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Using Blue Canoe in the classroom


Wondering how to use Blue Canoe in your classroom? The resources below are videos and documents to give you tools to support your use of Blue Canoe with your learners. It’s a lot of information. Take it piece-by-piece to incorporate into your teaching.

Please see our frequently asked questions page for more information. Send us questions and ideas to partners@bluecanoelearning.com. Tell us how you’re using Blue Canoe so we can share with other ESL teachers.

Blue Canoe® and Color Vowel® teaching resources

PDF to download Video for how
to use
Ideas for adding Blue Canoe to your classroom
Color Vowel Chart 5th Edition (outline)
Color Vowel Organizer
Lessons in Blue Canoe
Vocabulary words available in Color It Out
Chant: Sorry I can’t go to class today
Blue Canoe & YOU: introductory learner video
YouTube channel with short videos for students
Blue Canoe Collaborative Dictation Activity
Student Instructions for downloading Blue Canoe
How to use the Blue Canoe Teacher’s Dashboard (Klipfolio)
Panel: Learn how teachers are using Blue Canoe in the classroom

Color Vowel Approach

Blue Canoe is built on the world-renowned Color Vowel Approach, a 20-year-old methodology based on brain science for language learning. Get to know Color Vowel.

Join the Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinics

Every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time we discuss a technique or tangible idea you can use immediately with your learners.

Open to all ESL teachers.

Register to receive meeting details.

Featured videos

How to set-up a Color Vowel classroom

17 minutes

How to use Color It Out in the classroom

21 minutes

How to use Sort It Out in the classroom

22 minutes

Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinics

Every Thursday at 7 p.m. U.S. Pacific time we gather as teachers to discuss a topic led by Karen Taylor, co-author of the Color Vowel Approach and head of education at Blue Canoe. Catch up on past sessions below.

Teacher’s Clinic

How do you “practice” speaking English?

December 4, 2020 / 39:15 minutes

How are you teaching your students to practice? Are they practicing correctly? That sounds odd, don’t they practice the way you showed them? Have you given them an explicit routine for practicing?

Watch to find out 
Karen Taylor’s 3-part routine for creating a habit of successful practice to learn the patterns of English:

  1. Listen to the recorded model with your hand
  2. Speak with the recorded model while using your hand
  3. Listen to the recorded model with your hand, then say it on your own

Karen reveals in this class that she uses her hand to record the recordings in Blue Canoe. Your students should use their hand along with her.

Teacher’s Clinic

1-2-3: Highlights from the Color Vowel® Community

November 12, 2020 / 43:40 minutes

Karen Taylor shares useful tips and innovations recently posted by members of My Color Vowel® Community on Facebook. As Karen says in this video, it doesn’t need to be expensive to teach with Color Vowel, we can be “scrappy and serviceable.”

Teaching activities and tools shared in this video:

  • [Focus vowel]/not [focus vowel] activity
  • CV discovery activity
  • CV Organizer and ways to organize words by Color
  • Everyday objects sorted by Color
  • How to use image cards
  • Create a maze of words or images – this was a particularly big hit!

To join the vibrant and fun My Color Vowel Community Facebook group of EL teachers, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/colorvowelcommunity to request to join.

To ensure everyone has at least a basic understanding of Color Vowel, you must be Color Vowel-certified or own the Color Vowel book (available at https://colorvowel.com/shop/).

The Color Vowel Shop is also where you can buy the Color Vowel image cards.

Teacher’s Clinic

The power of modeling effectively

November 5, 2020 / 51:52 minutes

How effective is modeling when we train English pronunciation?

How often are we modeling in ways that are ineffective?

We know modeling using listen-and-repeat is ineffective. Watch Karen Taylor share how she models for non-native English speakers to help them say English sounds.

Teacher’s Clinic

Give chants a chance! Keeping your lessons fun and brain-based

October 29, 2020 / 32:06 minutes

Chanting is a great technique for teaching the rhythm of English. No, we aren’t suggesting that you move to a remote monastery to teach English. 🙂

The Color Vowel® Approach engages the part of your brain that processes music (as well as color, images and movement). Creating a rhythm from everyday phrases is easy and highly effective for learners to hear the rhythm of English.

