Fledglings: ideas for young learners

Who? Doing what? Where?

Colourful Semantics has all the answers. The method provides multilingual learners and monolingual children with a marvellous multi-modal memorisation tool. With guidance from an experienced EAL YL teaching colleague, the method was transplanted to a mainstream primary school and used in tandem with widgit software to support four and five-year-olds with their developing speaking and literacy skills. 


If you haven’t come across it before, Colourful Semantics, developed by Alison Bryan @alisoncolourfu1 ( a UK speech therapist) combines pictures and words, usually on flashcards. Nothing new there, but what’s special is that the words are categorised syntactically through colour-coding. So orange tells us ‘who?’ yellow- ‘doing what?’ green– what? and blue ‘where?’.

This time, the method was trialed during a small-group intervention. Controlled speaking practice consisted of drilling the phrase: ‘the tiger is eating in the zoo’, for example. It was created by the children selecting an ‘orange’ subject, ‘yellow’ verb and ‘blue’ adverbial phrase from similarly colour-coded trays.

Next, the creative bit: swapping the subject, verb or adverbial for a new idea. One phrase referenced the term’s picturebook: ‘the tiger is eating in the kitchen‘.

Following this, the software tool ‘Widget’ https://www.widgit.com/products/widgit-online/index.htm was used by the teacher to record the phrases for reading and later to hone visual motorskills with handwriting practice.

What was especially effective was that the learners were willing to take risks. The playful element of switching subjects, activities and places helped; the more absurd and silly the combination, the bigger the laughs. The pictorial element ensured that all could share the joke. And, without realising, learners were drilling the correct form. Interestingly, the children who gravitated towards and spent most time using the cards were those with speech, language and communication needs regardless of language background. Was this was down to the joy they got from creating their own sentences?

Why not give colourful semantics a try in your classroom and see for yourself?