English Language Training Solutions (ELTS) is an educational training and publishing company dedicated to the effective teaching and learning of English with a particular focus on vocabulary development, pronunciation, and literacy.
We take the ‘solutions’ part of our name seriously, developing a robust educational response to a problem that has underscored the teaching of English for literally centuries: namely, the gap that divides our spoken language from its written form.
It’s no small problem. Non-native English-speaking academics often struggle to deliver comprehensible lectures for the same reason many English-speaking children and adults struggle to read their own language: words like cough, tough, though and through look similar but all sound different, while words like through, new and true look different but rhyme nonetheless. Add to this a problem of terminology: teachers and educational materials often refer to ‘long’ and ‘short’ vowels, vestigial terms that describe phonemic features of Middle English but which are actually meaningless in the context of Modern English. With our innovative tools and techniques, ELTS gives teachers and learners a clear and accurate way to talk about the sound– and sounds– of English.
ELTS addresses the need for high-quality professional development in the area of phonological awareness for the purposes of teaching and learning spoken English, pronunciation, vocabulary development, basic literacy, and early reading. We provide a range of related services and products, including:
- Training and professional development for K-12 schools, with a special focus on English as a Second Language (ESL) and other reading
- Color Vowel™ Chart training, support, products and resources for teachers and teacher educators.
- Consulting and project work for federal, state, non-profit, and private organizations. Recent clients include the U.S. Department of State’s Office of English Language Programs, the U.S. Peace Corps, and Intercambio Uniting Communities, an innovative non-profit ESL school in Boulder, Colorado.
Karen and Shirley are co-authors of The Color Vowel™ Chart, a visual-kinesthetic tool that helps learners identify, perceive and acquire the sounds of English. We work closely with Dr. Robin Barr, Linguist in Residence at American University, to continually ensure that the Color Vowel™ Chart is both linguistically accurate and accessible to learners of all ages and educational levels.
Karen Taylor, Co-Founder and Director, holds a Master of Arts in TESOL from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Georgetown University. Her teaching career started in Windhoek, Namibia, where she lived and worked for two years. Upon returning to the U.S., Karen joined the ESL faculty at University of Maryland; it is here, in 1999, that she created the original Color Vowel Chart. Karen served as Practitioner in Residence at American University for nine years, teaching graduate TESOL courses. She served as president of the Washington Area TESOL association from 2002-2005 and has been a regular presenter at TESOL conferences since 2001. In 2006, she served as a Fulbright-García Robles Senior Specialist in Mexico, where she designed and implemented a university-wide EFL program for the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán. With the birth of her twins in, Karen’s interest in pronunciation shifted toward L1/L2 phonological acquisition and phonemic awareness for early reading and L2 literacy. Working with her ELTS colleagues, Karen has developed innovative research-based approaches to teaching L1/L2 vocabulary development, spoken fluency, and, most recently, spelling. Karen’s current projects include the development of game-based pronunciation learning apps with Blue Canoe Learning. She is a musician and singer-songwriter whose album, Faith & Laundry, was inspired by her time in Mexico.
Shirley Thompson, Co-Founder and Training Director, holds a Master of Arts in Linguistics from University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Kalamazoo College. A former Fulbright fellow (Senegal) and two-time Peace Corps Volunteer (Benin and Togo), Shirley taught for 25 years at George Washington University, where she specialized in ESL writing and pronunciation instruction. Shirley is co-author of the Color Vowel Chart. As our Master Trainer, she designs our trainings and oversees our Training of Trainers program. Shirley is an accomplished painter whose watercolors and acrylics can regularly be seen in galleries and shows across the Washington DC area.
Robin Barr, Lead Phonologist, holds a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard, an MA in linguistics from Harvard, and a BA in Linguistics from Yale. Dr. Barr is Linguist In Residence at American University, where she teaches for the TESOL graduate program. She also teaches dyslexic adult learners at the Washington Literacy Council and low-literacy ESL students at the Washington English Center. As our Lead Phonologist, Robin advises ELTS during design phases of the Color Vowel Chart, guides our rating team at Blue Canoe Learning, and provides training around topics ranging from teaching pronunciation and L1/L2 dyslexia intervention to brain-based language instruction and phonological awareness training. Robin is an avid amateur oboist who plays regularly with area ensembles and orchestras. Read this article, “A Day in the Life of a Linguist,” and enjoy seeing how all these pieces fit together!
Laura McIndoo, Designer and ELTS Trainer, is an ESL teacher at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With her mad graphic design skills and a love of play, Laura partnered with Color Vowel Chart authors Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson to create Color it out!, a spoken card game that supports English pronunciation and literacy while bringing people together. She is now working closely with Blue Canoe Learning to develop a mobile app version of the game. Laura has extensive experience living and teaching ESL in Greece and Poland. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) from St. Michael’s College and a BA in Spanish and Music from University of Vermont. In her spare time, Laura enjoys creating the latest works of Redbud Pottery.
Megan Calvert, ELTS Trainer, teaches English for Specific Purposes for the MI-BEST program at Montgomery College in Maryland. Megan, a State Department Specialist, has served as an English Language Fellow in Turkey, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, and as a Fulbright-sponsored teaching assistant in France. In addition to pronunciation and oral language instruction, her interests include Task-Based Language Teaching, technology integration, refugee concerns, and social responsibility in language teaching. She holds an undergraduate degree in Modern Languages and Linguistics from University of Maryland and a master’s degree in TESOL from American University. Megan has been teaching and training teachers with the Color Vowel Approach since 2008.
Rebecca Wilner, ELTS Trainer, holds an MA in TESOL from American University, where she first learned about the Color Vowel Chart. A former Senior English Language Fellow, Rebecca has used the Chart in myriad ways with students, teachers, and school administrators in Panama, Costa Rica and in the greater Washington DC area. She is currently an Educator in Residence at American University, where she trains teachers in the Panamá Bilingüe program. In her free time, Rebecca swims on a master’s swim team and plays the violin and viola.