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Speech in the Schools

Rainbow Fairies

Published June 29, 2016 9:05 AM by Teresa Roberts

Fairies represent magic and wonder.

The word “fairy” is a magic because it helps students transition from consonantal /r/ to vocalic /r/. The intervocalic /r/ in medial position allows us to produce /r/ at the end of the first syllable and the beginning of the second syllable, “fairrrr-- -rry”.

We can teach the postvocalic /r/ through anticipatory placement of the upcoming consonantal /r/. After a child has mastered placement for initial /r/, such as “red”, “road”, etc., moving to vocalic /r/ may be difficult. Transitional words have a syllable ending and syllable initiating /r/.

Fairy words can become the basis for an articulation activity. Students and I created two rainbow fairy boards with nine pictures each: red fairy, blue fairy, orange fairy, green fairy, pink fairy, flying fairies, flower fairy, fairy crown, fairy wand, fairy forest, fairy castle, fairy wings, fairy garden, fairy dreams, butterfly, rainbow, mushroom house, and unicorn.

We compared the different types of /r/ sounds and practiced placement for each /r/.

Initial consonant /r/: “rainbow”, “red”

  • Practice pulling tongue to the back of the mouth and elevating the sides of the tongue toward the molars to make a cup shape
Middle consonant /r/: “mushroom”
  • Break the word into two syllables, “mush-- -- rrroom” to emphasize /r/
Initial /r/ blend: “green”, “dreams”
  • “Green”: Tongue stays in the back of the mouth for “g + r”
  • “Dreams”: Tongue likely starts in the middle of the roof of the mouth and quickly moves from “d + r”. We actually say the /d/ in the /dr/ combination with a sound that is more like “j” and “dg” in “judge”.

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Vowel /r/ “air”: “fairy”

  • Underlying vowel is “ay” (like “hay”) with the mouth open and the lips spread in a slight smile. Hold the “ay”, and slowly retract the tongue and move it into the /r/ spot, “faaaaay-- -- -rrrrr—rrry”.
Vowel /r/ “or”: “orange”, “forest”, “unicorn”
  • Underlying vowel is “aw” (like the East Coast dialect for “coffee”) with the lips puckered and rounded. Break the words into syllables. Hold the “aw” and slowly retract the tongue and move it into the /r/ spot
  • “Forest”: “fawwww-- -- rrrrr—rest”
  • “Orange”: “awwww—rrr-- -range”
  • “Unicorn”: “uni-cawwww- -- -rrrrrr- n”
Vowel /r/ “ar” (like “car”): “garden”
  • Underlying vowel is “ah” (like at the doctor’s office, say “ah”) with the mouth open and the lips in neutral position (not rounded and not smiling). Hold the “ah” and slowly retract the tongue and move it to the /r/ spot, “gaaaahhh-- -- -rrrrr- -den”
Vowel /r/ “er” (like “fur”): “butterfly”, “flower”
  • This is one of the more difficult vowel /r/ sounds. The underlying vowel is “uh” (like“duh”).
  • Butterfly: Break the word into syllables. Practice “bu-ttuh- fly” with the “uh” sound and slowly retract the tongue to the /r/ spot, “bu-- tuhhh-- -- rrrrrr-- -- fly”
  • Flower: Separate the word and transition from “fl-- ow” to “uh”, “fl-- ow-- -- uuhhh-- -rrrr”
We can capture the whimsy of fairies with engaging pictures, while using the power of anticipatory articulatory placement to teach vocalic /r/.

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1 comments

Please correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn't the first sentence of this article read that the word "fairy" helps students transition from vocalic /r/ (air) to consonantal /r/, and not the other way around?

Rhonda Banford, Tip of the Tongue Speech and Language July 9, 2016 9:29 AM
Chesterfield MO

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About this Blog


    Speech in the Schools
    Occupation: School-based speech-language pathologists
    Setting: Traditional and specialized K-12 classrooms
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