The Purpose of Coloring Pages

A three year old just learning to color.
      The primary purpose of working with coloring pages is to aid teachers in “scaffolding.” Scaffolding is a method used to help students successfully learn very complicated processes or concepts. The teacher must “chunk” the information into smaller parts in order to teach it properly to a student who has never attempted to perform or conceive of a highly complicated set of actions or thought patterns such as painting a highly illusionistic image or sophisticated artwork. Scaffolding also includes the manipulating of information and literal objects in such as way as to compensate for another person's frailties or disabilities. Examples of these kinds of accommodations would be something like giving a pair of left-handed scissors to a left-handed child, or replacing a small crayon with a larger one so that a very young child may use it with greater ease. The dependent student then learns a set of actions or ideas that are easier before attempting to assimilate these smaller activities into one large action that is much more difficult. This is actually “how” all humans learn complicated behaviors. Although not every person is cognizant of these applications while they are taking place, a fine educator is.

Coloring pages are frequently used to teach young people:
  • How to make marks with crayons or writing tools
  • How to color in areas paper with a smooth application of paint or markers (eye-hand coordination)
  • How to discriminate between positive and negative space
  • How to cut out shapes with scissors (developing small motor skills)
Some special variations of coloring pages teach math skills, mapping skills, and basic comprehension:
  • Dot-to-dot teaches counting.
  • Paint-by-numbers or color-by-numbers teaches comprehension through number and symbol associations.
  • The coloring and illustrating of details within basic map shapes helps students to learn concepts in proportion, distance, and fractions.
Read more about variations for coloring pages: Color By Number Coloring Pages * Dot-to-Dot Worksheets * State Coloring Pages *
  
Teachers may also use coloring pages to reinforce lessons in writing and literacy:
  • Associating written content with a coloring activity will help students to remember complicated images or concepts expressed through words.
  • Associating reading content with a coloring activity will help students to remember complicated stories and the order of events.
  • Associating unfamiliar words or languages with coloring images reinforces meaning.
      Compare below the original definition for "scaffolding" to it's use in educational environments. In the terms original reference we read that scaffolding was and still is used to aid workers in the building of a structure or shelter. According to specialists in the field of education, scaffolding is a basic, necessary tool in the construction of meaning whether that be in art, science, religion, math, or literacy.
compared to . . . 

      Temporary dependence upon scaffolding tools such as coloring sheets, does not predetermine the student's dependency upon their use, nor does it imply that other creative processes can not or will not be used within the educational environment. As long as professional art educators are employed, additional scaffolding methods and tools will inevitably replace coloring sheets.
      There are many circumstances, however unfortunate, that dictate a child's exposure to art be limited. In cases such as these, parents and classroom teachers may introduce coloring sheets to a young and/or inexperienced student in order to achieve basic goals similar to those I have bullet pointed above.
      In the future, I will include lesson plans especially adapted for the use of coloring pages on this blog. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my resources visit, you may also visit Art Education Daily to read more articles and lesson plans about art education.

Read more about the importance of coloring activities:
Read more about performance-based learning:
Art Techniques for The Use of Crayons:

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