A COLORFUL Start to the Year!


This year begins my third year out of the classroom. While I absolutely love my job and the work I get to do with teachers and students, I still miss those first days of school. Getting to know my new classes, and reconnecting with students I had in previous years, was always something I looked forward to.


I always tried to start the year with some fun activities to get the kids talking to one another and sharing things about themselves – while also sneaking in some content along the way. I taught middle school business classes, so basic graphic design was something I focused on a lot. I used design concepts in my beginning of the year activities to start introducing those things to students in fun ways. The kids always loved it, and the work they did in those first days ended up being used for the entire semester!

Now that I’ve left the classroom, I still use these activities in PD sessions with teachers and in classrooms when I’m co-teaching. I hope you find at least one of these can be used in your classroom, or that these activities spark new ideas in your mind!




Paint Chips. That’s it!

The lovely people at Lowe’s or Home Depot might look at you a little strange, but they’ll never tell you that you can’t take as many as you want!




Putting students in random groups at the beginning of the year helps them get to know one another, and lets you see how they work as a team. When planning group activities, why not let color guide the way you group the students!

  1. As students come into class, give each one a paint chip at random
  2. Display one of these slides – one for pairs, one for larger groups
  3. First, explain complementary colors and warm/cool colors. Then, have students group themselves based on the paint chip they received
  4. Have them regroup as many times as needed to complete your planned activityIMG_3640.JPG


You’ve likely heard of Book Spine Poetry. Well, why not do the same with color? Paint colors have such fun names, they’re perfect for this activity!

Use this slide as a facilitation tool if needed.

  1. Put students in groups of 3 to 4 (maybe the groups from Colorful Collaboration!)
  2. Give each group a stack of paint chips
  3. Give students time to arrange the titles into a short poem
  4. For fun, have them trade one of their paint chips with another group and incorporate it into their poem


This one is fun, easy, and quick! Paint colors have really fun, creative names. This activity gets students thinking about how words can conjure up certain images in your mind.

  1. As students come into class, give each one a paint chip at random. Alternately, if doing this later in class, just hand out the paint chips
  2. Make sure to tell students to keep their colors and color names to themselves!!
  3. As students to volunteer to read the name of their paint color
  4. Allow other students to guess what color they think that might be

I also used this activity to pair students. As students would guess the color based on the name, I would ask “Who thinks they have a color that is complementary to that?” and students would get into pairs or groups based on that.


This activity is great for team building and allowing students to share how they feel in a fun way, but can also be used throughout the year with content!

  1. Get students into groups of 3 to 4
  2. Give each group a stack of paint chips – with or without the names (I always keep a stack with the names cut off)
  3. Give students a prompt –

    • How are you feeling about the first day of middle school?
    • How would you describe our school?
    • How would you describe [character name] during [specific book chapter]?
    • The water cycle
  4. Ask groups to build a color palette that describes the prompt
    • If you left the names on, they will likely use the color names to build their palette. This is a great way to do this activity the first few times
    • If you removed the names, students should choose their colors and give them names that are representative of their topic

This is one of my favorites. I’d use it so often, all I’d have to do is say “Collaborative palettes on maintaining a budget. Three colors, name them all and name your palette. Go.” and they would know exactly what to do!


My personal favorite. In this activity, we ask students, individually or in a group, to create their own custom color and give it a name. It allows them to share something fun about themselves, but also teaches them how to use the color tools in Google and find the HEX code. I shared these templates with my students through Google Classroom early in the year, and had endless color ideas for the entire semester!

Individual Activity

  1. Share this Google Drawing with your students
  2. Give them time to create their own color from the Custom palette that represents them
  3. Encourage them to give it a name that doesn’t have “blue” or “purple” in it
    • Example: Soccer Turf or Copper Clarinet
  4. When done, you can download each Drawing as an image and compile them into one document that the class can pull from throughout the year!

Group Activity

I usually did this as a group after teaching basic color theory, but it really can be done any time.

  1. Share this document with students – one student per group should open it
    (Tip: Have them change the zoom in Drawing to 50%)
  2. Give groups time to create their own color palette – warm colors, cool colors, complementary, etc.
  3. Encourage them to give the colors creative names
  4. When done, you can download each Drawing as an image and have palettes that the class can pull from throughout the year!

While these activities are great for the beginning of the year, they can be modified and used throughout the year in all content areas!

As you use these in the classroom, please share pictures of how it goes and how you put your unique spin on things! Tag me in your tweets so I can see them, and use the #DesignEDU hashtag!


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