Sunday, September 6, 2009

Color Coding

A month or so ago, I joined a new gym. It's larger and nicer than the old one and it has lots of machines to lift weights with. Since my initial, free session with a personal trainer did not work out the way I thought it would (on so many levels), I didn't have anyone to show me how to use the machines. I, of course, said it's no big deal--I can read pictures. I am a Boardmaker fanatic after all. (I promise this relates to teaching.) So, I go around and find some machines I like and figure them out. But then I get to these two and I'm a bit puzzled. Here are their pictures.

This is a machine that works your leg muscles, the calves I believe.

This is a tricep press. I like this machine.

Have you figured out why I'm confused by these pictures? Here's a hint: it's about the red/green motif.

Red is your starting position and green is your ending position. I've always taught my kids to work from green (go) to red (stop). Maybe the company thought, a person should go (green) to this position. I don't know. Fortunately, I'd done the leg press before so I just did what I knew to do. When I got to the tricep press, I had someone to show me how to do it.

So what does all this have to do with teaching?
Color Coding. I have found this to be a very useful strategy in my classroom. There are many different ways to color code in a classroom. Let's talk about a few:

Red/Green: This is a basic strategy where all the work to be done should be in something green and once it is finished; it should be placed in something red. It’s a very basic and simple system to set up for your students to learn to work independently. If you wait until the winter holiday season you can find red and green Tupperware containers for fairly cheap prices.

Giving each child a color: I did this one year when I had four kids--therefore it was easy to do. I tried to give kids their favorite color but you don't have to. All their folders, spelling lists, journals, and notebooks were this color. (That's why you need to have a fairly small amount of kids--because orange is a great color but you don't want to spend your summer searching for an orange spiral, a brown notebook, or a yellow pencil box.) It is great for helping kids learn to be more independent and find their own materials because they learn to look for their color and do what is related to that color.

Color coding each subject: My whole elementary school actually did this to help our students learn better organization skills. Language arts was blue, math was yellow, social studies was purple, science was green, Spanish was orange, and the homework folder was red. This system was used school wide and helped the kids learn to organize themselves over the years. Our school had business partners who paid for all our students school supplies so it was easy to get the right color of folders for each year. If you are going to take this on--be very specific with your supply list and explain to your parents why they need to find these folders or be prepared to get the folders on your own. This might be helpful for older or higher functioning students who need to learn organizational skills or for students who switch classes. In high school, we had two days--orange and blue. On orange days, we had reading--so writing folders were orange, word work folders were orange. On blue days, we had math--so folders to hold math work were blue. We also had a class called Independent Living Skills, which I turned into Social Studies/Science/Social Skills and we would work on different areas and would use folders as necessary. I found that organizing by day really helped me and my assistants to be able to pull folders easily, plan for substitutes, and just keep up with everyday organization.

So, whichever system or combination of systems you use, the moral of the story is to be consistent. Once you teach your students something, it takes much longer to unteach them. (And be aware that other places/people in the world don't take color coding as seriously as you do--because no one wants to get injured because of poor color coding.)

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to know someone else color codes too! I have a color for each of my students just like you do, and I try to keep as much as I can in that color for them: their fabric bins in the bathroom, labels, clipboards, etc. I also have little dot stickers in every rainbow color I bought from Calloway House, and I stick them on anything needed to identify it for that student.

    Color coding works so well for me, when I think of that student I automatically think of that color. Unfortunately that doesn't work for everyone-- my parapros are always saying 'what color is Michael again?" : )