This is an activity for primary classes based on an adaptation of the famous poem What is Pink? by Christina Rossetti.


  • Using poetry as a means to teach English
  • Using English as a means to appreciate poetry at primary level
  • Providing a model for children to create their own poems in English
  • Expanding general vocabulary


  • large sheet of paper, pink if possible
  • crayons of various colours
  • passport-size photos of the children and sticky tack (optional)
  • sheets of card (A3 or bigger) in different colours
  • ribbon or staples
  • glue

Original poem
By Christina Rossetti

What is Pink?

What is pink? a rose is pink
By the fountain's brink.
What is red? a poppy's red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? the sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro'.
What is white? a swan is white
Sailing in the light.
What is yellow? pears are yellow,
Rich and ripe and mellow.
What is green? the grass is green,
With small flowers between.
What is violet? clouds are violet
In the summer twilight.
What is orange? why, an orange,
Just an orange!

Adapted poem
Originally from the CIEP (Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques) website

What is red?

What is red? A rose is red.
What is blue? The sky is blue.
What is white? The snow is white.
What is yellow? The sun is yellow.
What is green? The grass is green.
What is orange? An orange is orange. Just an orange!

Before the first reading of the poem

  • You can use this simplified version or adapt it yourself.
  • Begin by brainstorming in groups objects they can think of in English that are red, blue… Each table could be allocated a colour.
  • As the groups feedback with objects they’ve thought of you could write them up onto a large sheet of paper, using crayons of the corresponding colours. If possible use pink paper so that words you write for 'white' with a white crayon will show up.
  • The children will no doubt point out that some of the objects can be two or more colours (red/green/yellow apples). If they don’t you can.

Reading the poem

  • Read it once introducing it as a poem about colours.
  • Just ask the children to listen and count the number of colours they hear.
  • Then before the second reading ask them to remember the objects they hear.
  • Then after the third reading ask them if they agree that only oranges are orange!
  • See in pairs how many objects they can think of that are orange.

Favourite colours

  • When everyone has decided on their favourite colour they must find four other people in the class with different favourite colours.
  • They must do this by mingling and saying 'What’s your favourite colour?’ ‘Mine’s ------.’
  • Once they have found three other people they stay together and form a poem group. Together they can create a poem using their four favourite colours.
  • If at the end you find you have an odd number of people or groups with two colours the same it doesn’t matter. They can add an extra colour to their poem (if five) or have two lines about the same colour.


  • You could create class poems using other adjectives such as shapes or sizes, e.g. 'What is square? A television is square.' or using 'who' instead of 'what', e.g. 'Who is happy? I'm happy. Who is tired? Kim is tired.'
  • Why not make a permanent wall chart at the end of the lesson using this poem and leave space for passport photos to be stuck onto the paper. Ask the children to all bring in photos of themselves the previous lesson and put some sticky tack onto the back of the photos.
  • Each lesson the children can take their photos and stick their them next to the appropriate question depending on how they’re feeling.

Follow up

  • For homework ask the children to collect five pictures from magazines of objects that are a certain colour. Make sure you allocate colours in class to avoid having twenty ‘blues’ and one ‘red’! They should also ask at home or people outside the class to find out the word in English for at least two of the objects.
  • In the next class, put students who were allocated the same colour in pairs or threes, depending on the number of pupils you have. Give each pair or three a sheet of card of that colour and ask them to stick their objects on to it.
  • Depending on the students, they can also write the word next to each object.
  • Demonstrate this first so that they know to leave enough room and to do one object at a time. If they don’t know the name of an object they first ask their group, then they can ask another group, then they can ask you.
  • Staple or bind the pages with ribbon to make a book and refer to it in future classes as the class colour dictionary.

This lesson plan is based on one that previously appeared on the French CIEP (Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques) website. 

Jo Bertrand

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