Adventures with Teaching Colors Comprehensively

· · · ·

August 2022 – 

One of the most popular questions I see in the textbook vs CI world is “but how do you teach ____ with CI/comprehensibly?” The blank is often filled in with “the alphabet”, “numbers”, “days of the week”, “time”, “weather”, or maybe “colors.” Many will say that you don’t need to teach any of these things, that students will pick it up along the way. Those folks aren’t wrong. Some will say that they have a requirement to teach some of these topics, through CI or not, and want a way to do it more comprehensibly. I’m here to say that while I know, and have seen, my students pick up these things along the way; sometimes I need a “still teachable- teacher break- day.” 

Color by Word is not only one of my favorite activities – but it has helped me for over 4 years now to teach colors (reinforce colors) in a comprehensible way! I use this activity about 2 weeks into Spanish 1 and I use it as a sub plan for my level 2 / 3 students. I have used this activity from 4th grade all the way up to 12th graders in high school. Nearly everyone loves a chance to color and “take a break from real class.”

The even better part is that this activity can very easily be leveled up for Level 2 / 3 / 4 students and made into an on level assignment! Here’s what I do: 

Level 1:

– Day 1 & 2: I use these slides to introduce both colors & the assignment. Currently my classes are 45 minutes long, so we take 2 full class periods to do the coloring portion of the assignment. I print these coloring sheets for my students to use. 

– Day 3 & 4: I introduce the writing portion of the assignment using the same slides. Students have 1 day to work on writing their piece for their animal. You could change up the sentences for what your students know. We work on the words “say” “live” and “is” in the first few weeks. 

For Level 2 – 4:

– Day 1 & 2: I use these slides to introduce both colors & the assignment. Currently my classes are 45 minutes long, so we take 2 full class periods to do the coloring portion of the assignment. I either print these coloring sheets OR I allow students to create their own picture (they would draw and then color). If you are allowing drawing, I would add in an extra day. I have also done this assignment with country flags to mix in a little culture! It could easily be done with kites for Día de los Muertos or eggs for Semana Santa as well! 

– Day 3: I have students do a writing piece. I prefer to have students do a creative free write about their picture instead of a prescribed writing. You could have requirements if you think your students need the structure. 

– Day 4: We do verbal presentations of our images using a summary (or a short piece) of our writing creations. With Level 2 – 4 they have enough of a base that this isn’t forcing output, it’s more reading out loud. In some years my Level 3 / 4 have wanted to give feedback / discuss others images and presentations and we have done that in Spanish. 

Once you have done this activity with your students – this can become a super easy multi-day sub plan! Happy color-by-word ing 🙂 

Disclaimer / Credit: The images used in the coloring sheets may not be re-sold or used in a product that is being re-sold. These images were purchased from Zip-a-dee-doh-dah Designs and combined to create these sheets. If you would like to create a product and use these images / sell a product with these images you will need to purchase the images from Zip-a-dee-doh-dah Designs first. These slides were created by Profe Zulita (me) and may not be used in a product that is sold or remade and claimed as your own. If you would like to present on this topic or use these slides outside of your classroom, please contact me for express written permission. The completed color by word images used in the slides are either creations of Profe Zulita (me) or have been used with permission by the student artist. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Profe Zulita,

    I love these ideas and can’t wait to try some out the first week of classes. More so than ever before, I need extra creativity and later on more assessment ideas that hold students accountable AND demo what they know, as I psych myself up to teaching 6 classes or 205 students this year, instead of my usual 125. All second-year and one first-year.

    My question is, when students are using the days of the week or any other vocab than colors, do they choose the 7 different colors for their picture on their own?
    And for the password activity, I have 36 students in some of my classes. How many different questions/ vocab words do you give per class?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Silvia! To answer your first question; I only have them use color words to color. Because they’re always writing the name of the color in that color (rojo with a red marker to color a tongue red). For the second; with passwords; I only use ONE password all week. Like “what’s your favorite color” and then I usually put 8-10 answer options on my slide. Though a student can always ask “cómo se dice…” if the answer they want isn’t up there and they don’t know it! I use the same question all week! I hope that helps!

  2. I love this idea. Can you explain a bit more about what you do with the writing? Do they translate the slide and insert info about their animal? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon! I give them some prompts like: What kind of animal is it? What does the animal say? What color is your animal? And we do some examples together using old pictures. They’re doing the activity after we’ve spent 2 weeks with the vocab “There is / This is, says, is, has” so they’re basically showing me they can use this vocab in the context of their pictures / animals! I’m only looking for sentences like “There is / This is a dog. My dog says woof. My dog is / has brown and white.” in Spanish. Super simple. The goal for Spanish 1 is to show them they have learned enough to be able to describe that picture in Spanish sentences! If I do it with more advanced students I usually have them write a story about the picture!