R Tricks | A Gift of Speech

Tricks to elicit /r/!

The Red, Round, Rabbit, Ran, Around, the Rocket Ship!  I like to demonstrate that to my students and let them know that I was an /r/ kiddo.  I also demonstrate my toughest r word, drawer.  Still trips me up!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the /r/ is the bane of my existence!  Right now, I have a high percentage of /r/ kiddos on my caseload.  Keep reading and I will share a trick that I just learned that made my “R” day!

Teaching the /r/ phoneme can be tricky, because it is hard to see and hard to demonstrate.  There are 21 vocalic variations and 32 allophonic types of r.  Wow, so that’s why it is so tricky.  Not only is it hard to demonstrate, but there are so many variations of the phoneme.  So we aren’t just teaching r in initial, medial, and final positions!  We are teaching “air, ire, or ar, er, and ear” in initial, medical, and final positions. Let’s throw in the r-blends as well.

Tools for demonstrating the /r/:

  • Mr Mouthy Puppet – I use this as a visual for students to see where there tongue is placed.  I will admit, it is tricky to get the tongue in just that right place with the puppet.  I also have put marks on the tongue and side of the mouth/teeth to demonstrate where the tongue is placed.
  • Pictures – I have some drawings and clipart that show the “bunched” versus the “retroflex” positions.  So I am a retroflex /r/ person and as much as I try, I can’t demonstrate the bunched /r/.
  • Speech Tutor App by Pocket SLP – this is an awesome app with visuals of both versions.  This is a great visual for students.  I highly recommend this app as a visual tool for all the speech sounds.
  • Lingraphica has an app called “Morphemes” that has a person demonstrating all the Standard American English consonants.  while /r/ isn’t easy to see, I do like this as a tool to listen to the sound and see the lips.

Tricks for the /r/  

  • See if there is any /r/ that a child can produce!  Sometimes I get lucky and students can do their r-blends or maybe an initial /r/.  Then there are my favorite children that don’t have any sort of /r/.  Arrrrrrrrrrrrgggggg.
  • GRRRRR like a tiger or ARRRRGGGGGG like a pirate.
  • I teach my students to “smile”.  I know that not everyone uses this technique, but I find that have a student smile pulls the tongue back automatically.  It doesn’t create the /r/, but helps in initial placement.  It also helps to distinguish between the w versus the r.


chair r trickI am not sure where this trick came from.  I read it on a Facebook page for School Speech Language Pathologists.  I of course tried it the next day and WOW!  It has helped quite a few of my students who were struggling with ‘er’.

  • Have your client/student sit in a chair.
  • Have them grab the sides of their chair and pretent to pull up.
  • At the same time have them smile and try the ‘er’ phoneme.  You have to do some pre-teaching about placement for this to be effective.
  • I like to do this with them, as it is also a little chair exercise and I have summer coming.

Now this does not mean that they can do their /r/ in all variations, but it has helped a huge percentage of my children who were having difficulty with their production of ‘er’, which is a foundation for so many of our /r/ variations.