Teaching Phonemes: Advice to Preschool Teachers

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I am a preschool teacher and am wondering how to teach the “K” sound to one of my students.

Let’s broaden your question to: How does one teach a child to say a new phoneme? This is what I would tell a preschool teacher:

  • Show her how to make the sound: Ask her to watch and listen to you say the sound. Pause slightly before you say it. Make the sound stand out by saying it a little louder, by saying it carefully, by exaggerating it. See if she can imitate your model.
  • If your model isn’t enough, tell the child about how we make the sound. For example, for “K”, tell the child to “Lift up the back of your tongue.” This may help her understand what to move.
  • Have her watch herself in a mirror as she tries to make the sound.
  • Say the sound in several words for her to listen to. For “K”, consider saying kite or kitten. You also can use car and cat, for this is the same sound. Just have her listen to form an auditory image of the sound. And then have her try the words.
  • If the child has difficulty with a sound at the beginning of words, try it at the end of words. Use booklookback, or pack.

Children who have only a few sound errors may grow out of the problem. However, if a child has many errors, is hard to understand, or if the parent is concerned, he or she should be evaluated by a professional speech-language pathologist.

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