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Tools for the Classroom: The Color Vowel Chart​

For adult ESL learners, The Color Vowel Chart is a gold mine resource. As English teachers, we want to think that vowels are fairly straightforward. We’ve got 5 letters and 15 sounds (even though the number of sounds is debated by linguists). However, vowel sounds are not straightforward, and this chart is a really effective reference tool.

Find the chart here.

5 Reasons to use the Color Vowel Chart:

  1. Versatile with kids and adults: While even my director questioned if this was appropriate for adults, I found that adult students had no problem with the colors and corresponding words. They did not feel talked down to or belittled.

  2. Assigns a concrete descriptor to every sound: Even with Gilbert’s idea about a vowel that says its name and its “other” name, students can still get quite confused about their options. This chart displays all* the options (even r-colored sounds!)

  3. Cheap and accessible! This product costs $5 per chart. You can buy a few as a class set and off you go!

  4. The chart arranges sounds in the area they are produced in your mouth: Vowel sounds change as you move your mouth to a more closed or open position. This chart’s design helps your students create the right sounds by producing them from the correct area of the mouth and with the correct open or closed position. This is something that can be quite confusing, but the chart gives a clear presentation of source.

  5. The Color Vowel Chart has additional resources: On their website and YouTube there are copious resources for how to use this in the classroom. Need a kinesthetic activity? Try Color Vowel Yoga! Need a vocabulary activity? Have students find the stressed syllable of the target word and classify it by color. Better yet, give them the word on a card and make them race to the board putting it in the right color.

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