Colourful Emotions

poem by Cindy Breedlove , illustrated by Rosemary Fung

Learning Intention:

I am learning how colour is a visual communication system so that I can use symbolism in my own writing.

Success Criteria:

  • I can understand the term symbolism and identify the symbolic meaning of colours.
  • I can explain how colour symbolism has been used in a range of texts.
  • I can experiment with my own use of colour symbolism.

Essential knowledge:

More information about the symbolic use of colour can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Connotation, Imagery and Symbol.

Present just the title of the poem to the class. Ask what they think ‘Colourful Emotions’ might mean. Discuss and note students’ the background knowledge of the connotations attached to certain colours: red and love; green and envy; yellow and happiness. You may also like to note cultural differences in colour connotations. For example, in some South Asian cultures white is the colour of mourning, whereas in some European cultures, mourners wear black.

Explain that when colours are given a deeper meaning (connected to a feeling, used to represent and object or associated with a tradition) this is caused colour symbolism. Explain that in today’s lesson, the class will look at how colours have a close connection to emotions.

Read to the class Anna Llenas’s book ‘The Colour Monster’. The book describes six colours and the feelings that can be associated with them. For each colour, conceal the feeling connected to it. Then read the page to the students, without revealing the feeling. Ask students to guess what they think the feeling might be. For example, students might guess that yellow is happiness (the correct answer) but also might associate yellow with optimism, energy or love.

Next, provide students with Rosemary Fung’s illustrations of the poem, without the text. Ask students to predict the emotions felt by the four colourful figures. Then read the poem to the class and after connecting the colour to the emotion (green to envy; red to anger, blue to sadness; and pink to joy) amend students’ predictions.

Finally, explain to students that they are going to write a poem about their favourite colour. In this poem they will experiment with the feelings, objects and traditions they associate with it.

Use the following scaffold to structure their ideas:

What things look like my colour?

What things sound like my colour?

What things smell like my colour?

What things taste like my colour?

What things feel like my colour?

What feelings do I associate with my colour?

What time of year do I associate with my colour?

Does my colour make me think of any events, places or people?

Once students have brainstormed their symbolic colour associations, they organise their thoughts into a colour poem. For example:

Red is the colour of apples, footballs and fire engines.

Red is the crackle of a fire.

Red is the perfume of a rose.

Red is the heat of a chilli.

Red is the feeling of love, anger and frustration.

Red is the excitement of Christmas Day.

Red makes me think of my warm bed on a cold winter’s morning.