Last month at my Middle School outreach we did Speed Dating with teen fiction and a few juvenile fiction titles. This month we did a color coding activity. I got the idea from 6 Activities for Your Kids’ Writing Club | For Teens & Preteens. She suggests:
Red for action.
Green for dialogue
Yellow for internal thoughts.
Orange for description
Pink for emotion.I kept two of the books that the teens liked the best from our speed dating exercise and photocopied the first two pages of the first chapter of each book. I talked to the teacher to make sure the teens had crayons, markers or highlighters in the correct colors. I put the color coding rules up on the projector then I introduced plan for class. We talked about what each topic was; there were many question about how to tell what words were dialogue. Then I gave the teens 5-10 minutes to get into groups and color. I nearly always let the teens work in groups since I only visit class for 30 minutes. I can't answer all their questions in that short time so its handy when their classmates can help me out. I walked around the room and brought up issues with the class as they developed. The teens wanted to know could there be passages with two colors or sections with no color. I told the teens they couldn't have wrong answers as long as they explained their reasoning. One girl selection a sentence that was descriptive but she colored it pink because it made her sad. Once we had moved through the two pages from the first book we talked about whether knowing more about the book would make us want to read it. We talked about the kind of books we liked and if this book was something they would normally pick. Many teens were surprised that although they prefer action, the days' books were slow and sad but still compelling.
Next we did another book that had also been popular with the previous visit. Talking as we colored, the class noticed differences from the previous book. We debated if internal dialogue that was descriptive should be yellow or orange. There was definitely confusion about how to color sentences when the main character is relating a past conversation. Was this internal dialogue or regular? I didn't always know what to tell them. When most of the coloring was done we talked about other ways to find good books to read like talking to friends, using the internet or reading some of the middle of the book to see what was going on. With two books this activity took about thirty minutes. The coloring appealed to my class, especially since it is near the end of the school year and this visit felt a bit silly. I will definitely use this again with other school groups. It certainly was nice to not need to carry a truck load of books.I used The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff. You could use books your teens were familiar with, in my case only the teacher and myself had read the books we talked about.