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How to Teach the K Sound by Aptus Speech Therapy

Updated: May 11

Are you a speech language pathologist or a parent, who would like some speech therapy tips on how to teach the K sound? Look no further. In this blog post, we outline our top tips for eliciting this tricky sound. Note that most children typically master the /k/ sound by about 3.5 years of age.

Preparation Tips: How to Teach the /k/ Sound

Front vs. Back Concepts for Teaching the /k/ Sound

First, we want to help a child understand how the "k" sound is made. Before diving into saying the sound, we want to make sure they grasp the concepts of front and back, which can be a bit abstract. To do this, I use toys like farm animals, puppets, or teddy bears.

We start by talking about the front and back of the farm animals, like the pig, cow, and goat. Then, I ask the child to show me the front and back of these animals. Next, we move on to the teddy bears and puppets, and eventually to the child's own body. For instance, I ask, "Can you show me the front of your body? How about the back?"

Once they understand these concepts, we discuss the "k" sound. I explain that it's made at the back of our mouth—the back of our tongue goes up, while the tip stays down. If available, I use a mouth model or pictures to illustrate. I also point out that a common mistake is substituting the "k" sound with a "t" sound, which is made at the front of the mouth—our tongue tip goes up.

Auditory Discrimination: Hearing the Difference Between /k/ and /t/ Sounds in Speech Therapy

If a child is consistently substituting a /k/ with a /t/ and they also substitute a /g/ with a /d/, this is a phonological process or speech sound error pattern known as velar fronting. It is a good idea to check if they can hear the difference between these two sounds. This can be done by using minimal pairs pictures (words that differ by just one sound e.g. "tea"/ "key, "tar"/"car"). Hold up the two pictures and ask them to point to the word you say. Repeat this by saying the words in random order e.g. car, car, tar, tar, car. Make it fun by playing a sorting activity or using magnetic chips.

Another no-prep option is to play either the Feed the Tiger or Balloon Pop games in Minimal Pairs Arcade Lite, available to download from thr AppStore for free. Simply download the app, select the Fronting category and T/K.

If auditory discrimination is difficult for the child, they will need to work on this before practising saying the /k/ sound in words.

Effective Techniques for Eliciting the /k/ Sound in Children

Modelling the /k/ Sound: How Exaggerated Speech Helps with Pronunciation

I usually give the child an exaggerated model when I say the /k/ sound/. It get them to sit face to face with me and look at my mouth. I open my mouth quite wide and exaggerate the sound ... /k/, /k/, /k/.

Physical Cues: Using a Tongue Depressor or Teaspoon to Teach the /k/ Sound

Many children who substitute the /k/ sound with a /t/ sound need a little help keeping their tongue tip down. You can use a tongue depressor a teaspoon to push the tongue tip down at the front of the mouth. While holding the tongue tip down, have the child say the /k/ sound. Most kids who typically say /t/ for /k/ will produce an accurate /k/ when the tongue tip is pushed down. Spend some time practising the /k/ sound with the tongue depressor or teaspoon in place.

Fun Practice: The Cereal Trick for Teaching the /k/ Sound

Another way to help a child to keep their tongue tip down is to do the cereal trick. A cereal such as Honey Loops or Fruit Loops works well for this. Simply play a single cereal loop in the child's mouth behind their bottom teeth and prompt them to keep it there with the tip of their tongue. Then practise /k/, /k/, /k/. When they're done, they can eat the cereal.

Best Books for Practicing the /k/ Sound: A Speech Therapy Guide

Reading books that contain many words with the /k/ sound in initial, medial or final word position can give a child much more exposure to the sound. We have listed some of our favourites in our blog post: Best Books for Practicing the K Sound: A Speech Therapy Guide

Other Methods Commonly Used to Teach the K Sound:

How Lying Down Helps with /k/ Sound Production

Some children have diffiuclty getting the back of their tongue into the correct position. When a child lies down, their tongue typically falls into the back of their mouth which makes producing a /k/ easier.

These are just a few ideas and hopefully they will help teach the /k/ sound to your students or child. If you have any other tricks or tips for the /k/ sound, please comment below.



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