Beyond the rainbow

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
We learned the "seven colours of the rainbow" when we were young. Yet a rainbow is not really divided up into seven separate bands. The names we give to colours mark the boundaries.

The relationship between language and colour works in many ways. The more "colour language" a child possesses the better will be his or her understanding.

So we ought to help children learn not only that colours have names - red, green, blue - but that there are many kinds of red, and green and blue, and that more definitions are needed. As well as understanding the common colour descriptions and definitions - "sky blue", "bottle green" - they can enrich the language by devising their own - "sore thumb red", "washing up bowl yellow".

From there they begin to see that colours can be associated with mood - so purple inspires one kind of language, bright orange another. This project helps teachers of young children to explore the language of colour, and suggests classroom activities to help pupils use this language in lively ways. It also guides them to an understanding of what makes colours what they are.

Richard Hickman

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