Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Phonics with Color Vowel®

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Event description
Teachers of emerging and low-literacy adult readers will explore practical ways to enhance phonics programs with Color Vowel strategies.

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THE PROBLEM: English Learners struggle with phonics.

In a phonics framework, letters are treated as the primary or basic units for learning to read. However, because English does not have a one-to-one correspondence of sound to symbol, phonics instruction in English requires the learner to 'sound out' all the possible pronunciations of a spelling until they happen to hear a word they recognize. This process crucially depends on the learner already possessing a well-developed oral vocabulary to which they can connect the words they are trying to decode.

English learners, with their limited English vocabularies, need intervention that boosts their oral/aural word recognition as they learn to make use of the English spelling patterns presented in a high-quality phonics program.

THE SOLUTION: Complement phonics with Color Vowel Approach (CVA) strategies.

The Color Vowel Approach starts with oral words and phonemes as primary. The spellings of those sounds are treated as inherently secondary, mirroring natural language development in which the alphabet, reading, and writing, stem from spoken language.

Workshop Description

Guided by Dr. Robin Barr, lead instructor at the Washington Literacy Center, participants will explore practical ways to enhance phonics programs with Color Vowel strategies.

  • Week 1: Why combine phonics with Color Vowel? Dr. Barr will guide participants through an experiment with stand-alone phonics as a means of identifying how Color Vowel serves as an essential complement to a good phonics program.
  • Week 2: Who needs phonics? Understanding learner variables and learning differences is of obvious importance when deciding on literacy interventions. We will examine factors affecting both adult ELs and younger learners and explore strategies for connecting literacy to the learner.
  • Week 3: How does a good phonics + Color Vowel curriculum work? Here, Dr. Barr will walk participants through spelling sequences typically found in a phonics program. Color Vowel will provide a structure for the 'sight words,'-- the words that fall outside the parameters of the earliest phonics sequences.
  • Week 4: How does it all fit together? Participants will present their literacy projects as a path toward implementing feasible and effective literacy supports both online and in the face to face classroom.

This Level 2 workshop is open to Level 1 certified teachers. It is highly recommended that participants have completed the Level 2 Spelling Exploration workshop in advance of this workshop.

Workshop Dates

  • Friday, July 9: 1-2:30 pm ET
  • Friday, July 16, 1-2:30 pm ET
  • Friday, July 23, 1-2:30 pm ET
  • Friday, July 30, 1-2:30 pm ET

All sessions occur online through Zoom, are recorded, and are posted in a private YouTube playlist for those who have to miss part or all of a session. Contact us at customersupport@colorvowel.com if you have questions.

Workshop Tasks

Following Weeks 1, 2 and 3 of the workshop, participants are assigned a small number of performance-based tasks that require no more than 1 hour per week. The workshop and all tasks are managed through our course platform.


Upon completion of this course, participants will receive a Level 2 Workshop Certificate reflecting 6 hours of instruction. This course fulfills one of multiple requirements of Level 2 certification.

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Organizer English Language Training Solutions

Organizer of Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Phonics with Color Vowel®

English Language Training Solutions (ELTS) is the training provider for the 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, enabling teachers and learners to fuel progress with language awareness found through the use of concrete, high-yield learning strategies. Welcome to the Color Vowel® Approach!

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