Teacher’s Clinic

3 Easy Ways to Introduce Color Vowel

October 15, 2020 / 35:46 minutes

Where do you begin with a student when you’re introducing them to Color Vowel®? Do you use the Color Vowel chart? Do you start with practical vocabulary?

Watch Karen Taylor 
for her suggestions about introducing Color Vowel to students who are new to the concept.

Teacher’s Clinic

Dictation and pronunciation:  An unlikely, but dynamic, duo

October 1, 2020 / 34:37 minutes

Say the word ‘dictation,’ and you may recall that spelling-focused activity of childhood. Turned on its end, though, collaborative dictation draws learners together to reconstruct what they heard, and opportunities for pronunciation awareness and practice abound. 

Watch Karen Taylor for how to use this powerful activity and how Blue Canoe is there to support.

Here are the resources that Karen mentions in this session.

Teacher’s Clinic

Pronunciation mirroring activities: A brain-based boost for every classroom!

September 24, 2020 / 37:50 minutes

Are you missing the magic of choral repetition while teaching online? Mirroring is an effective alternative that will get your students doing pronunciation through rich practice.

Watch Karen for an introduction to mirroring and ways to include it in your online classroom.

Teacher’s Clinic

To schwa, or not to schwa?

September 10, 2020 / 30:42 minutes

Color Vowel easily addresses the stressed vowels, but there are more unstressed vowels that are used in English to communicate.

Watch Karen talked about unstressed vowels and her answer to the question “To schwa or not to schwa?”

Teacher’s Clinic

Beyond R: Consonants that control vowels

September 3, 2020 / 27:52 minutes

Watch Laura McIndoo demonstrate how to install the Blue Canoe Dictionary browser extension. Then, she’ll put it into action showing you why it’s exciting for your students.

Teacher’s Clinic

Beyond R: Consonants that control vowels

August 27, 2020 / 40:22 minutes

Flooding is the repetition of a sound multiple times in a row to help retrain our brain to accurately hear it. We use flooding in a number of activities in Blue Canoe® to help improve pronunciation.

Watch Karen Taylor talk about ways to quickly create flooding activities with your students. Get them involved!

Teacher’s Clinic

Beyond R: Consonants that control vowels

August 13, 2020 / 48 minutes

Do the words ‘man’ and ‘map’ feature different vowel sounds? Do ‘pin’ and ‘pen’ sound the same to you? What’s the difference between the vowel in ‘goat’ and the vowel in ‘goal’?

Watch Karen Taylor for an exploration of consonants that control the vowels that precede them.

Teacher’s Clinic

R/L Feedback: What Blue Canoe is Really Telling You

August 6, 2020 / 40 minutes

R and L are very common sounds in English. They are also two of the trickiest sounds to make for many  non-native English speakers. Those sounds don’t exist in many languages.

Watch Karen Taylor explore what R and L have in common, how they’re different, and how Blue Canoe® provides corrective feedback on each of these interesting sounds.

Teacher’s Clinic

The Color Vowel Walkabout

July 31, 2020 / 35 minutes

Resources used in this video:

  • Go to Flipgrid.com for a great free platform for sharing with your students, and them with you.
  • Watch the Friday@Five session about how to use Flipgrid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue8am9SWTCA
  • For more examples of walkabouts to share them with your students to inspire them to make their own, go to https://flipgrid.com/+cvwalkabouts.
Teacher’s Clinic

Ready-to-Use Pronunciation Examples

July 9, 2020 / 40 minutes

Having ready-to-use pronunciation examples on hand can really boost our ability to answer students’ questions efficiently.

In this Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinic, Karen shows you a few of her favorite examples for addressing word and focus stress, vowel quality, invisible sounds, and spelling confusion. It will inspire your own examples!

Teacher’s Clinic

The Power of Discovery

July 2, 2020 / 46 minutes

What do you do in your classes to prevent from doing all of the talking?

