How to Elicit (Teach) the K & G Sounds {Part One: Elicitation Techniques}

Welcome to the next installment of the Eliciting Sounds Series. You can check out the other posts in this series HERE. now, let’s get started on the /k/ and /g/ sounds! (There are affiliate links in this post for your convenience)

How to Elicit the k&g sounds

MY Tips for Eliciting the K & G Sounds

Here are MY tips for eliciting the /k/ and /g/ sound that I personally have found effective:

  • Having the child lean his head back so the tongue slides back to the oral cavity. Sometimes having the child actually lay on his back is needed. 
  • For tricky kids who are fronting, I have found that using a Dum Dum or Mini Tootsie Pop to told the tongue tip down and THEN tell the child to make the sound, will allow for the back of the tongue to move up and make the /k/ or /g/ or a close approximation. I learned this trick in grad school and have used it many many times!
  • I always use gestural cues to cue children on which sounds we are working on. For the /k/ and /g/ I point to the throat. I will also lean my head back for an additional visual cue to get the tongue back and up.

Visual Aides

Just like for the /r/ sound, a fantastic 3 dimensional visual aide I like to use when teaching sounds is the Jumbo Mighty Mouth Hand Puppet from SuperDuperInc. I also have used play doh to make a tongue and mold it into the shape it needs to be in for a given sound (you see this on my Tips to Teach the /r/ Post)

Proprioceptive Elicitation Tools

You can use some different items to assist in providing a child with some tactile/proprioceptive feedback when teaching the /k/ and /g/. Here are a few examples!

  • Dum Dum Pops   or Tootsie Pop Mini  can be used to touch/rub areas of the mouth to teach placement and awareness and can be used to hold Mini Tootsie Pops  or Tootsie Pop Mini  can be used to touch/rub areas of the mouth to teach placement and awareness and can be used to hold Mini Tootsie Pops the tongue tip down in the front to prevent the /t/ and /d/ that are typically substituted for the /k/ and /g/.
  • Flavored Tongue Depressors can also be used in the same way as DumDums (but I find kids prefer the candy! Way more motivating!)

Books That Go Over Elicitation Techniques

  • Eliciting Sounds: Techniques and Strategies for Clinicians: I own the original OLD SCHOOL first addition of this book (ok, so I actually copied the book while in graduate school because I was broke but thought it was awesome…). I have heard great things about this book in general and it is on my “wish list.”

