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  • Putting Books to Work

Putting Books to Work: Peter H. Reynolds' SKY COLOR

by Kathy Prater
September 18, 2012
SKY COLOR (Candlewick, 2012)
Written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Pre-K through Grade 3


SKY COLOR describes the thought process of a child named Marisol when she is faced with a dilemma of painting the sky in a school mural. Marisol, as well as the people around her, considers herself to be a true artist. In the fashion of an artist, she wants everything to be just perfect in her works of art. She also encourages others to explore their artistic side as well.

Marisol is excited when her class is allowed to paint the mural in the school’s library. Everything is going well as the students work together to brainstorm, design, and draw out the concept of the mural. The trouble begins when Marisol cannot find the color of the sky that she feels is most accurate—blue. Over the next pages, Marisol’s thought process is modeled through her riding the bus home, thinking on the porch, dreaming, and waking up to a rainy day. She finds the true sky color and is able to finish her portion of the mural with great success.

This book will be great to introduce critical thinking and thinking outside the proverbial box. Students should be encouraged to think about the world beyond their comfort zone and consider other possibilities.

Cross-curricular connections: Science, Art, Math

Ideas for Classroom Use:

Color Mixing

The purpose of this activity is to review or teach the primary and secondary colors. Marisol was set on using blue for her sky color and could not figure out a way to get blue. Before reading the story, have students try mixing various colors of finger paint or tempera paint to see if they can create new colors. Encourage creative thinking of ways to mix colors and chart what blends result in different colors. Is there more than one blend of colors to make a certain color? Have students determine which colors could never be created by mixing other colors. Then show and discuss the colors wheel in reference to primary and secondary colors.

Read SKY COLOR to the students after the color mixing and discuss the colors Marisol mixed and created and see if any of her colors matched the student’s creations. Then, encourage them to use their newly created colors to create a picture. Have them dictate/write the description of their picture and why they chose the color to paint with. Encourage creative thinking and use of colors.

Tree Changes

The purpose of this activity is to foster creativity in looking at the world around the school/home and thinking beyond the present. As a group, read the story SKY COLOR. Ask students to focus on the things that are different than expected in the story. Discuss what was different than their expectations through the book. For instance, when I read this story to my classroom, they were fully expecting Marisol to have discovered a way to make the color blue for the sky. When I turned to the final page, they were all amazed.

Children should be able to pick up on this difference without much direction. Discuss the fact that items can appear different at different times of the day, such as the sky, and at different times of the year.

Have students brainstorm, as a group for young children or in small groups for older grades, a list of things that change their appearance. Encourage children to accept all answers even if they don’t agree with them. Discuss the lists and allow children to justify their thoughts. Fall, in most areas, is a perfect time to observe these changes quite easily in the color changes of a tree.

As a follow up project, have students create a drawing, story, or painting or a tree without using the traditional colors of brown and green. Have students dictate/write their reasoning for the colors they chose for their tree. Students can showcase their creations in an art gallery like Marisol did and collect feedback from other students.

Sky Graph

The purpose of this activity is to introduce/study changes in the sky, and introduce the concept of graphing to young students and review graphing with older students. Read SKY COLOR to the students and discuss the changes in the sky Marisol was looking at. These observations can be done over a series of days or weeks. Have students keep a log, journal, or chart of the sky color over an assigned amount of time. For younger students, this may be best done once each day during school time, and once each evening with parents over the course of a week. Have students record the color of the sky at each of those intervals.

As a group, in pairs, or individually, depending on the age of the students, transfer the observation information into graphs. Each student’s graph may be a bit different depending on the times they observed the sky. Determine with students if there is a color that is more prevalent than the others. What is sky color?

Create a definition as a class of what sky color is based on the observations and graphs made. Write a poem or short story with illustration of “sky color.” Each child should be encouraged to express their own thoughts as the sky looks different through each set of eyes. Dictate/Write the stories and display along with illustrations in an art gallery (bulletin board) display for other classes to see as well.

Additional Resources and Activities:

A Classroom Guide for Sky Color
This PDF guide contains activities suggested by Peter Reynolds for use with his book, SKY COLOR. The file has ideas for classroom use, as well as a little background information on how the book was created. The author has also included a couple printables for use with his activities.

Why Leaves Change Color
This website provides background information about why leaves change colors in the fall. The US Department of Agriculture details how weather affects trees, what creates the colors, the best places to see fall colors, and how the leaves help to enrich the soil after they fall. This is easy to read background information to accompany the “Tree Changes” project.

Catch a Rainbow
This website provides an easy to complete science project showing the process of color mixing. The materials for the project are easily accessible and inexpensive. The page gives the directions, ingredients list, a printable sheet for marking observations, and a link to an easy to read and follow color wheel. The color wheel is printable as well to serve as a guide for the color mixing project.

Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, Mississippi. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of 15 chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes that every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement.

WANT TO WRITE FOR ENGAGE? Send your name, the grade level(s) you teach, the title of book that you put to work, and a line or two about how you use it in your classroom to engage-membership@reading.org.


© 2012 Kathy Prater. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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