Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Color, Symbol, Image

K20 Center | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


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Color, Symbol, Image

This instructional strategy allows participants to explore a new concept without using written words or oral language.

Color, Symbol, Image


Color, Symbol, Image (CSI) is a strategy that allows students to explore a new concept creatively. After being introduced to a new concept, students choose a color, a symbol, and an image that represents this concept to them and then justify their thinking. This strategy can be used in a variety of ways to encourage metaphorical thinking and conceptual exploration of ideas as students connect new ideas to their prior knowledge.


  1. Introduce students to a new concept.

  2. Students jot down what they already know about the concept.

  3. Independently or in small groups, students then select a color, create a symbol, and draw an image that represents the concept and have them justify their choices.

  4. Once their colors, symbols, and images are complete, students can share their CSI boards with the rest of the class (optional).

Keeley, P. (2015). Science formative assessment: 50 more strategies for linking assessment, instruction, and learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, SAGE.