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"What Constitutes Your Colour Universe?" A Look into Individual Perspectives

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki is a gorgeous picture book depicting a young girl’s musings about the colours that surround her in her daily life and that occupy her imagination. The gentle language and pace of the book captures the poetic nature of her reflections. Her contemplation carries her through seasons and moods and into fantastic realms in her mind.

I think this book is important because it serves as a reminder that every child’s perspective is unique and beautiful. Behind a child’s boundless energy is a curious mind piecing the world together, asking questions and developing a philosophy. I think it’s important that we cherish and create space for this type of quiet and open-ended inquiry in the classroom.

In a class, I would love to use this book as a model for a deep reflection poetry and art project for the 3rd grade. After reading the book, I would begin a daily outdoor mindfulness and reflection exercise following recess. I will call this exercise:

"What constitutes your colour universe?"

Although I recognize that the wording of the prompt is not the most child-friendly, I would rather take the time to define the words and explain it before we begin. This prompt and the mindful space that I aim to foster is inspired by one of Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations scores. Score XXI says “What constitutes your musical universe?” My students will already have an understanding of Sonic Meditations because I plan to use the scores as community-building activities when the class needs a change in energy. (I particularly look forward to trying out score V: “...walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears”) I think that there will be a particular benefit to switching up the language of a score to apply to a different sensory exploration.

The meditation will follow this sequence. I have not yet had the chance to practice this in the classroom, so I am giving a wide range of timing. I'm sure this will be adapted for every class:

  1. Students will sit in a circle and engage in 5-10 silent deep breaths.

  2. Students will walk separately and silently around the playground for 2 minutes, paying special attention to the colours they see and the sensations they feel. Students should feel free to interact closely and be tactile with their surroundings (e.g. tracing in the dirt, feeling the texture of the bricks)

  3. The teacher will invite students to think about a particular colour as they continue to walk around for an additional 3 minutes.

  4. Students will silently reconvene in the circle and will each be given a clipboard and pen with their own small notebook. Each page will be dedicated to one colour.

  5. Before beginning to write, student will take another 5 deep breaths.

  6. Teacher will prompt students to write or draw the associations that they made with the color of the day that day. Students will have 1o minutes of silent free write in their notebooks. Students will be encouraged to think beyond their initial and automatic associations with the colours that surround them, and come up with thoughtful and unique associations.

  7. In the final 2 minutes, teacher will offer students the opportunity to contribute to any other pages in the book in case they had ideas that they wanted to retain.

After two weeks of daily repeated meditations, when the notebooks have been filled, students will create a poem in the style of They Say Blue. The final presentation of their work will be accompanied by an art piece that explores the same colours discussed in the poem.

Links to Ontario Curriculum (Grade 3)


1. generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience

1.2 generate ideas about a potential topic, using a variety of strategies and resources

2. draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informational, literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience

2.1 write short texts using a variety of forms

2.2 establish a personal voice in their writ- ing, with a focus on using concrete words and images to convey their atti- tude or feeling towards the subject or audience

2.3 use words and phrases that will help convey their meaning as specifically as possible

4. reflect on and identify their strengths as writers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful at different stages in the writing process.

4.1 identify what strategies they found most helpful before, during, and after writing and what steps they can take to improve as writers

I do believe that poetry is art, and I find it odd that there is no element of creative writing in the arts curriculum. But I digress. These are the specific expectations that would be addressed in the visual arts strand of the arts curriculum:


D1.1 create two- and three-dimensional works of art that express personal feelings and ideas inspired by the environment or that have the community as their subject

D1.4 use a variety of materials, tools, and techniques to respond to design challenges


Oliveros , P. (n.d.). Sonic Meditations . Retrieved November 16, 2021, from

Tamaki, J. (2018). They Say Blue. Groundwood Books.

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