Teaching Word Stress for Vocabulary Learning

September 22, 2012 by admin

The Color Vowel® Chart is designed with an eye for simplicity.

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” is the high front vowel /i/, as found in the words “tree” and “leaf”. Similarly, “blue” represents the high back 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 or review.)
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 “humid” in a text]
Teacher: “Humid” [modeling the word, with obvious stress on the first syllable]. So, what color is “humid”?
Learner: [who has already been introduced to the Color Vowel Chart] Um,…BLUE . So… “humid.”
Teacher: That’s right. “humid.”
Learner: Humid, blue, blue, humid… [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 syllable and noting “BLUE” above it.  (The image at right illustrates how the stressed syllables are underlined.)

Second, the teacher can add “humid” 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, raising their arms in observance of the stressed (“blue”) syllable.

In this classroom, students' new words are added to ColorVowel lists during each class. Whenever there are a few minutes available, the class picks one ColorVowel poster and practices saying all of the words aloud, thereby reinforcing learners' oral/aural command of each word.

In this 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 all of the words aloud, thereby reinforcing learners’ oral/aural command of each word.

Ultimately, knowing the stress and “color” (vowel quality) of a new word, along with knowing its part of speech, definition, connotations, and collocations, reinforces the learner’s overall knowledge of the word, while boosting their pronunciation confidence.

Visit our website for a free download of our Color Vowel® Word List worksheets (in the orange “new and notable” box” on our homepage.  For more classroom photos, including color-coded word lists like the one shown above, visit our Facebook page.

Copyright 2012.  This article may not be reproduced without the written permission of Karen Taylor or Shirley Thompson.  Please contact us if you wish to distribute this article in printed or electronic form.

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