Your Fellow SLPs Weigh In: Their Tips

  • Lay down on your back. Gravity helps pull the tongue back. ~Jocelyn, New York
  • For most students I use a tongue depressor to guide placement of the tongue for /k/, explaining to the student that they need to keep their tongue tip down. For some I have even combined the instruction to put their head back or to make the “throat clearing” sound. Once I am able to elicit a good glottal I teach the student how to use the tongue depressor to elicit the sound independently. We then work on practicing with and without the tongue depressor until the student is able to produce a “good /k/”. For some students this takes quite a while as they need a lot of practice to shape their glottal production into an intelligible production of /k/, working on making sure that the sides of their tongue are on the bottoms of there top teeth. ~Christina, Michigan
  • Most effective tip – Use tongue blade to hold down tongue tip; others – have child put head back so that tongue naturally falls back, have child pretend to gargle or growl like a bear ~Paula, West Virginia
  • One method – talk about making a “surprise face” (mouth wide open, tongue tip down) and say “aahhhh”.  Then tell the child to keep tongue tip “right where it is” on the bottom teeth, and make the “cough sound” right here, (tapping my throat as a visual). ~Michele, Pennsalvania
  • I use a pediatric spoon or tongue depressor (or, in a pinch, cue the student to use his/her own finger) to hold down the front of the tongue while producing /g/ or /k/.  This gets their tongue in appropriate position — back up, front down.  We practice that a few times, then move to producing words while using the prop, so the child can get a feel for how the word should be produced.  This has been successful with my students with hearing impairment, as well! ~Anonymous
  • For both /k/ and /g/, I like to use a dum dum sucker. I will put the sucker right on the top of the tongue tip and then push the tongue all the way back so that the back of the tongue is touching the throat. I will have the student say k and g in isolation 5-10 times before I release. Then I will move to the word level and have him say the word a few times with the sucker in his mouth. The goal is to move away from the sucker and have him produce the k and g on his own in isolation before moving to words. ~Brea, Michigan
  • Tactile cues, like feeling the throat. Two fingers in the mouth stacked one on top of the other, keeps your mouth open and makes creating an error sound /t/or/d/ difficult, also easy to fade back to one finger in the mouth, then on the lip, then independently. ~SLP, Minnesota
  • For most of the young kiddos, I find it helpful to take away from too many “details” regarding phonemic awareness. For example, I work with the birth to three population and discussing “throat” “voice off” “coughing” all the good go-to’s for preschool and up is too complex for the really young ones. Therefore, I sneak it in via “Dino walk!” Walk like a Dino /k/, /k/, /k/…this is an exaggerated walk of course made partially stomping and “crashing” /k/ sound. The kids love it. You can also find an easy template for Dino feet and trace onto foam or simply laminate. Lay the “tracks” down and then let the kids /k/ /k/ /k/ along the way. As they move up to words, put pictures card along the path. ~Anonymous
  • I use a dum dum lollipop to.hold the tongue down,push it back, etc. The kids get it and any parents that come in understand and can do the same at.home.   I teach preschoolers so this is usually the older ones ~Lisa, Pennsylvania
  • I show them the tip of my tongue and ask them to touch the tip of their own tongues.  Then I tell them that we make /t/ and /d/ with the tips of our tongues. Then I show them the back of my tongue. I also use a mouth puppet called “Mighty Mouth” so they can see and touch the tip and back of the tongue. Then I show them how I can make the back of my tongue touch the top of my mouth and say, /k/ and /g/.  Then I let them try it out on “Mighty Mouth”.  After they do this a few times, I have them try it on their own tongues while looking in a hand held mirror. I’ve also had them fake cough and feel where their tongues touch when that happens and then try the sound at the same spot.  sometimes this works. Also, tipping their heads back while trying to get the back of the tongue up, to the roof of the mouth, works sometimes, too. ~Ann, Massachusetts
  • Pretend like you are going to swallow your tongue! (But please don’t: we’ll need that tongue for more talking!) Then try saying the sound you make, way back in your throat. Here, watch me. ~Suz, North Carolina
  • I find that targeting /g/ first can help elicit /k/ without direct instruction. ~Aby, Iowa
  • Open up the mouth BIG, sometimes hold the chin, demonstrate the movement with my hand, tongue depressers to hold tongue tip down. ~Anonymous
  • If a child is fronting their /k/ and /g/ sounds, I use a tongue depressor to hold the tongue tip down so that the back of the tongue moves up and makes contact with the soft palate (instead of the fronting moving up to make contact with the alveolar ridge).  I start at syllable level, then move on to CVC words (that do not contain: blends of the target sounds, the target sound in the position we are not practicing, and /t/ or /d/ sounds).  I slowly reduce the use of the tongue depressor, and try to let the child be as independent as possible using it.  Eventually, I just let the child hold the tongue depressor as a reminder.  This technique works well (at the word level) with kindergarten and first graders I’ve used it with.  It has been a little harder with the preschoolers I’ve worked with. Once the child becomes more proficient at /k/ or /g/ in initial and final positions, I move onto the medial position and multisyllabic words; then onto short phrases, sentences, etc. Some CVC words I like are: /k/ initial Cage, cup, comb, kiss, come; corn, king (although they have blends in other sounds, so it depends on the child); car (if the child has trouble with /r/ sounds I won’t use this word).  CV words I like are: key, cow /k/ final book, shake, bike, back, sick, knock, sock, hike; lick, look, rock, rake (if the child has trouble with /l/ or /r/ sounds I may leave these out). /g/ initial go (CV), gum, gas, game, ghost; goal (leave it out if the child has trouble with /l/) /g/ final egg (VC), hug, bag, mug, pig, big, bug, wig, jog; leg, log, rag, rug (leave out if child has hard time with /l/ or /r/ sounds). I use the cards available at mommyspeechtherapy.com as well as some I’ve made myself and I always try to reinforce with a game (like Chipper Chat by Super Duper) unless I’m doing a 5 minute artic in the hallway. ~Erica, Ohio
