I enjoy learning things by doing new and useful things myself. I think my students also like to learn that way.
To give them a bit of confidence, I have them do one or two small experiments with paint before they start anything else. When they see the result of putting a any two colors together, they are ready to go at any age from K onward.
I find that kids enjoy learning color while painting. I dump out a big pile of stuff for them to pick from and arrange. I do it during cool weather so we can make soups and salads from all the secondary colored produce after they finish their paintings. Groups of about three or four arrange something to paint. The things that I give them to arrange have very few primary colors. I supply only primary colored and black and white paints. Their arrangements have to include overlapping. They have to enlarge enough to fill the sheet and extend off a bit at a few places. They are accustomed to using viewfinders to help with this. They have to decide if it should be on a vertical, horizontal paper, or square. The assignment is to paint what they see in their own arrangements. I help them set up lighting and backdrops if needed for tonal interest. A bit of light pencil sketching helps them figure out the arrangement. They use sighting to get proportions. Sometimes I ask them to us
e a pencil to outline the highlights and other tonal variations caused by lighting (in order to get them to notice more). If it is a transparent medium, the pencil can be erased after it dries. Tasting and smelling the subject matter adds motivation.
They may use no colors without mixing them. I ask lots of specific questions while they work. As I see what they are doing, I am constantly reminded of more questions that I need to be asking to get them to notice more things and solve more problems. The questions get them to notice new stuff. I forbid myself from giving any answers or suggestions. No color wheel or color charts are visible in the room. It is such a great cat and mouse learning game. They learn how to experiment and figure out how to make every color. I enjoy their debates about brown and other more complex tints and shades (my questions use as much technical terminology as I can think of). They get smarter by solving problems than by getting answers from me. Sometimes I ask them to paint the background (negative spaces) first. I find that changing their habits of work really brings out greater awareness of overall composition. After painting the objects, they may go back and modify the background in respon
se to what has happened after the objects are added.
This web page shows a vegetable painting. Scroll down the page.
Other things about color are fun to learn using collage with colored papers to create a relationship composition. These are totally abstract with no recognizable subjects. Titles might be: The emotional stuff between my four best friends and me. How our family arrangement works. I assure them that I will not ask for personal verbal narratives of these.
Critique sessions can also become fun cat and mouse learning games. Possibly over half of learning is lost when we skip critique discussions. I want to remember to keep them positive, as analytical as possible, and use questions as the primary way to guide the discussion. We use critiques learn to read art. I find that preliminary writing on some questions gets students talking more confidently.
To assure ourselves that that standards are being fulfilled, students can be tested at end of the learning experiences unit while they are looking at an appropriate famous painting. They should be able to give some ideas about the color theory that they think that the artist used. To make the test easier, allow them to have their primary colors and neutrals with which to experiment as they answer the test questions about the famous painting. Using the technical terms in the test helps them understand that we need words to communicate meaning when we talk just like artist need to know about colors in order communicate when they paint.
"We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed." -- Maya Angelou