In this Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinic, Karen shows you some powerful pronunciation activities to help your students discover the content you’re teaching. And the group discusses how to adapt ideas for teaching online.

Teacher’s Clinic

Using Blue Canoe in Zoom

June 25, 2020 / 47 minutes

In this Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinic, Karen shows you how to use Blue Canoe in a Zoom meeting. As we settle into online learning, here are ways to weave Blue Canoe into your teaching moments. For example, Blue Canoe Lessons creates a common sentence you can use to teach and allow them to practice in front of you for instruction.

Pro tip
: you can prep for class and sessions using the Lessons in Blue Canoe sheet that lists all of the sentences in Blue Canoe.

Teacher’s Clinic

How to Use Chants to Teach Spoken English?

June 11, 2020 / 33 minutes

Chants are a form of music. So is spoken English given the rhythm of it. 

In this Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinic, Karen shows you how to use chants to understand the movement of the jaw and the rhythm in each sentence. It’s easy to construct your own chant. Watch how.

Pro tip: use the sentences in Lessons in Blue Canoe to create chants that tie back to their Blue Canoe practice time.

Teacher’s Clinic

Slow Talker vs Fast Talkers: Which are you?

June 5, 2020 / 35 minutes

Do any of your learners speak quickly? There are many reasons people speak quickly: nervous, high expectations, or they’re a fast-moving person in general. Now, are they speaking quickly, or are they using long thought groups?

Watch this week’s Blue Canoe Teacher’s Clinic for the discussion and tips for how to help your learners be better understood.

Teacher’s Clinic

Accent Story

May 28, 2020 / 36 minutes

There are many different accents in English pronunciation depending on where you from. Each accent has its own story which we can recognize through their action when they are speaking and the movement of their lips. Based on the accent that was spoken, it will lead the word to a different Color Vowels.

Watch this Blue Canoe Clinic to see Karen, her special guest, master linguist Dr. Robin Barr, and teachers discuss this and practice to pronounce each word in different accent using different Color Vowels.

Teacher’s Clinic

3 Tips for Using Blue Canoe During an Online Class

May 11, 2020 / 33 minutes
Teacher’s Clinic

Which matters more: stress or Color?

May 7, 2020 / 33 minutes

Which is more important in spoken English, stress or Color? There are many English words that sound similar to taboo words. If you mispronounce these words, it can become an uncomfortable conversation. How can we avoid this from happening?

Watch this Blue Canoe Clinic to see Karen and her special guest, master linguist Dr. Robin Barr, discuss this and other ideas to help learners avoid these situations.

Teacher’s Clinic

Moving vowels

April 30, 2020 / 37:56 mins

Have you tried having your students put their hands on either side of their neck? Why? Feel the vowel. You can feel the flex of the neck muscle when saying moving vowels, like GREEN TEA, GRAY DAY, ROSE BOAT, and others.

Watch this Blue Canoe Clinic to see Karen and her special guest, master linguist Dr. Robin Barr, discuss this and other ideas to help learners say moving vowels.

Teacher’s Clinic

Pronouncing the 3 most common auxiliary words

April 23, 2020 / 28:46 mins

“Woulda, coulda, shoulda” Modals are challenging to teach. Yet, they are some of our most frequently used words.

Watch this Blue Canoe clinic to see Karen and her special guest, Dr. Robin Barr, discuss the modals would, should, could and how to teach them.
Teacher’s Clinic

The secrets to allophones

April 16, 2020 / 41 minutes

In this video Karen explains allophones and how to teach them:

  • use a sheet of paper to demonstrate aspirated vs. unaspirated allophones
  • guide learners through vowels with CV yoga
  • feel your throat to help to feel voiced vs. unvoiced allophones
Teacher’s Clinic

How to introduce Color Vowel to new students

April 9, 2020 / 33 minutes

There are a lot of ways to introduce Color Vowel. You’ll learn:

  • How to share the Chart
  • Options for setting the stage
  • Tactical tools for teaching the Chart
Color Vowel Clinic

How to mark-up words

April 2, 2020 / 36:37 mins

​​When a student comes to you with a question, sometimes the best approach is to answer that question and wait to hear whether they probe deeper.

