The sound/colour chart helps the teacher to draw the students into a game of vocal gymnastics. The students are guided through a series of awareness raising exercises, through which they consciously retake control of their mouths. The students experiment with new sounds and muscular movements, like a gymnast finding the full potential of their muscles. The students rediscover their ability to learn new sounds, which every human developed in infancy while learning to speak their mother tongue. It lies dormant in all of us.
The colours on the sound-colour chart are identical to those on the Fidel and word charts. This present students simultaneously with the spelling and pronunciation of a word without the need for additional symbols, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet. Thus students can reconcile the spoken words with their sometimes confusing written forms. This leads to more accurate and confident speaking, reading and writing.
The sound-colour chart gives a direct link between sounds and colours, and in doing so, avoids the confusion caused by the irregular English spellings. A glance at the British English Fidel reveals the magnitude of the task that faces a student seeking to master written English. The 48 sounds of English are written using 26 letters that are combined to form over 500 distinct graphemes. To make matters worse, the irregularly-spelled words are also the most common ones. The effect of these irregular spellings on pronunciation is well known – students find it almost impossible to reconcile the spoken word with its written form. So when it comes to pronunciation, the sound-colour chart is a teacher’s best friend.
The original English sound-colour chart was developed for teaching native speakers how to read as a part of Gattegno’s Words in Color program, which addressed the problem of learning to read and write. The original arrangement of the rectangles reflect sequence of the introduction of spellings in that program, whereas the arrangement of the British English sound-color chart (pictured above) reflects the special features of the English sound system. Roslyn Young and Piers Messum, creators of the British English Silent Way charts, have each written articles explaining the arrangement.
Experimenting with the Sound/Color Chart for Pronunciation (Cherry, 2002)
Experimenting with the Silent Way Sound/Colour Charts (Young, 1999)