Practicing Colorful Semantics

Hopefully you have read my post introducing you to Colorful (Colourful) Semantics. If you haven’t yet, check it out here for an overview of the program.

This program has revolutionized the way I teach sentence structure, grammar, and sentence organization to my students. I no longer focus on teaching nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. separately but instead incorporate it into our practice of Colorful Semantics. Let me explain to you what tools I use and what my first few lessons are like.


notebook 1

After introducing the different parts of Colorful Semantics to my students and adding notes about it to their Speech Notebooks (check out the link here) we begin practicing writing sentences using the system. I use the notes to tie in which parts of speech are represented in each part of the question. I also display Colorful Semantic signs in my room. Here is a link to get your own set of Colorful Semantic signs in my TPT store. Initially I guide the students by asking them the questions on the signs to help them understand the connection between the signs and good sentence structure.


Sentence Organizing


In the next session we continue to practice understanding how sentences should be organized, Before the session, I find simple pictures with one or two subjects performing one action. I write a sentence about the picture on sentence strips that I have cut apart (orange, yellow, green, blue, and pink because purple does not come in the packets). When the session begins I give the students the sections of sentence strips and ask them to work together to create a good sentence about the picture. We practice this task a few more times and then I ask them to select a picture and write a sentence about it on sections of sentence strips that I give them. The first time that they attempt this on their own can be challenging but continue to prompt and model what they should be asking themselves to complete the sentence.


Sentence Tense


Initially when I begin teaching Colorful Semantics, we focus on writing sentences in the present tense. Since most of the students writing will be narratives in the past tense, I wanted them to understand how changing the “Doing” (yellow) section can change the sentence’s tense. I show them a picture that we worked on previously and have them unscramble the sentence again. This time I add the other verb tenses to change the sentence tense. I write on the board PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE down the side. I slide the “Who”, “What”, “Where” and any describing cards up next to PAST but leave the three “Doing” cards below. I ask the students if they can tell me which one would make this sentence PAST TENSE. I then slide that the correct answer into its position in the sentence. I have the students start a new page in their Speech Notebook titled “Colorful Sentence Tenses”. I have them copy the word “PAST” and then write the past tense sentence next to it. I have them color code their sentences in their notebook using crayons or colored pencils to match the sentence strips.



Next I move the sentence strip sections down to PRESENT but keep the “Doing” past card in its place. The students select the correct “Doing” card from the ones remaining. I have them copy the sentence again and color code it. We repeat the same process for the FUTURE sentence as well.


This helps the students realize the difference in sentence meaning by changing the verb tense. We talk about the characteristics of the different verb tenses which will lead into a deeper lesson on verb tenses in the future.

The follow-up practice is to have the students write their own sentence from a picture and provide the correct verb tenses for each sentence, PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.

I love to hear your feedback about how you have used Colorful Semantics and the successes you have found while using it. I have had success using this program with students who are on the Autism spectrum, students who are mentally impaired, students who have learning disabilities, students who have language disorders, and students who are English Language Learners. The systematic way of teaching sentence structure, grammar and organization seems to really click and they can immediately apply what they have learned across the curriculum.


One thought on “Practicing Colorful Semantics

  1. Anna

    Great job! I have a similar teaching method with other visual cues that are colors and shapes but am always looking for other ideas! I work with deaf and hard of hearing children with various modes of communication. Visuals are so important; always trying to find ways to boost English writing skills!

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