Watch Karen Taylor share her ideas for answering a question when someone asks you about a single word. Try backbuilding and resyllabification.
Color Vowel Clinic

What does Color Vowel instruction look like in the classroom?

Mar 5, 2020 / 23 minutes

Learn from a classroom video taught by Laura McIndoo, a Color Vowel® master teacher how to:

  • use a rubber band to extract the stressed words in a sentence
  • create a chant with students
Color Vowel Clinic

The power of thought groups

Jan 30, 2020 / 25 minutes

In this video:

  1. We listen in thought groups.
  2. Thoughts group can vary in length.
  3. They’re a powerful strategy for being understood.
Color Vowel Clinic

Ending a Color Vowel Class in an energetic way

Jan 16, 2020 / 22 minutes

In this video:

  1. Why using Color Vowel® brainstorming works
  2. Using a fun activity with students, like Colorgories


Blue Canoe Lab Sessions

On the third Thursday of every month we host a Blue Canoe class for users of the app and those who want to learn using the Color Vowel Approach. Teachers join these sessions to watch how Karen teaches learners, and to jump in with their own tips.

Color Vowel Lab

How to “practice” speaking English

December 14, 2020 / 35:57 mins
Karen Taylor teaches how to practice speaking English – and creates a great illustration of how to bypass Broca’s area (the part of your brain that processes languages)!
As a special treat, the brilliant Dr. Robin Barr, Linguist in Residence, World Languages and Cultures at American University in Washington, D.C., summarizes what Karen taught and tells you about the part of our brain used for each lesson.
  1. “Listen until it’s annoying.” Meaning, listen until it doesn’t sound like speech any more. You can get the same effect by repeating a word over and over until it sounds unfamiliar — that is actually your brain switching from left hemisphere to right hemisphere processing, because you’ve tired out the synapses in Broca’s area.
  2. “Listen until you hear it as music or it sounds like a melody.” It’s the same shift to the right-brain as the first bullet.
  3. “Move your hand (or head or body) on the stressed syllables.” The cerebellum hears the rhythm. Notice the equal spacing of English stress.
  4. “Say just the vowels of the melody/ just the stressed syllables as you listen and move.” It reduces the cognitive load, and long (steady-state) vowels are also processed in the right hemisphere.
  5. “Sing the phrase and move in chorus with the recording.” Hurray for mirror neurons! This likely works in the motor area in the frontal lobe.
  6. “Focus on the vowels in the individual words.” This happens in the inferior parietal lobule on the left side – the part of the brain that does segmentation and analysis (and is the part of the brain that is not being used if you are dyslexic). It could also be happening in the right frontal lobe where phonological awareness grows.
  7. “Now listen and repeat with melody and movement.” This could be happening in the music area in the right hemisphere, especially if you continue in the same rhythm after the recording.
  8.  “Pull out the phrase in discourse whenever you need it.” “Substitute other words for part of the phrase.” This is Michael Lewis’s Lexical Approach, using chunks. This could be from Wernicke’s area in the left hemisphere, or Gestalt processing in the right hemisphere.
This is really a tour of the brain! And relatively effortless. This process should be automatic, creating fluency.
Color Vowel Lab

How to Identify Stress?

November 19, 2020 / 35:24 mins
You know English is a stressed-based language. That is how we create a rhythm when speaking English. It makes a HUGE difference in how well you are understood
Watch Karen Taylor, author of Color Vowel®, to learn tricks and tips about how to figure out which syllable in a word to stress and which word(s) in a sentence to stress.
Color Vowel Lab

Conquer tricky words with the “word mark-up”!

October 22, 2020 / 43:55 mins

What is a “word markup,” you ask? Learn how the mark-up of a word helps you figure out how to say it. What you’ll learn:

  • use a movement like stretching out your arm (we call it the “open hand” technique) to show where the stress is in a word or phrase
  • check where the stress is before trying to pronounce the word
  • speak slowly first, then at a normal speed – the Schwa sound has it’s place
Color Vowel Lab

Pepper, or paper? Sheep, or Ship? Master the vowels that give you trouble!

