February 8, 2014

The Power of Color

Happy Saturday! This was our first 5-day week since December, and I know it was tough on everyone. I guess I can't really complain because I ended up being snowed in on Wednesday... although I still woke up and tried to go to school, so I didn't get the benefit of sleeping in, which is my favorite part of a day off.

Today, I want to link up with my sweet friend Joanne to share two simple things I do in my classroom to motivate students when it comes to writing. I was actually reminded of this first tip by Serena's post earlier this week at Magic Mistakes & Mayhem when she talked about how discouraging it can be for students to see red ink all over their writing.

It is for this very reason that I never grade anything in red ink. Ever.

I will use any color in the world except red. Red ink just has such a negative connotation, and I want my comments and corrections to be seen as helpful, not judgmental. I genuinely feel like I make the exact same marks in a different color and it's received so much more positively.

And since we're talking about the power of color, this is also a good time to discuss how this impacts with student writing. Most of you weren't yet following my blog when I first mentioned that I loathe pencils and require my students to write in pen. You can read the rationale and expert advice that supports this idea in this post. So, yes, while the pencil battle is one that I'm willing to fight, the color of the ink is not.

I distinctly remember that the most exciting part of one's birthday in elementary school was that you got to sit in the teacher's chair for the day and use pen all day! We all bought those special all-in-one pens and spent the day clicking through all the colors because we had to take advantage of our ONE chance to use all those lovely colors. Don't act like you didn't use one too!!!

In middle school, we were expected to use pens everywhere but in math. Colored ink, though, was reserved for note-taking. I actually looked forward to taking notes for this reason. I would establish color codes for myself. Topics in one color, subheadings in another, etc. Sometimes, I would alternate pen color with each bullet point. Yes... I was (and still am) that girl.

So, in my classroom, I allow, in fact, I encourage students to write with a myriad of colored pens (except for those neon ones because my eyes just can't read them anymore). It's incredible how motivating this can be for students.

I have a student this year who will literally do anything if its on pink paper or she can write with a pink pen. My solution?? We use pink whenever possible. Sometimes, she starts whining about an assignment before it's even fully explained, but as soon as I tell her she can use one of my pink flair pens, her whole attitude changes.

Kids like color! Use that to your advantage, people!


  1. I am with you, I never grade in red pen. I normally only allow my 4th graders to use pens when they are editing their own work, or writing a final draft of something. I've always been afraid that the novelty would wear off if I let them use pens for most assignments. I'm guessing you haven't found that to be the case.

  2. You have persuaded me to give it a try. Think this might help motivate my kids as we prepare for our test. Thanks for the idea!

  3. In my class I have a cup of colorful pens students can choose from IF they use an amazing word choice or new vocab word in their work. It's great motivation for some students!
    Short and Sassy Teacher

  4. I couldn't agree more...with all of it! I never grade in red and I let my students use pen for several different things, especially writing. I NEED a class set of those all in one pens-where can we get them for a $1? They would be perfect for so many of my writing lessons! Thanks for sharing a motivating idea!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  5. Color makes everything more exciting! I rarely write in blue or black, however I do sometimes grade in red or my students grade in red. I explain to them that red is my favorite color and it really helps my old eyes. Because I grade in lots of other colors as well, I don't think they see red as something bad.

    Love those Flair pens too!
    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  6. I grade everything in different colors. I do keep track of my grades in each grading period with different colors...just for me though. 1st grading period-red, 2nd grading period-green
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'