Letter L Sound


The letter /L/ is another consonant sound that students may have difficulties with, as it requires specific positioning of the tongue. Some students can especially struggle if they mother tongue is Chinese or another Asian language, as the /r/ & /l/ sound can sound alike or even be pronounced the same with these languages. Others may have a hard time with the /l/ and /n/ sounds. We recommend spending more time with teaching and practicing the letter l sound out loud and through good phonics books.

Phonics Pronunciation

The letter /L/ sound is normally taught with while sticking your tongue out and pretending to lick a lollipop (candy on a stick) while saying the L-L-L sound. When saying the /L/ sound, be sure to focus on the positioning of the tongue, and even exaggerate the motion by sticking out your tongue when practicing. The /L/ sound is created by putting the tip of the tongue on the small bump on the roof of the mouth behind your upper teeth. The air moves around your tongue to make the /L/ sound, so your tongue will not touch the sides of your mouth. As the /L/ sound is voiced, your vocal cords will vibrate as you say it.

Students commonly mispronounce the /L/ sound as either /r/, /w/, or /y/. It is important for the students to understand the positioning of the tongue, and that this sound is not a nasal (nose) sound at all. When practicing the /L/ sound, be sure to repeat it as much as possible, as it can be tricky for students. Also remind them the use of your tongue when saying this sound. Repeat the L-L-L sound, and once the students can pronounce it well, you can move onto adding the vowel variations, such as la,la,la, lee,lee,lee, lo,lo,lo. After this, you can gradually move onto the three letter CVC blending as well.

Checkout this letter l sound video for help!

Visual hints

As students can have difficulties with this sound, it’s better to use different techniques to help them learn how to say the /L/ sound. You can try sticking out your tongue as you say the /L/ sound as you say it, so they know the sound involves heavy use of the tongue. You can show this by pretending to lick a big lollipop to show the /L/ sound.

Another method is using the fact that the /L/ sound is considered a liquid sound, which means it has no ending, unlike stop sounds such as /k/ or /t/. You can try putting your right pointer finger on your left shoulder, and slowly move your finger down your left arm to your wrist, as you say the /L/ sound. Stop saying the /L/ sound when it goes to your wrist. This may help the students learn this sound has is a liquid sound, and has no abrupt ending.

Some students may just not know where to put their tongue or lack the tongue muscles to say the sound. A good idea to help fix this is to put a little bit of chocolate or peanut butter on the spot behind their upper teeth, and have them touch it with their tongue. This will teach the students the exact location on where to put their tongue. You can also have them hold their tongue in this position for 5 seconds at a time, to increase their tongue muscle development. Do this exercise over and over again, to train their tongue muscles and encourage them to practice the sound.

Helping students with L vs N

We found that many students confused the /L/ and /N/ sound, as they require the same spot for the tongue.They may not know that the /L/ sound is made only with your tongue, and not with your nose.

If your student is having troubles and pronouncing the /N/ sound, you can try this technique. Use your fingers to pinch shut your nose, and say the /L/ sound. Have your student do the same. It will become very hard for them to say the /N/ sound with their nose shut, which may help them learn that the /L/ sound is not a nasal sound like /N/.

If your child still struggles with this sound, checkout some ABC books to help them out.

Activity hints

When learning the /L/ sound at first, you should pretend to lick a lollipop. This can be fun for the students, as most children like to eat candy and imagine a big lollipop stick for them to lick! You can even sing or show them the lollipop song for students who like music or rhymes. There are videos on Youtube with the lollipop song for people to hear.

You can also incorporate singing as a phonics activity. You can repeat a popular melody while singing la-la-la, lo-lo-lo, or you can even make up your own songs with these sounds. You can do this while walking around, or waiting for something. It can be a fun activity for students, and at the same time practice their letter l sound!

Letter /L/ Blending

As the letter l sound can be a bit hard for students to pronounce and blend, be sure to spend more time on practicing this letter. Say the L-L-L sound as much as needed, and have the students repeat after you to say this sound. After the students can say the /L/ sound well, you can start to move onto more blending.

Start with introducing the vowel variations as in la,la,la, lee,lee,lee, lo,lo,lo. After they can blend these well, you can start practicing the three letter CVC words such as l-a-p, l-e-g and l-o-t. There are many words that start with the letter /L/, so you will have a lot of words to blend with the students for practice.

Once the students can blend these three letter CVC words well, you should also show them words that end in /L/ too. This is important as the students should understand the difference in pronunciation with wording ending in /L/ such as b-a-ll, s-e-ll, b-e-ll. The sound in these will be the more liquid sound, whereas the /L/ sound in the beginning with be a shorter sound. 

If your children are more advanced, you can introduce them words with the consonant blends with /L/, such as bl, cl, fl, gl. There are many words using the consonant blends with /l/, so its good to practice these for students who are more comfortable in English.

Checkout our Top 25 phonics books for reading letters

Everyday English

After the students can say the /L/ sound well and are able to blend accurately, you can start showing them more everyday words. This will help their English phonics and vocabulary when they are saying these words. However, be sure from time to time to practice the /L/ sound, so that they remember it well.

There are many foods that have the letter /L/, such as lollipop, lemon, and lime. Many students will be able to identify the yellow lemon fruit, especially in Hong Kong with lemon tea, lemon water, lemon coke and many others!

Many animals also start with /L/, like lion, lamb and lady bug. You can have fun and roar like a lion with your students.

Everyday things also have this letter, such as lunch, legs, leaf and lips. You can ask your students what they ate for lunch today.

Letter /l/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /l/, it’s good to introduce basic sentences to the children to read. These sentences are meant to be basic for students learning the alphabet letters and phonics as their second language.

Here are some short sentences with /l/ you can read together with the students.

I like Jill

Bill and Jill

A ball and doll

I like it a lot

Let me get a ball

It’s important your students practice reading short sentences, so they gain the confidence and can practice their blending skills. Therefore, encourage your students to read these sentences to improve their phonics and blending with the letter /l/ !

Letter L tongue twisters

The letter /L/ tongue twisters can be the most fun for students say and practice. Get your tongues really for these fun /L/ tongue twisters!

Larry sent the latter a letter later.

Let lame lambs live.

Let lame lambs live.

Let lame lambs live.

Lester lists the lesser lesson last.

Little licorice lollipops.

Little licorice lollipops.

Little licorice lollipops.

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