

What is in the Bag?

¡NO, NO, NO, PICASSO! – art lesson in the Target Language

So what do you do with colors in your classroom??

One comment

  1. I love this!! I love the song ( I will sing this tomorrow for sure) and I love your blog Anne Marie! I had forgotten about it and now I am going to go back and read everything I missed 🙂 Gracias por la inspiración!

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