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 The Color Vowel® Chart and Color Vowel® Approach.

We take the ‘solutions’ part of our name seriously, with 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– or worse yet, misleading– to English learners and struggling readers.

With the Color Vowel Approach, ELTS provides teachers and learners with an accurate and accessible way to talk about how English behaves in speech and in writing.

ELTS provides a range of training services and exclusive products, including:

  • Training and professional development for K-12 schools, adult Education programs, universities, and other educational organizations. Clients include Pueblo City Schools (CO), DC Public Schools (DC), Worcester County Public Schools (MD), and Fairfax County Public Schools (VA).
  • Consulting and project work for federal, state, non-profit, and private organizations. Current clients include the U.S. Department of State’s Office of English Language Programs and the U.S. Peace Corps;
  • Color Vowel™ Chart products that support teacher development, learner success, and compelling language practice.
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 ELTS 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 / 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 / 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
February 15, 2018
A Colorful Approach to Spelling

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

February 14, 2018
Help Us Bring Color Vowel® Duo to the World!

Our Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign has launched, and we need your help to…

February 13, 2018
What Color Do You Hear?

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

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