Welcome and thanks to my guest blogger, Trish! Today, she shares tips on teaching /k/ and /g/. Read for ideas on eliciting velar sounds in speech therapy.
I’m Speechie Trish, MS., Ed., CCC-SLP, bringing 30-plus years of experience to our shared passion for enhancing children’s communication skills. I’ve circled back to my love—providing speech therapy for young children. I also create resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and Boom Learning platforms to help fellow SLPs. Based in the Adirondacks, I offer practical insights for busy professionals, juggling my private practice, live/virtual training for educators, and outdoor pursuits.
If a child is making errors on the /k/, /g/ and /sh/ sounds and producing sounds like /t/, /d/ and /s/ consistently instead, this is called fronting. Speech therapy can benefit children who are exhibiting the phonological process of fronting after age 3 ½. For children who continue to exhibit fronting, you might hear: “o-tay” instead of “ok,” “I want the tea” instead of “I want the key,” “pet the dod” instead of “pet the dog,” or “Let’s do” instead of “let’s go.”
As children develop their speech sound skills when they begin talking, they make predictable error patterns (called phonological processes). As kids develop, these processes are expected to extinguish naturally. When children continue to exhibit fronting after age 3 ½, intervention may be required (Bowen, Caroline, 2011. Elimination of Phonological Processes in Typical Development).
I love working on /k/ and /g/ because once children get these sounds, their intelligibility increases dramatically. That’s not to say working on these sounds isn’t tough at first, but the work is worth it!
Velar Sound Production
HOW TO PRODUCE A /k/ SOUND:
The back of your tongue will touch your soft palate (velum), and the tip of your tongue will stay down. (If your tongue tip goes up, you will end up saying the /t/.) Then, release a burst of air.
HOW TO PRODUCE A /g/ SOUND:
Same as the /k/ only you turn your voice on! (If your tongue tip goes up, you will end up saying the /d/.)
I usually start with the /k/ sound; once kids get the /k/, it generally generalizes to the /g/. And we don’t have to work on it!
Velar Sound Tips
1) ELONGATE THE VELAR
Start with elongating the /k/ or /g/ sound (sounds a bit like you are clearing your throat). I call the /k/ sound the coughing sound and the /g/ sound is called the gulping sound in my speech sound cue cards resource. We are showing the child what a “back” or velar sound feels like as opposed to the sounds produced in the front of the mouth.
2) ADD A LOW VOWEL
Try to add a vowel to the /k/ or /g/ like the sound a crow makes “caw”. With the word “caw” the tongue doesn’t require much movement between /k/ and “aw” and the “aw” sound helps facilitate the child to keep their tongue tip down and mouth open.
If the /k/ or /g/ plus the vowel seems to be too difficult, try starting with the vowel. For example, “aaak”. The positioning between the “aaaa” and the “k” is similar. Both sounds require the tongue tip to position down and the back of the tongue raised.
3) GET AS MANY REPETITIONS AS YOU CAN
Whichever combination of vowel-consonant (aaa-k) or consonant-vowel (k-aw) works, try to get in as many repetitions as possible for correct motor movement. Use activities with crows, and crafts to elicit “caw” as many times as the child will allow. There are many activities with food you can use. Have the child say “aaak” for foods they think are yucky. Try my Velar Mini Books for practicing in speech therapy and at home!
4) ADD MORE VOWEL SOUNDS
After the child has these VC and CV combinations, try using different vowel sounds in combination with the /k/ and /g/. The vowel sounds that work best for children who have difficulty with the velar sounds are “low front and back” vowel sounds. These are vowels produced with the tongue at a level close to the bottom of the oral cavity and the jaw may be lowered. This position of the tongue assists the facilitation of the /k/ sound that is paired with it. The vowels that I find work best are “aaa” (as in back), “aw”(as in bought) and “ai” (as in bike). After the child is uses these vowels in combination with the /k/ sound, add different vowels like “uh” as in up and “E” as in “bet.”
5) USE REAL WORDS
When the child has some good /k/ sounds in combination with vowels, try moving to real words using those “low” vowels again. Words like “bike,” “back,” “kite,” and “caught.” These Velar Sound Mini Books work great for practicing real words, including nouns and verbs!
6) USE MINIMAL PAIRS
I usually use a minimal pairs approach for children who are using front sounds /t/ and /d/ for back sounds /k/ and /g/. A minimal pairs approach takes two similar words but have one-sound (or phoneme) difference. For example, “tape and cape,” “bite and bike,” “go and dough,” and “bud and bug.” This technique helps children understand the errors change the meaning of the words they are trying to produce.
More Velar Sound Tips to Try
1) PROVIDE A TACTILE CUE:
Even with the above facilitating contexts, the child cannot produce the /k/ sound, we may need to assist them with keeping their tongue down. I use a spoon and have the child open their mouth and place the spoon on the front-middle of the tongue and ask them to say the /k/ sound. Sometimes the child really pushes up on their tongue trying to get that tongue tip up! I also use a gloved finger, tongue depressor, popsicles, or lollipops to hold the tongue tip down which can work well for motivation. Visual Cues such as Speech Sound Cue cards work well for naming the sounds (the coughing sound or the gulping sound) and allow children to associate a hand cue and picture to the sound they are learning.
2) LET GRAVITY HELP
Have the child lie down flat on the floor face up and attempt production of the /k/ or /g/ sound. In this position, gravity will take the tongue to the back position, which can help in production.
3) KEEP THE TONGUE TIP DOWN
Can use cereal like Cheerios, or fruit loops and have the child hold the piece of cereal with their tongue tip against their front bottom teeth:
- This helps kids keep their tongue tip down
- The same cue is effective for /g/ by telling the student to “turn on” their voice
If the Child is Not Ready
Sometimes, I put the production of velars on the back burner and worked on other sounds because the child was not ready to work on these back sounds.
Do you have any tips for teaching velar sounds? Leave a comment!
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