A New Way to Introduce the Color Wheel

I recently took a graduate class titled “Supports for English Language Learners.” In this class, I learned various strategies to use when teaching English Language Learners. I was also reminded of the importance of using vocabulary and visual aids in my lesson plans. I found most of the strategies I learned from this class can be incorporated into any classroom to benefit all students, not just my ELL students.

One assignment for the class was to implement a strategy we learned in our own classroom. The strategy I chose to implement was sentence starters. Sentence starters are when you write a sentence (or multiple sentences) on the board, and students repeat the sentence out loud and fill in the blank. This strategy helps students learn vocabulary.

I chose to implement sentence starters in a lesson on the color wheel. The vocabulary words I taught were the names of the 12 colors on the color wheel, and the words primary, secondary, and tertiary/intermediate.

To complete the activity, students need to be in groups of two. Instead of having them choose their partners, I have them pick a popsicle stick out of a cup.

The bottom of the stick is colored with marker and has the name of the color written on it. After they pick the stick, they read the sentences on the board and fill in the blanks for their color. Reading the sentences out loud in front of their peers helps students gain confidence and gives them practice speaking in front of others. My students did an excellent job listening to their classmates and even offered some help if it was asked for.

I put these three sentences on the board for them to read:

1. The name of the color is ___________________.

2. You get___________________ by mixing ___________________ and ___________________.


You get ___________________ by buying it at the store.

3. ___________________ is a ___________________ color.

Here is an example of how a student would read the sentences:

The name of my color is green.

You get green by mixing yellow and blue.

Green is a secondary color.

Each student repeats the activity until all students have a popsicle stick. They find their partner based on who has the same colored stick.

After they find their partner, I pass out envelopes to each group of two. The envelope is filled with 12 different paint swatches, one for each color of the color wheel. (If you don’t have paint swatches, you can cut up some construction paper.) Each group also has a mini color wheel to look at. The color wheel is an excellent visual for them to use so they can see the placement of each color on the color wheel. You can look for mini color wheels in your favorite art ed catalog.


The students take turns pulling out a color swatch from the envelope. They look at the color and read the sentences on the board. Once they are finished, they place the color swatch in the correct location around the color wheel. Then it’s the next person’s turn. They repeat the activity until all 12 colors are placed around the color wheel. If they get done early, they repeat the activity without looking at the color wheel.

The students really liked this activity, and I have repeated it multiple times because of its success. It was refreshing to see the students working so well together, especially since they didn’t get to pick their partners. There was learning, laughing, smiles, and sharing. What a successful activity!

If you’re looking for even more color theory activities for your classroom, be sure to check out the Color Theory Basics PRO Learning Pack. You’ll learn the best strategies for introducing theory and exploring color mixing and walk away with engaging activities to support learning.

How could you use sentence starters in your classroom?

Do you have a strategy you use when introducing new vocabulary?

Cassidy Reinken


This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Great mini lesson! I have to say, I love all the advice/anecdotal posts we’ve been seeing here, but lessons (especially how you implemented it) are really interesting!! Refreshing!!! Especially because my students seem to have had a color theory amnesia problem at the end of the year. I did a whole unit with the entire school just to make sure I won’t be too far behind in September (we always study color in September.) 

    • I agree- lessons are very interesting!
      Your students aren’t alone, mine have color theory amnesia  also!  Is your curriculum based on an element or art each month?

      • Hmmm good question. The theory is that our art curriculum should be based on the common core literacy standards:) I have so many different levels that I teach (even within the same grade) that my curriculum is very different for different levels. Lower levels I introduce elements of art in a more prescriptive way, while higher level classes I work it in more organically. I found this is the only way to really reach them where they’re at. 

    • Where did you get paint samples that look like the ends of crayons? Love them!

  • Esolari

    What class level did you do this with?

    • I originally taught this to 6th graders. However, it was so successful that I ended up
      teaching it to 8th graders as well. Both grades enjoyed the activity but I think 6th graders liked it more.

      What grade
      do you teach?  It could easily be adapted
      for other ages.

  • This is a great activity! Definitely agree with the comments here that this activity could be adapted for any age group. It’s a great way of teaching color theory and introducing anyone to the names of colors.

  • Melissa Hayes

    What a great idea!

    I did this with my 3rd graders today, and I used construction paper for the 6 primary and secondary colors, but then they had to use any material of their choice from the cart (crayons, markers, colored pencils, oil pastels) to mix the tertiary colors.   

    For the few kids who were shy about talking to the whole class, we had a quick convo about, how that’s understandable, and that by practicing they will be less nervous.  I shared with them that I was nervous to talk to students when I student taught, but now I’m never nervous.  I also shared that sometimes I am nervous talking to large groups of adults, so I understand what they might be feeling.
    It was a great lesson for so many reasons!  
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Melissa, I’m so happy you used this lesson and that it was successful!  You’re right, so many students are nervous to talk in front of their peers.  (The same for us adults!)  I recently had a student who is mute, and she was able to participate in this activity with a partner by writing out her sentences in stead of speaking them. 

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  • Ellen Hargrove

    Love this idea! I’ve never called them sentence starters, but I do something like it in my classroom. I may try this color lesson myself!

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  • Ast Art

    This would be a great activity to introduce color theory.. I think I would try to use this as an assessment after teaching color theory to upper ele or middle. I would also prob make a set of sticks for tints, shades, and hue and teach value vocab that way. Great ideas!

  • Eliz Townsend

    I love this activity!