  • Having the child cough, or lay on floor for gravity to move tongue back for K.  For G have the child pretend they are drinking water. ~Becky, Nebraska
  • Coughing works for me. Cough out the word…cough + up = cup ~Anonymous
  • 1)  Work on eliciting final /g/ first.  That sound implies the /g/ in all other positions as well as the /k/ sound.  2)  Tip of tongue stays down while back of tongue jumps up to make the /k/ or /g/. 3)  The water drinking sound (imitate gulping water /g/, /g/, /g/) ~Anonymous
  • I have students lay down on the floor under a table on their backs.  We shine flashlights up at pictures that I have Velcroed (speling??) or taped underneath the table.  They are usually having so much fun they relax and forget about the sound at times and I have often gotten /k/ in a CV or VC syllable this way! I have had success shaping /k/ from /h/ as well.  The student says an extended /h/ and then coughs and at times an isolated /k/ will pop out. ~SLP, New Hampshire
  • My youngest kids like to touch their throat and k k k cough ~Suzanne, Texas
  • I use animals cut in half to demonstrate a visual concept of front and back.  Then we talk about front and back sounds we make, which has really been a great initial activity for the beginning of therapy.  I have also had success with having my students use their pointer finger as a ‘hook’ to hold their own tongue tip down while making the /k, g/ in isolation. ~Jenn, Florida
  • One thing I stumbled on in desperation that has worked surprisingly well is to have kids produce the sound with their mouths open WIDE. It is more difficult to produce /t/ and /d/ without some degree of lip closure, and easy to produce velar sounds. Also, if fronting does occur, it is very visible in front of a mirror with your mouth wide open! I do this at the word level or at the syllable level, pairing with vowels like /a/ so the mouth can stay open wide for the entire word/syllable. Sounds strange, maybe, but it has worked really well for me for some tricky velar fronters! ~Anonymous
  • 1.  Often K is more stimulable than G.  I don’t tell the child we are working on a speech sound; I just tell him we are making a sound.  “Do this!”  Then I make a long, loud KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK sound in the back of my throat with my mouth open and encourage imitation. 2.  If that doesn’t work I have the child watch my mouth and I make the same sound in short bursts.  I have my mouth open slightly so he can see I am not using the tip of my tongue; OR 3.  I have the child do an H sound in a loud, but voiceless, manner: HUH-HUH-HUHKKKKKK.  I attach that KKK to the end of the HUH.  I might tap behind the child’s jaw (TMJ) at the same time to provide some tactile cues. 4. If these don’t work I lie down on my back and have the child do the same so that the tongue wants to move back with gravity.  Repeat step 1. 5.  If the child is making T for K at this point I have the child press the tip of his tongue down while making that exaggerated, crunchy KKKKKKKK sound.  I am still not mentioning K if the child fronts.  Having his mouth open wide makes it harder to do a T if fronting’s an issue. 6.  I use a mirror OR have the child and I look at ourselves in the camera on the iPad at any point where I think it will help. 7.  I sometimes do bombardment, then discrimination, if the child is still not getting a decent K sound, but honestly, I usually get K with Step 1.  For discrimination I use the LinguiSystems Apraxia program manual cues and pictures for T and K. I make a K or T sound and point to the corresponding picture from LinguiSystems for T (ticking clock) and K (dinosaur crunching dry leaves).  Then I start having the child point to answers as I exaggerate the sounds, including an open mouth for K.  Mini milkchocolate M&Ms are often very motivating for close listening. 8.  I may work on K until it’s in all positions of single words 90% while independently naming pictures before starting G, because at that point it’s usually very easy for the child to do. ~Jennifer, Pennsylvania
  • Sometimes I try letting my kids try imitating me making noise as I drink juice.  The younger ones have trouble hearing the sound so that helps them hear that /g/  sound and if you try doing it without drinking they realize it is a /g/.  It doesn’t always work but I have had some success with it and the boys love the mess and noise so they don’t feel like it is ‘speech stuff’ ~Cee, North Carolina
  • I give them a toy camera and have them lie on their back in bed at night and make the /k/ sound of the camera clicking (old school!). Lie on their back and make a static noise which you can shorten and sharpen.  Once it is sounding like a /k/, I put my hand under their head and slowly bring them up while they keep making the sound.  When it stops being a k (or static) then we go back down and try and get a bit higher next time! Hum happy birthday using mmmmm and then nnnnn and then ng and I can usually get a quick /k/ afterwards! ~Anonymous
  • Keep mouth open as wide as possible and try ….gets tip of tongue out of the way.  If old enough, I have them gargle to get used to moving the velum…then “dry gargle”.  Usually I have the parents do this at home as part of teeth brushing time.  Then they can model a/k,g/  with a very wide mouth.  Wierd but works for many!! ~Kristie, Oklahoma
  • I use a lollipop as a tongue depressor to hold the child’s tongue down and tell him to make his “back”sound. ~Leslie, Texas
  • I have pushed a raisin onto the end of a straight pretzel to create a little “tool” for holding the tongue tip down and pushing gently back to help the child elevate the back of the tongue.  This has worked almost every time to elicit the sound.  Once the child has the feel for the movement needed, he/she can usually replicate it.  And they like eating the “tool”! ~Mary, Washington
