Color, Symbol, Image Teaching Strategy | Facing History & Ourselves
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Teaching Strategy

Color, Symbol, Image

Invite students to nonverbally communicate something they have read or watched, using a color, a symbol, and an image.


At a Glance

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Teaching Strategy


English — US


  • Advisory
  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies




What Is the Color, Symbol, Image Strategy?

This strategy invites students to reflect on ideas in nonverbal ways and encourages them to think metaphorically. Students first focus on something they’ve just read and think about the most important theme, idea, or emotion that surfaced for them. Then they reflect on how they can communicate the essence of what they’ve read using a color, a symbol, and an image. Use this strategy to vary the ways you invite students to respond to ideas in order to appeal to the strengths of a variety of thinking and learning styles.

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Lesson Plans

How to Use the Color, Symbol, Image Strategy

You can base this activity on any document, image, video clip, or other resource that you think might prompt significant engagement, wonder, or emotion from your students. Once you have chosen the stimulus, give students time to read, watch, or observe. 1

  • 1Color, Symbol, Image is adapted from a thinking routine developed by educators at Harvard University’s Project Zero.

Prompt students this way:
Think about the major themes, ideas, or emotions in what you’ve just read, and select one big idea that you’d like to focus on. Then do the following:

  • Choose a color that you think best represents that idea.
  • Choose a symbol that you think best represents that idea.
  • Choose an image that you think best represents that idea.

You might opt to keep students’ responses private. You can also use the Gallery Walk teaching strategy to help students reflect on the patterns, similarities, and differences in how they are responding to the stimulus.

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