September 17, 2020 / 29:51 mins

Watch this Blue Canoe class with Karen Taylor to learn how Color Vowel Yoga can help overcome challenges with the vowel sounds of English.  It’s especially good for those who have hit a wall in their English pronunciation. And those who Blue Canoe keeps giving corrective feedback on vowels.

Color Vowel Lab

What Color Do You Hear?

August 20, 2020 / 28:53 mins

The Color Vowel Chart changes the way we experience language.

“A word is no longer a bunch of letters that string together sounds. Rather it is a sound event that has a feeling that comes from a vowel in the center of the stress.”

That’s the Color.

– Karen Taylor, award-winning edtech visionary

Karen uses a technique called “What Color do you hear?” to help create that experience.

Watch this Blue Canoe class with Karen Taylor and her special guest Dr. Robin Barr showing you tips on how to practice using the “What Color do you hear” technique.

Go to What Color Do You Hear? Facebook Group for more resources to practice and participate in “What Color Do You Hear?” activity.

Color Vowel Lab

Color Vowel Crosswords!

July 16, 2020 / 29:20 mins

Learning should be fun, and we had a lot of fun in Thursday’s Blue Canoe class. Master linguist Laura McIndoo walked the group through how to play Colorgories – brainstorming words in a Color Vowel to perform flooding. Then, Laura shared a website she uses to make Color Vowel crosswords. What? So much fun. Click on them from the Blue Canoe Facebook page to play yourself.

Watch this Blue Canoe class with Karen and her special guest Laura McIndoo showing you games you can use to help with English pronunciation.

Color Vowel Lab

Secondary Stress and Unstressed Syllables

June 18, 2020 / 41:29 mins

Where do you put the stress in long words (many syllables)? 🙂

Watch this Blue Canoe class with Karen and her special guests Laura McIndoo and Dr. Robin Barr discussing and practicing words that have secondary stress and unstressed syllables.

Color Vowel Lab


May 21, 2020 / 31:11 mins

AUBURN, ORANGE, and OLIVE are sound very similar. There is a reason they are in the same corner of the Color Vowel® Chart.

Color Vowel Lab

Using the “WHAT COLOR IS YOUR NAME?” Activity

Mar 19, 2020 / 26:49 mins

Karen demonstrates one of the core activities you can use could help students who are new to Color Vowel: “WHAT COLOR IS YOUR NAME?”

Knowing the difference between how to pronounce a name in a native language and in English can help students to locate stress and learn Color Vowel in a really personal way. It includes a video of Karen creating a teaching moment and the learner excelling with the concept.

Color Vowel Lab

Using Chants to Practice Stress

Feb 27, 2020 / 28:34 mins

In this session, Karen talked about the importance of pronunciation in a conversation, especially over the phone. You will lose the connection in your conversation when you don’t pronounce the word correctly, which will make an entire phrase become more like a single word.

Watch how chanting can help you practice identifying the stressed.

Color Vowel Clinic

How to Use Color It Out in the Classroom

Feb 13, 2020 / 21:21 mins

Color It Out creator Laura Mclndoo joined to share the many ways you can play Color It Out in the classroom. Students can improve their pronunciation by working in groups and having fun in a shared experience. 

BONUS: Great question from one attendee about turquoise being a PURPLE SHIRT word – not TURQUOISE TOY.

Color Vowel Clinic

How to Use Sort It Out in the Classroom

Feb 6, 2020 / 21:59 mins

Looking for a great way to end class on a high note? Sort It Out is easy with just a whiteboard and sticky notes, or a blank Powerpoint page. Students sort words by Color Vowel, then use flooding to correct themselves.

BONUS: Karen answers how to teach the difficult R-controlled sound.

Color Vowel Lab

What to do when you can’t use your open hand

Jan 23, 2020 / 29:20 mins

In this video:

  1. Learn how the open-hand technique gives us the perfect amount of time to place on a stressed syllable or word.
  2. Practice other kinesthetic ways to indicate stress in a more subtle way.