The topic of color, although abstract, is a treasure trove of associations, metaphors, and distinct images. Red is for passion and anger. Blue is for calm. Color and how it shows up in memory is fascinating too. Think of how many times you’ve heard someone recount a story and they specify colors: “When I met her at the museum, she was wearing a yellow dress”; “The tomatoes in grandma’s yard were always a deep, mesmerizing red.” I love teaching synesthetic lesson plans, and color is the cornerstone. What color do you associate with the sound of a plane flying overhead? What color do you associate with your mother’s perfume?
I would be remiss if I didn’t own up to my zeal for the occult and admit that this lesson is largely based on the witchy ritual of color magic. Color magic in witchcraft uses color to manifest emotional states, future outcomes, and relational dynamics. The ritual calls for burning a colored candle to manifest a desired outcome. For example, you should burn an orange candle while working on a creative project to summon creativity and confidence. Burn pink to summon love and respect in your friendships. Red to summon courage before trying something new.
I started to ask, though: What if we thought of this emotion-rich symbolism as a personal affair? Orange may symbolize confidence for witches, but what does orange mean to a first grader?
In this exercise, I told a class of first graders that we were going to come up with our own color magic—our own color meanings. I asked a series of questions that personified color and discussed it in terms of other senses (once again, my affinity for synesthesia comes into play here). While created with first graders in mind, this lesson can be adapted to most any age.
Sequences of Activities:
Intro: Color Magic
Have the students sit in a circle on the floor. Set out the color swatches in a pile in the middle of the circle.
Explain to students that practitioners of witchcraft believe colors have magic powers and can manifest something they want to happen. Give some examples: witches believe red is for passion & courage, while orange manifests creativity & self-expression.
Literary model: Adélia Prado “Praise for a Color”
Read Adélia Prado’s “Praise for a Color” to the students. I typically read a poem twice so students pick up as much imagery and language as possible. After reading, ask the students where color is used in the poem. The nature of the discussion depends a bit on what age you’re teaching. For younger friends, I direct their attention to parts of the poem where color is used and ask them, they think that color represents.
Then, I pivot in our discussion and ask students what powers they think yellow possesses. Explain to students that now we will make up our own meanings for colors!
- Pull a color swatch from a hat.
- Ask the following questions and write on strips
- What flavor is __? (tart, sour, sweet, bitter, salty?)
- If you could touch the color __, what would your fingers feel?
- What sounds does __ make?
- What food is this color?
- What does ___ do?
- What time of day does ___ come to life?
- What instrument is __ ? (Blue is a ___ instrument.)
- Where did __ come from?
- Where would __ take you?
- Who does __ belong to?
- What weather is __?
- What sound is __?
- Who in your life is __? Why?
- Where would ___ go if ___ could travel anywhere?
- What emotion is __ ?
Construct the poem
- Put the strips of paper in a bowl and pull them out to make a poem about that color. Place them in lines in the order the strips were pulled.
- Then for the final line ask, “What special power does this color have?” or “What special power can this color give me?”
After you have glued the strips down, read the poem aloud from your poster board.