Intro to Vocalic R

Intro to Vocalic R



In this video, you will be learning how to teach your child Vocalic ‘R’, which is ‘R’ after a vowel.

As you can see by the attached image, this chart puts ‘R’ at about age 6 for most children.  In other words, by age six, 90% of children can produce the ‘R’ sound correctly in speech.

However, I believe that working on ‘R’ with preschool or kindergarten kids is a good thing, because we want to fix the sound error as soon as possible.  The longer a child produces a sound incorrectly, the more entrenched those speech habits become. 

There are 2 main types of R – Prevocalic and Postvocalic.

 Prevocalic R: This is initial R, or R in front of a vowel, like ‘rain’, ‘ring’, ‘river’.

  1. Postvocalic R:   This is R after a vowel.  We’ve got lots of these:  ER, AIR, AR, EAR, IRE, OR, OUR, and even ERL.

Some kids can produce one type of R, but not another.  In this course, we are going to concentrate on the ‘Vocalic R’ sounds.  


Most vocalic ‘R’ sounds contain the basic ‘ER’ sound, so typically I teach that one first.  However, you may find that your child just can’t produce that one accurately yet, no matter how much she tries.  It’s okay to try one of the other vocalic ‘R’ sounds like ‘AR’ or ‘EAR’ to see if that is easier.

All of the vocalic ‘R’s require the child’s tongue to be Tight, Up, and Back – TUB!  The techniques may vary slightly for each one, and those differences will be explained in the ‘Teaching in Isolation’ lesson of each category. 

Sometimes kids get discouraged while working on vocalic ‘R’, because it can take days or months for them to get it right.  To lighten up the mood and help them feel where their tongue should go, I do the ‘R Warmup Cheer’.  The idea is to get them to produce ‘Y’ syllables, because making ‘Y’ moves the back of their tongue to the back of their mouth where it should be for ‘R’.  Most kids can say the ‘Y’ sound in ‘yoyo’ fairly easily.  So the ‘Y’ warmup cheer goes like this (and you can’t be afraid to be silly– you’ve got to own it, and so do they!): 

Yo! Yo!  (do the hand motions and the voices in the video)

Yi! Yi!

Yay! Yay!

Yah! Yah!

Yee! Yee!

Yeeeeee Yeeeeee!

Yee Yeeeerrrrrrrr!  And your tongue goes back and up to make the R sound!

 (Use your thumbs to represent your tongue going back and up.)


Here is another fun practice exercise (well, more fun than just working on placement by itself, anyway):

You do each line of the chant and then they repeat it after you. 

Eerie, Eerie, Eerie

Airie, Airie, Airie

Orie, Orie, Orie

Irie, Irie, Irie

Er-y, Er-y, Er-y

Ar-y, Ar-y, Ar-y

Don’t forget to sell it with the finger snaps and musical styling!  I even do this with teenagers, and once you get them to buy in, they have fun with it.

The idea behind this one is to get them to practice getting that vocalic ‘ER’ sandwiched between two vowels. The ‘eeee’ vowel sound puts the tongue back in the mouth in the right position to make a good vocalic ‘ER’.


This also works with the word ‘Serious’.  You tell your child repeat after you, ‘Serious.’   Slow it down, ‘Seeeerrrrriiiiooossss’ and tell him to really tighten up his tongue as he hits that middle part.  You want to slow down the middle part to turn into a good ‘ER’ if possible:   See-ER-ious.   You can make it a game by saying in a mock serious tone, ‘I’m SERIOUS!’ and have him repeat you.  Then you say, ‘No, I’M serious!’  And they repeat, “No, I’M serious!” and back and forth with you emphasizing the ‘I’M SeERious!’

I’ve also had success with some kids by having them practice vowels first.  Tell them to repeat after you:

A (and hold it out)





Then add an ‘ER’ after each one and have them repeat after you:






They most likely will not get it right the first time.  This is something you practice each day as they become more familiar with controlling their tongue.

Ok, so all of those practice games will help with vocalic ‘R’ production.  More specific teaching methods will be included in the next categories.

Okay, now it’s time to move on to the next video and learn more about how to teach vocalic ‘R’!