Letter R Sound


The letter /r/ is a letter than some students may struggle with at first because the pronunciation of the letter r sound requires a specific position of the tongue. The students whom may have a harder time are those whose mother tongue is Chinese or another Asian language, as the /r/ and /l/ sound can sound similar or alike.

Therefore, we suggest to spend more time practicing the /r/ sound if your students requires so. Buy a phonics book for more practice as well. Get your tongues ready to learn the /r/ sound!

Phonics Pronunciation of the Letter R Sound

The letter /r/ is usually taught while shaking your head back and forth, like a dog ripping apart a piece of paper, while saying the rrrrrrr sound. To make the /r/ sound, bring the tongue up and back in the mouth. The tip of the tongue should touch the top of your mouth at the back. As the /r/ sound is a voiced sound, your vocal cords will vibrate as you make this sound.

The reason the /r/ sound can be particularly, is there are many combinations of sounds with the /r/ sound, such as /er/, /ir/, /ur/, /ear/, /air, /or/, /ire/, /rl/. This slight difference in pronunciation can change the meaning of certain words, so the /r/ sound is both tricky and also very important to pronounce well. It is also harder to teach students, as it’s hard to show them exactly where to put their tongue when saying the /r/ sound.

Be sure to practice and repeat the /r/ sound for your students as necessary. Once they can pronounce it well, you can move on with the vowel variations as in ra, ra,ra, ree,ree,ree, and roo,roo,roo. If your student is having particular troubles with /r/, you can try this technique. Say the “eeee” sound, and hold for a few seconds, to show this sound doesn’t have an inherent end. Then combine this with the “rrrrrr’ sound, to make “eee-rrrr”. Practice this with the student to help them say the /r/ sound.

After they can blend these sounds well without too many mistakes, you can introduce them to the three letter CVC words and blending. If your students are having troubles, they may correct the pronunciation a bit when blending words, as some words they may already know.

Checkout the letter r sound video for more practice!

Visual hints

As this sound can be harder for students, it’s important to incorporate visuals to help them along. You can try to the motion of sticking out your arms in front of you, and pulling them into your body as you say the /r/ sound. This motion acts like the tongue moving towards the back of your mouth, which may help the students understand the position of the tongue.

Another way is putting your two hand on top of your head like bunny ears, and curling your hands down like ears. This may help with visualizing the rolling /r/ and how they should form the sound. You can also do a bit of a rocking motion with your body to help them further.

More practice with the letter /r/

As many students often struggle with pronouncing this, its best to practice the /r/ sound with each position in a word; being the beginning, middle and end. The reason for this is that while it may be easy for students to blend words with /r/ in the beginning, they may find it extremely difficult to say it in the middle or the end of words.

After your students can pronounce and blend words well, test them on how well they can blend words with /r/ is each position. This will be useful to see how comfortable they are with blending /r/ letter words.

Here are some examples of the letter /r/ in each position in a word:

Beginning: R-a-t, r-ed, r-u-n, r-o-ck, r-ea-d.

Middle: H-or-se, c-or-n, p-ur-se

End: c-a-r, j-a-r, p-u-rr, d-oor-, brrrrr, h-ai-r.

If they have difficulties with one position, you can spend more time and practice learning these words. Most often the /r/ position in the middle will be the hardest for students to say and learn until they get older. You can find many /r/ words online in the various positions for more practice for your students.

Activity hints

The /r/ sound can be a fun sound to practice with your students, despite how hard it can be for them. As with initially learning the /r/ sound, you can pretend to be a dog ripping up paper while saying the rrrr sound. You can also pretend with your students to rrrrrroaaar like a tiger or grrrrrrrrowlll like a bear. If your students like pretend to be a dog, you can also rrrrufff ruffff like a dog, or say arrrrrgh like a pirate. There are many different sounds and actions to go with the /r/ sound, so be creative while practicing it!

Letter /r/ Blending

The letter /r/ is an important letter for students, as many other sounds and words use it. However, as this sound can be harder for students, take more time to practice and review this sound before moving on. Say and repeat the /r/ sound or “rrrrr” sound until your student can accurately repeat and pronounce the sound on their own.

Once the students can say the sound well, you can introduce the vowels variations to them in ra,ra,ra, ree,ree,ree and roo,roo,roo. Once they can blend these sound well, have them do more blending with the three letter CVC words as in r-u-n, r-i-b, r-e-d. There are many sounds and English words that use the letter /r/, so you will have many chances to practice this sound.

If your student can say and blend the letter /r/ well, you can have them practice words with the letter /r/ at the end, such as c-a-r, j-a-r, p-u-rr. This is important for the students to learn, as it will teach them how and when to move their tongue to make the /r/ sound. Some students might face new challenges when trying to make the /r/ sound at the end of words. Also be sure to spend time to blend words with /r/ in the middle too.

 If your students can successfully blend these words as well, you can even introduce some consonant blending sounds to them as cr, br, fr, dr, tr. This will come in handy later when the student advances to more words with consonant blends.

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

Everyday English

Once the students can say and blend the /r/ sound well, you may start to show them more everyday words with the letter /r/. However, be sure that they know how to say the /r/ sound well before moving on too much. Have them learn some of these words to increase their vocabulary!

There are many animals that start with /r/, like rabbit, rat and rhino. You can bounce around and pretend to be a rabbit!

Many everyday objects and things appear with the letter /r/, such as rainbow, rock and ring. You can have your students draw a beautiful rainbow in class.

Some foods start with the letter /r/ too, like rice, raisin, and raspberry. Some students may even know the food ravioli!

Letter /r/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /r/, 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 you can read together with the students.

A rat.

A red rat.

I see a red car.

I see a ram.

A ram can run!

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 /r/ !

Letter r tongue twisters

The letter /r/ tongue twisters can be one of the most challenging to say! Try hard to say these sentences fast without too many errors!

Raise Ruth’s red roof

Raise Ruth’s red roof

Raise Ruth’s red roof

A lump of red lead, a red lead lump.

Round and round the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.

If rustlers wrestle wrestlers, while rustlers rustle rustlers, could rustlers rustle wrestlers while wrestlers wrestle rustlers?

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