Tips and Tricks for Articulation: Letters /k/ and /g/ sounds.

Today I am here to offer some tips and tricks for teaching velar sounds: /k/ and /g/.  These two sounds go together because we use the velum to make them.  That thing that hangs down in the back of your mouth....that's the velum!  When children say /t/ and /d/ instead of /k/ and /g/, we call that "fronting": they are making the sound in the front of the mouth instead of in the back. This is something you can work on with your child at home (and in therapy with a qualified speech provider).  

There are several levels of teaching sounds: isolation (only the sound), at the word level (ex."cat"), in phrases (ex. "Black cat"), sentences ("I see a black cat."), and finally in conversation.  

This may take some time.  This is normal.  Try to be patient and don't put too much pressure on your kiddo.  

Isolation Level
One of the silliest and most fun ways to practice this is to lie on the floor with your child.  Your tongue naturally falls back when you lay on your back.  Now try saying "kkkk" or "gggg". Some kids can do the /k/ or /g/ sounds right away when you do this...some cannot. If they can't quite do it yet, don't worry.  Keep on chugging along.  

Tips and tricks: 1) First... show them and tell them how to pull their tongue to the back of the mouth.  You might point to your throat.  Another trick is to put an object or picture of an object that starts with "k" by your mouth while you model the sound.  This helps to draw attention to your mouth.    If they have a hard time, keep practicing, use a mirror, and be patient.  You could gently use a toothbrush to help them move their tongue back if needed...but oftentimes kids find this spot in the fun "laying on the floor" game. 2) Next...show them how to make the air come out.  We have our voice off for /k/ and on for /g/.  They can feel their throat to tell if their voice is on or off. Just before the word level comes syllables.  This is where you add in a vowel.  Examples: ko, ke, ka, ak, ick, eek, go, gee, gu, ga, ag, ug, ig.  

Word Level
Once we've got isolation and syllables down, we can move to practicing in words. Some kids do better starting at the beginning of the word, some do better with the middle or end of the word.  You can determine this by trying some words.  I often start with kids where they are successful (this may sound backwards...but saying sounds wrong can get frustrating, so kids are excited when they get them right).  In speech therapy, we call this "stimulability" (if a child is "stimulable" for a sound....they are saying it right! yay!).  

Beginning Words (initial position)
calf, carve, cough, key, cat, car, cap, cot, cut, corn, kids, cake, candy, king, cold, cow, cup, cape, K, couch
go, goose, golf, gate, gum, goop, give, goat, game, gift, gas, good, gold, girl, goof, guitar, goodbye, gummy, goal, gorgeous

Middle Words (medial position)
bookshelf, hockey, kicking, yucky, licking, popcorn, cooking, baking, biker, peeking, achy, cookie, sticky, hiking, ticking, taking, packing, backpack, taco, soccer
doggie, yoga, forget, buggy, bagger, bigger, luggage, piggy, foggy, bagel, snuggle, juggle, eagle, wiggle, giggle, tiger, yogurt, piggy, lifeguard, sugar, dragon

Ending Words (final position)
poke, sick stick, sick, pick, tick, puck, pick, peek, clock, tuck, yuck, muck, duck, buck, cook, snake, rake, lick, kick
log, dig, swing, bug, big, pig, mug, tug, dog, frog, bag, egg, leg, hug, long, plug, slug, jug, ring, jog

Once you figure out which of these positions is easiest, practice those words.  You can model the sounds for your child, emphasizing the parts with /k/ and /g/ in them...cheering for them if they get it right, but not scolding them if they get it wrong. 

Mommy Speech Therapy is a wonderful resource. She has lots of free materials, including these Free Worksheets

Once your child has mastered the word level (consistently getting 15-20 words correct at least 75% of the time), you can try some phrases/sentences.  

Phrase/Sentence Level
We can sometimes use the same sentence to practice lots of words: 

Example: I see a _____. (cat, car, bug, dog)

Or you can make up sentences for each word.  

Again, make your /k/ and /g/ sounds louder (we call this exaggerated modeling...bug), encourage your child, but don't scold.  Also, don't do this practice all day every day....just a few minutes here and there is fine.  We don't want kids to become sensitive about their speech. 

Conversation Level
This can be used from the start in modeling of your own /k/ and /g sounds in your conversation (for a few minutes here and there).  Once a child has consistently mastered sentences (75% or more correct), you can start providing gentle reminders in conversation.  "Don't forget your /k/ sound", "oops, I think you meant "cat"...right?"  Don't stress your child out....but remind them gently (some of the time).  

Stories: 
One of the best ways to model the /k/ and /g/ sounds is by reading stories.  You can read stories to your child that have a lot of /K, G/ sounds in them and exaggerate that sound for them while you read.  Here are some examples of books that have /k/ and /g/ in them frequently.  If your child is old enough to read, you can practice with them reading too!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault
Pete the Cat James Dean and Eric Lutwin
If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff 
How do you Hug a Porcupine by Laurie Isop
Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I have created several one-page printables that contain all of the target words for /g/ and /k/.  You can download them here

I've also created an adaptive book: Kiki Looks for Kitty.  It can be printed here and contains lots of embedded /K/ targets that Kiki the unicorn searches for.  There is also an e-version/Boom game version here.  Children can swipe the castles to find target words on an ipad, phone, computer, or other device. 

Here is a video of The Very Hungry Caterpillar read by Eric Carle.  (note, this was for "fun" and storytime...and he did not use exaggerated modeling in this video):


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