Midwinter landscapes in my part of the world yield mostly subdued tones of browns and dusty greens sometimes enlivened by a dazzle of cardinal swooping toward the bird feeder. Skies can be a steely gray and the light still fades early (although less so every day – yay!). But this year my winter world pulsed with vivid hues when my first grandchild was born on January 27.
It made me think of color as a good subject for winter poetry writing. Start by exploring two books of color poetry with your students. Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill is a classic, first published in 1961, in which she explores the colors of the spectrum in ways still read fresh and original today. “Like acrobats on a high trapeze/ Colors pose and bend their knees/ Twist and turn and leap and blend/ into shapes and feelings without end…”
Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman uses color to explore each of the four seasons. In evocative, playful language, with much use of personification and rich sensory references, Sidman brings color alive. “Red sings / from treetops . . . / each note dropping / like a cherry / into my ear.” Green trills from trees” and “purple pours into summer evenings one shadow at a time.” Eloquent, quirky illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski perfectly capture the mood of wonder.
You could also show and discuss some famous paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Nights (blue) or Sunflowers (yellow), or Monet’s Water Lilies (green) to further explore the feelings color can evoke.
Now students should select their chosen color. Have them write the color in the center of a blank page and surround it with 6 radiating circles. In circle 1, they should put emotions their chosen color evokes. In circle 2, random parts of the body. In circle 3, actions those body parts can perform. In circle 4, plants and flowers, trees, insects, animals, and other parts of nature associated with their chosen color. In circle 5, foods associated with their chosen color. In circle 6, a list of as many of the furniture and architectural features (doors, windows) of the classroom as possible.
Now, choosing a word or words from each of the circles, have students write a six-line poem starting with their selected color. Stress that by combining words from the various circles; they can come up with unique and interesting combinations of words to make a tribute to the color of their choice. Hang a large paper rainbow across one wall and tack the finished colors poems to it to brighten the grayest winter day!