After all, haven’t our students struggled enough with complex charts that make pronunciation seem like chemistry?How does it work? The name of each color features the vowel sound it represents. For example, GREEN TEA is the vowel /i/, as found in the words tree and leaf. Similarly, BLUE MOON represents the vowel /u/, as found in the words clue and soon. In this way, each color serves both as a key word and a visual cue for a specific vowel sound. (Visit our Interactive Color Vowel Chart for a quick introduction.)
Instead of having to write a phonetic symbol or refer to an artibrary key word, teachers and students can simply refer to the ‘color’ of the vowel sound in question. Here’s an example taken from the classroom:
Learner: How do you say this word? [pointing to the word ‘newspaper’ in a text]
Teacher: Newspaper. [modeling the word, with obvious stress on the first syllable].So, what color is ‘newspaper’?
Learner: [who has been introduced to the Color Vowel Chart] Um,…BLUE . So… “newspaper” [emphasizing the vowel sound in the first syllable]
Teacher: That’s right. ‘newspaper.’
Learner: Newspaper, blue, blue, newspaper… [returns to the learning activity]
At this point, learner and teacher can take simple steps to reinforce the newly visited word:
First, the learner can make a quick note of this new word in her notebook, underlining the stressed vowel letters (newspaper) and noting “BLUE” next to it.
Second, the teacher can add newspaper to a classroom vocabulary list that exclusively features BLUE words (as shown here). Later, teacher and learners can review their ever-growing list of BLUE words, opening their hand at each instance of the BLUE sound.
In this beginning ESL classroom, students’ new words are added to Color Vowel® lists during each class. Whenever there are a few minutes available, the class picks one Color Vowel poster and practices saying the words aloud, thereby reinforcing learners’ oral/aural command of each word.
Ultimately, knowing the stress and ‘color’ (vowel quality) of a new word reinforces the learner’s overall knowledge of the word, while boosting their pronunciation confidence.
The Color Vowel Chart benefits beginning learners the same way it benefits advanced learners. It’s simply a matter of identifying the vocabulary that your learners need most, then organizing those words with the Chart.
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