The power of Colourful Semantics – A language intervention

The power of Colourful Semantics – A language intervention

Claire Bergman
by Claire Bergman
Published on Feb 26, 2024
0 min read

How Colourful Semantics has a class wide impact

As we all know the ability to communicate is such an important skill, and recent research shows there are 1.9 million children who are having difficulties with their talking and understanding of words (Speech and Language UK, 2024). With waiting lists for intervention from a Speech and Language Therapist at a high, following the pandemic (RCSLT, 2023), it is imperative children are supported within the classroom to enable them to reach their full potential. One way in which this can be done is through the use of Colourful Semantics.

What is Colourful Semantics?

As the title suggests the Colourful Semantics approach uses colours to make the elements of sentences visual to use and understand; starting with the 4 main elements ‘who, doing what, what and where’ (nouns and verbs) then building up to add in adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, and other important elements of a sentence. It was created by Alison Bryon in 1997, to help children with their sentence structure, vocabulary and grammar; it was designed to support children with language difficulties, for example Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), however it is now used to support children with Speech, Language and Needs (SLCN) and those without.


There are many research papers showing the effectiveness of using colourful semantics in 1:1, group and whole class situations. Across the schools in which we work, staff have implemented a whole class approach to using colourful semantics and report it has made a significant impact on the language development of both the children with language difficulties and those without. They report once the elements and the links between the colours and the sentence elements have been taught, it has enabled the children to independently access the visuals (either from a ‘word wall’ in a KS2 classroom or from the use of ‘hot air balloons’ in a KS1 classroom), for example to then build their own sentences.

As a Speech and Language Therapist it has been great to observe the positive impact the intervention has made, and the ‘buzz’ created through schools when the children have made significant progress in an area they previously found difficult. One teacher reported, it has improved the confidence of the children within their class and children who previously did not want to contribute to class discussions, are now doing so through the support of the visuals they can use to enable their answers. Another reported, several children in the class spotted they were not using the full range of colours in their sentences and independently added these in to create more in-depth sentences. The biggest impact reported is the increase in ‘independence’ in the children’s ability to form grammatically and semantically correct sentences.

The impact is shown through the regular reviews carried out by myself and my colleagues when the assessment scores and more importantly the confidence increases “Miss, I’ve been using my colour words to help me”; and all this through using colours to make links….

I hope this has inspired you to consider use colourful semantics alongside your incredible teaching to empower more children to grow in ability and confidence with their expressive language development.

If you would like to learn more about colourful semantics please check out the latest MAST training.