Sunday, June 19, 2011

Paint Chip Poetry

I have to confess that I have always loved standing in the middle of those paint chip displays at hardware stores.   It's like being inside a no-maintenance flower garden.   And Lowe's sometimes opens at 6 A.M. on weekdays.   Let's say you wake up after a rough night without a lesson plan.   Swing by Lowe's.   I've got you covered.

Some of the chips come in a single color, some have several variations of a similar hue.   Take the number of students you teach and offer twice the number of paint chips for their selection.   They are free.   Just be polite about it.

To tell you the truth, my paint chips are still in the console of my truck because I kept forgetting to bring them inside to use.   I have a plan for the coming year though.   Simply writing while being inspired by a color may be a little too unstructured for eighth graders, so I think I'll make a pattern for poets to follow for those who choose to use it.

I should probably tell you now that I am not a huge fan of rhyming poetry generated by 8th graders.   Every now and then my best writers will surprise me with something artfully crafted, but most often finding a rhyme blows the whole point of careful word choice.   A desperate rhyme jolts the reader out of the poem.

Colors evoke memories.   This is a good activity in teaching tone, specifically nostalgic tone, and sensory imagery.   Pick one paint chip that reminds you of a person, place or object from your childhood.   (For writing purposes, I consider an 8th grader's childhood to be 5th grade or earlier.)  

Arrange the chips in groups of blues, greens, yellows, oranges, etc. and allow the writers to choose their own colors.   Students usually choose happy memories, so their tone easily translates into nostalgia.   If some children want to write about a negative memory, give him that opportunity.   It's a great moment when those memories are ready to have a voice.

Here's a general idea for the structure of the poem, but please modify it to make it work for you.   I also included a rough sample of something that I could have written as an eighth grader.   When I model writing for students, I try to choose from the topics that I would have had on-hand at their age.

[Paint color's name] is the color of __________________
I remember __________________
and how it felt to__________________
I can still hear__________________
I can still see __________________
I miss__________________
[Paint color's name] is the color of __________________

Summer Sigh is the color of July
I remember mint chocolate chip birthday cake
and how it felt to be able to invite everyone I knew
I can still hear my mom wondering aloud if we had left anyone out
I can still see my dad showing off the severed thumb trick...again
I miss my grandparents gathered around the picnic table waiting for my wish
Summer Sigh is the color of days melting away

With your writers' permission, it would be fun to post the colors and poems around the room for their classmates to enjoy. 

I've also seen paint chips turned into simple bookmarks.   Just punch a hole and add some ribbon.   Thread a bead, but only if you are feeling fancy.


  1. That's the truth! I find myself constantly thinking of new ways to use them. I shop often enough at Lowes to create quite a stockpile. Huzza huzza.