The Problem: Students can't see chemistry
I’ve been working with color memory techniques for seven years in the classroom and the question that I see come up over and over is, “What is color memory?" and "How do you use color effectively in your high school classroom?” I’m going to answer that question today.
When I got my first job out of college working as a lab tech I kept messing up the order of clear solvents that went into a process. I fixed my problem by color coding the labels on the solutions. Then, when I moved further into teaching and students would have a problem understanding a concept, I would use highlighters or color pencils to diagram concepts. I began to notice that I solved problems through color coding. I decided to further apply some of these techniques to my teaching, and it really helps students grasp concepts easier.
The short answer is that colors can affect the speed and retention of learning. For instance, if you give students a stack of index cards with half of the words in red and the other half in blue, they will remember more of the red words than blue words because we relate red with threats, focus, and danger so it makes those words seem subconsciously more important.
A study done by Food and Resource Economics Department of the University of Florida investigated how people looked at food labels. They concluded that a food product with a red label lead to a longer response time in decision making than when considering blue labels. Respondents also considered more attributes on red labels than on blue labels. Think about it, red means danger in most people's minds! Color affects willingness to pay estimates for certain attributes listed on food labels.
At the beginning of school I pass out a cation/anion periodic table that is printed in color or I have them color it. You can find this download in my welcome email or just click here. At this point, I show the students where the cations and anions are on the periodic table. We also usually go through alkali earth metals, halogens, etc. Sometimes a student will recognize on my periodic table that cations are blue and anions are yellow. After that, I have a variety of worksheets building on the concepts needed to write chemical formulas, like learning the charges of cations/anions through this worksheet or this worksheet. Then I move it into ionic and covalent bonding, by having them color metals gray, and nonmetals red.
I usually just send these coloring worksheets home with my students the day before we learn the concept so that they are primed and ready to go. I try not to use classroom time coloring, but use colors as a way to give students subtle clues.
Hi! I'm CoScine Creative. I have developed and run a tutoring center at a small college. I also teach some of their algebra and chemistry courses. And I will neither confirm nor deny pranking my students by pretending to be one.