  • I use dum-dum suckers to elicit the /k/ and /g/ sounds. They are small and fit right behind the bottom teeth and help hold the tongue tip down (and kids don’t mind them like they do tongue depressors). I hold the tongue tip down and have them say /k/. When they are able to do it in isolation, we move to “ke.” It usually only takes a few trials before they remember to keep tongue tip down. I like this much better than laying on their back or other “coughing” type because it doesn’t have the glottal fricative sound that coughing tends to produce. ~Mary, North Dakota
  • One thing I have found useful in eliciting /k/ and /g/ sounds is to hold down the tongue tip with a tongue depressor while the child practices the target sounds. Another “trick” is to have the child lie flat on his back while he makes the /k/ and /g/ sounds. This will help the child get a “feel” for the correct placement before beginning sounds in words. ~Leigh, Alabama
  • I use a tongue depressor on the tip of the tongue! ~CC from Oregon
  • -use a flavored tongue depressor to hold tongue tip down; if no flavored t.d., put a little sugar or pixie stick sugar on it -or use a flat lollipop, pretzel stick, candy cane, toothbrush, etc to hold tip down -have child use their own finger to hold tip down (lots of handwashing needing but gives them control of the situation) -gargle with water then try to “dry” gargle (guh, guh, guh) ~Liz, New York
  • Put a dum dum in the bottom of the mouth. It sort of pushes the tongue up and back. I’ve also heard lying on a slight decline (head down) works, but I haven’t personally had success with this. ~Anonymous
  • Tongue depressor… Have them say “kangaroo” ~Anonymous
  • Have child hold teeth open approx. 1 inch. Keeping teeth open instruct then to imitate your production of the /k/. ~Susan, Indiana
  • -Have the child lay on their back on the floor and look up at the ceiling. This position helps to naturally move their tongue in the back of their mouth. -Instead of using a tongue depressor to aid in correct tongue placement for k/g try using a lollipop (I like using Dum-Dum’s because they are cheap and small enough for little mouths). Most of my clients  will work extra hard to say their sound when they are reinforced with candy and it seems less invasive to my kiddos who are anxious about the doctor/anything going in their mouth. ~Olivia, Pennsylvania
  • I have used a toothette or even a dum dum lollipop to help keep the front of the tongue down when first targeting the /k/ or /g/ sound in isolation. ~Anonymous
  • -If you’re struggling just to elicit any back sounds you can use coughing (especially for /k/), growling (especially for /g/), or dry gargling (for /g/) ~Kelsey
  • After teaching auditory discrimination between t/k, I’ve used a tongue depressor and mirror and talked to the studen about how there are tippy sounds like /t/ and throaty sounds like /k/. I’ll have them stick out their tongue while looking in the mirror and touch the tip of their tongue. That’s where we say tippy sounds. They’ll imitate /t/. Then, I’ll touch a little further back (not too far!) and talk about how that part of the tongue makes the throaty sound and I’ll model /k/. I also put my hand on the back of their head and talk about that’s where their tongue goes. We’ll also swallow together and “feel” our tongue hit the “back of our head.” I’ve also had success with having a student either (1) tilt their head back on my hand while swallowing to feel their tongue fall back. They try the sound or (2) lay on the floor and try swallow/feel tongue fall back.David Hammer (a wonderfully amazing SLP with a ton of therapy ideas and information on childhood apraxia of speech) has named this sound the “throaty” sound. I have my students put their hands on their throat while saying their “throaty” sound. He’s come up with clever names for all the speech sounds. ~Anonymous
  • This is a tip for eliciting /k/ at the word level in the initial position.  Pairing /k/ with /h/ immediately following results in an easier transition to the vowel, without reverting back to sound in error (works well for fronting).  This also works with /f, s/ if stopping is involved. ~Kyle, Ohio
  • I start with /g/ in isolation as something about the voicing makes it clearer.  I am very careful not to call it the “g” sound because kids will automatically do /d/ for that.  I tell them we’re going to do exercises to make their tongue strong.  We do a couple of tongue touches so they get the idea of copying me.  Then I hold the tip of their tongue down with a tongue depressor and have them copy a /g/ sound. I make sure they are opening their mouths as wide as possible. ~Katie, Illinois
  • *Use a tongue depressor to hold the tongue tip down and slightly push it back. or *Start with /h/ to get the idea of a back sound.  Then move to “gargling.”  It sounds like a velar fricative.  This can be done with or without water and sounds really harsh on the voice but it’s just temporary.  Next, try to make the gargles shorter.  I’ve found that the shorter bursts get close to /k/ and you can praise the closest until success is achieved. ~Manda, Illinois
  • I have a student who is severly apraxic and I had tried everything under the moon to elicit the /k/ and /g/.  Both his first and last name started with /k/.  First I tried having him lay on the floor (I left my door open in case passer by wondered what was up!)  I then used a tongue depressor to help push his tongue back into the proper position.  He didn’t like this, so I had to come up with a different method.  I read about the nutella spot where you take a dab of nutella and place it behind the lower teeth and have them lick it off.  Do this for a week.  The next week tell them to put there tongue at the nutella spot and then have them make the /k/ sound.  We’ve been moderately successful with this technique.  His /k/ is still closer to a velar fricative.  He is so apraxic that he just cannon coordinate his tongue for proper closure.  I’m always searching the net for different ways that I haven’t thought of yet! ~Leanne, Iowa
  • Using a dumdum or tongue depressor to push front of tongue down / back of tongue up. Making glug glug sounds (as long as they’re not pharyngeal sounds). Lie on your back on the floor. Look up at the ceiling ~Daphne, Toronto

