Why ELTS

English Language Training Solutions (ELTS) is an educational training company dedicated to the effective teaching and learning of English with a visionary focus on phonological awareness as a foundation for vocabulary development, pronunciation, listening comprehension, and literacy. ELTS is the exclusive training provider for Color Vowel® Approach and publisher of the Color Vowel® Chart.

We take the “Solutions” part of our name seriously. ELTS co-founders Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson, have solved a problem that has underscored the teaching of English for literally centuries: namely, the gap that divides our spoken language from its written form.

The problem of learning English is multifaceted:

1. English is a stress-timed language, yet the complex phenomenon of stress is mostly hidden from conscious noticing. Without training, many teachers and students work fruitlessly on the surface features of pronunciation while missing or underestimating stress as the single most important feature of spoken English. ELTS delivers breakthrough phonological awareness training in every Color Vowel® workshop.

2. English is not a phonetically-written 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. The Color Vowel® Chart solves this problem by flipping the traditional phonics approach, starting instead with phonemic stress as the fundamental touchstone for learning English.

3. Conventional terminology used for teaching English is misleading: ‘long’ and ‘short’ vowels are vestigial terms that describe phonemic features of Middle English but which are mostly meaningless in the context of Modern English. The Color Vowel® Approach establishes an easily accessible yet linguistically accurate language for talking about the vowel sounds and behaviors of spoken English.

With our innovative tools and techniques, ELTS is changing the way people talk about English, empowering teachers and learners to fuel progress with language awareness found through the use of concrete, high-yield learning strategies.

Co-FOUNDER and DIRECTOR

Karen Taylor de Caballero

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. Karen is a musician and singer-songwriter whose album, Faith & Laundry, was inspired by her time living in Mexico.

Co-Founder and Training Director

Shirley Thompson

holds a Master of Arts in Linguistics with a concentration in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in History and African Studies from Kalamazoo College.

Shirley began her teaching career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bénin and Togo, West Africa, where she taught middle and high school students. Shirley taught for 25 years in the Department of English as a Foreign Language at the George Washington University, where she specialized in ESL writing and pronunciation instruction. She has also taught at the University of Maryland College Park, and co-taught Teaching Pronunciation at the American University in Washington DC. In 1994, Shirley served as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer at L’Université Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, Senegal, where she taught English and worked with colleagues to develop their English language curriculum. She founded the ESL program at All Souls Church in Washington DC. Shirley is co-author of the Color Vowel Chart. As our Master Trainer, she designs trainings and oversees our Training of Trainers program. Shirley enjoys painting with watercolors and acrylics.

rESIDENT Phonologist

Robin Barr

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!

Game Designer and MASTER Trainer

Laura McIndoo

is an ESL teacher at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With her talent in graphic design skills and a love of play, Laura partnered with Color Vowel Chart authors Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson in 2015 to create Color it out!, a spoken card game that supports English pronunciation and literacy while bringing people together. She is now collaborating 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 creates the ceramic art of Redbud Pottery.

ELTS Trainer

Liz Bigler

has been teaching ESL people for nearly 30 years and specializes in teaching Japanese speakers of English. Her independent business, Bigler ESL, is based in Atlanta and helps Japanese people of all ages and levels “be understood…the first time.”  She is also a teacher trainer and organizes retreats and conferences for teachers of English for adults.

With a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and ESL from Georgia State University, Liz has studied teaching pronunciation with a variety of approaches, but none have impressed and interested her the way the Color Vowel Approach has. She enjoys discovering different ways to implement and integrate the approach and finds more and more that it resonates with students of any level and background. She’s thrilled to be part of the movement to introduce teachers to this innovative method in the world of teaching.

MASTER Trainer / Specialist

Megan Calvert

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.

ELTS Trainer

Mariah Schuemann

earned her MA from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and her BA from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Mariah is a Faculty Lecturer at the University of Miami and currently serves on the board for Sunshine State TESOL. Schuemann has been working, both domestically and internationally, in higher education and TESOL since 2004.

Mariah’s involvement with the Color Vowel Chart began in 2015 when she attended an ELTS-sponsored Sound Awareness Retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and she has been teaching with the Chart ever since. Her professional interests and skills span intercultural communication, teaching academic reading and academic writing, curriculum development, and academic advising. With colleague Leslie Saghar Naghib, Mariah co-authors a blog dedicated to inspiring a love of reading within learners of English.

MASTER Trainer / Specialist

Rebecca Wilner

Rebecca Wilner

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.

What Our Clients Say About Us

See More Testimonials
“One of my favorite things about the Color Vowel Chart is the way that it visually brings attention to the differences among the English vowels--differences that students may not be able to hear. I also like how the Color Vowel Chart has allowed me to incorporate pronunciation into other aspects of my classes. While students are working together on any task, if I hear a major pronunciation problem I can say, "change your vowel from 'blue' to 'mustard' for that word," and the student is usually able to improve her pronunciation.”
A tool for improvement
Jody Gabler, ESL Teacher
“I can't thank you enough for an amazing experience [at the Color Vowel Basics workshop]. The Color Vowel Approach provides the strategy and structure I was looking for on behalf of my students. I can't wait to begin sharing it with them [next week]. The work you have done is truly remarkable. It's true that simplicity lies at the far side of complexity.”
Amazing experience
Amy Reavey, Literacy Volunteer, Elizabeth NJ
“I love using the Color Vowel Chart because it works! Student feedback on the system is so positive. I have students who tell me how helpful it has been not only for pronunciation, but also for spelling, specifically for students for whom the Roman alphabet is new. English spelling and pronunciation is challenging, and I am so thankful to have this resource!”
It works!
Vanessa S., ESL Teacher, Seattle WA
From the Blog
July 21, 2018
Summer Resolutions and My Color Vowel Life

Not long ago, I bought my planner for the 2018-19 school year…

February 15, 2018
A Colorful Approach to Spelling

Mention spelling to just about anyone, and they will likely bemoan the…

February 13, 2018
What Color Do You Hear?

The idea of ‘hearing’ a color — or coloring a sound, for…

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