How To Teach R

By Pam Marshalla

Q: How do you teach an R? I just don’t get it! Some kids get it right away and other cannot seem to bunch up the back of their tongues no matter what I do.

It sounds like you are always teaching what I call a “Back R.” Teaching a Back R is much more than teaching the client to bunch up the back of the tongue. The “Back R” position is attained by spreading, elevating, and retracting the back lateral margins of the tongue. Therapy is designed to teach the client how to widen the back of the tongue, how to anchor the back lateral margins against the molars on both sides, how to elevate the back lateral margins upwards against the molars, and how then to slide this position toward the rear with enough tension to achieve the sound.

There is another R you can teach that is easier for many children. That is the “Retroflex R.” This R is made by curling the tongue-tip up and back toward the velum. The simplest way to do this is to teach the client to produce an L, and then to prolong this sound while sliding the tongue-tip back along the midline toward the velum. This old sliding technique works well for many children. I also do it in a tapping way, by having the client tap upward for L, and then by continuing to tap the palate back along the midline to the velum.

Explaining how to teach R is very difficult in a quick email that does not contain pictures or live demonstrations. I suggest that you try to take one of my classes on R, or you read my book on this topic. Either will give you a much bigger picture of training this elusive phoneme.


I teach several seminars that include information about R. The following list begins with those seminars that contain the most information. Information about each of these can be found on my page called Workshop Topics.

  • Successful R Therapy – This is a half-day seminar on R.
  • Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp, Distorted R – This seminar contains a half-day on the lisps and a half-day on R.
  • Practical Therapy Techniques in Articulation Therapy
  • Successful R Therapy (online) – This is a recorded one-hour on-line seminar about R that is available for CEU’s online

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