Links to other Tips and Tricks for K & G

Looking for more? Here are links to other posts on the subject of /k/ and /g/:

Check back tomorrow for Part Two, where I share some products, programs and resources for eliciting and treating the K & G! 

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Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.

About Katie

Katie is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and mama to three littles under the age of 5. She is passionate about educating others about speech and language development while inspiring and empowering parents and professionals with the knowledge and hope they need to help the children in their lives find their voices. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. this list is so helpful! thank you!

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  2. Thank you so much for doing this! I didn’t take the time to read through all the tips yet, but I most definitely will. This is going to be my new articulation resource bible!!
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  3. I was wondering if Michele who posted this comment “One method – talk about making a “surprise face” (mouth wide open, tongue tip down) and say “aahhhh”. Then tell the child to keep tongue tip “right where it is” on the bottom teeth, and make the “cough sound” right here, (tapping my throat as a visual). ~Michele, Pennsalvania” had any evidence based practice to support it. After working with a child for 5 weeks and having no luck her tip worked and I was hoping for some EBP to back it up :)

  4. Love this list- I have tried so many with a very committed fronter! Interestingly, he can produce velars, but only in a blend (kl, kr, gl, gr). I have tried minimal pairs, using colored blocks to represent the sounds and “taking away” the l or r, but have had no luck in shaping it out or eliciting just the velar. He is now in 2nd grade and we’ve been working on this (along with other issues- all other artic issues have resolved) since he was a kindergartener. Suggestions would be appreciated!!

  5. Hi-
    I am working with a 4 year old. His language is above average and he’s very smart. He demonstrates phonological processes. We first worked on /s/ blends and he got them immediately and carried them to conversation quicker than I would expect. Now, with fronting, I am having serious problems! I cannot, for the life of me, get a /k/ or a /g/. I’ve tried every single method listed on this site, and NOTHING! He’s starting to get frustrated. The problem is, I’m not sure which sounds to move to next, because the only sounds left in error are later developing sounds. I tried /L/, and he’s having trouble with that too. Any thoughts?

    • Melanie, what phonological approach are you using? Remember…in phonology it is NOT about developmental articulation norms…it’s about the processes. I like to use Cycles and highly recommend Hodson’s books. Regarding the velars…sometimes the child simply isn’t ready…you may need to just take a break on them.

      • I am using cycles. It was great for s-blends. His mom wants me to see him twice per week, but I feel like I am wasting my time because he is not stimulable for ANY more sounds.

        • What sounds does he have left?

          • The sounds he has left are /k/ and /g/, /l/, /r/, and all /l/ and /r/ blends.
            I finally got him to stop using /t/ for k…. now he is using a combination of a cough and /h/ sound… i think that is progress, right? I just have to learn to how to shape that into a good /k/.

          • It’s tough because k/g can be hard for some kids. Sounds like you are on the right track though!

  6. Thanks :)

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