Color Vowel Chart

Click on a color to hear the vowel sound and the key words.

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Copyright K. Taylor & S. Thompson, 2009, 2012. All rights reserved. This above image may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without the express permission of the authors.  Address all inquiries using this form


How Does It Work?

The Color Vowel Chart represents the vowel sounds used in American English. The name of each color features the vowel sound it represents.

For example, "green" is the high front vowel /iy/, as found in the words "tree" and "leaf". Similarly, "blue" represents the high back vowel /uw/, 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.

Instead of having to write a phonetic symbol or refer to a key word that is difficult to remember, teachers and students can simply refer to the “color” of the vowel sound in question. Here’s an example taken from the classroom:

Student: How do you say this word? [pointing to the word “frighten” in a text]

Teacher: “Frighten” [saying the word, with obvious stress on the first syllable]. So, what color is “frighten”?

Student: [who has already been introduced to the Color Vowel Chart] Um,… white. So… “frighten.”

Teacher: That’s right. “Frighten.”

Student: Frighten, white, white, frighten… [returns to the learning activity]

Because the key words are all related (that is, they are all color words), the student and the teacher have an easy-to-remember reference word for each vowel sound—much easier than memorizing unrelated words or memorizing phonetic symbols.

This is especially convenient when the focus of the lesson is something other than pronunciation; during a reading lesson, for example, students often ask about the pronunciation of words. The Color Vowel Chart helps address students' pronunciation questions without detracting from the larger focus of the lesson.