If you are a speech language pathologist working with children who have articulation disorders or phonological disorders, chances are you’re always on the lookout for engaging fronting speech therapy activities! Keep reading, because this article provides suggestions for velar fronting and palatal fronting activities, as well as some tips and tricks to try out during speech therapy sessions while working on communication skills.
What is Fronting?
Fronting is a phonological process, which falls under the umbrella of a speech sound disorder (reference: american speech-language-hearing association). Phonological errors involve patterns of rule-based errors, versus a single sound error. Fronting is an error pattern that SLPs may encounter often, especially if working with preschoolers and kindergarteners. A child’s speech intelligibility can be impacted when a phonological disorder is present.
Speech Language Pathologists are trained to diagnose a communication disorder, and this includes phonological disorders. SLPs may administer informal or standardized assessments. Test results may provide detailed information about which phonological processes are considered “active”. These assessments can be helpful in determining a treatment approach and plan.
Velar fronting occurs when a sound made in the back of the mouth (back of the throat), a velar sound (such as k, g, or ng) is replaced with a sound made in the front of the mouth, like an alveolar sound. Therefore, t sounds might replace k sounds. Examples at the word level might include “doe” for “go” or “tall” for “call”.
Palatal fronting occurs when a sound made in the back (a palatal sound, ‘sh’) occurs in the front (an alveolar sound, like ‘s’). The tongue should be touching the roof of the mouth, or the palatal area, to make the “sh” sound, but instead touches near the alveolar ridge. Examples might include saying “so” for “show” or “fis” for “fish”.
Other examples of phonological processes include consonant cluster reduction and final consonant deletion. Read more about all of the different phonological processes.
When Should Fronting Be Eliminated?
Fronting may be considered age-appropriate in very young children, but it is typically eliminated by 4 years of age.
Reference: Selected Phonological Processes. (2022). Retrieved 4 December 2022, from https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/articulation-and-phonology/selected-phonological-processes/
How To Treat a Phonological Disorder
There are evidence-based intervention strategies that SLPs can use to treat phonological disorders.
Need a great place to start in order to learn how to treat phonological disorders?
Research-Based Phonology Treatment Approaches
I absolutely love this article from The Informed SLP. It reviews the many different treatment approaches that SLPs can take when correcting phonological disorders, and also provides a handy downloadable chart as well. It breaks everything down into manageable pieces of information.
Complexity Approach for Phonology
SLPs may find this article on the complexity approach beneficial. The complexity approach may be combined with maximal oppositions, which are pairs of words that differ by multiple elements. Targets may include more complex, later-developing sounds or clusters. This approach can be helpful if a student is demonstrating a moderate to severe phonological disorder.
The Cycles Approach for Phonology
Additionally, this CEU course is a “how to” guide for using the cycles approach by Barbara Hodson. I have had a lot of success using this intervention strategy in speech therapy, and found this course really informative. Phonological processes are targeted in a “cycle”, meaning the focus may be on one specific process (such as fronting), for weeks. Auditory bombardment is used. The SLP would read a list of words to the student with the target sound, or pattern, for that session. When implementing the cycles approach, the SLP would choose a small set of 3-6 target words to address in therapy. Those targeted words are practiced throughout the session, using play-based activities. The speech pathologist would provide modeling and cues throughout the session, then finish by probing for the next session’s targets.
A Phonological Disorder vs Childhood Apraxia of Speech
Distinguishing between types of speech sound disorders can be challenging, yet this is the first thing an SLP will begin to analyze during and following the completion of an evaluation.
Phonological errors involve patterns of rule-based errors.
Childhood apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder that involves difficulty with planning and programming the movement gestures for speech.
Incorporating Phonological Awareness
It is beneficial and “best practice” to consider addressing phonological awareness skills when a child has a phonological disorder. Phonological awareness skills are important for language and literacy development. Phonological tasks can be targeted in a hierarchy, from most to least complex. For example, a more basic phonological awareness skill might be rhyming, while a more complex task would be manipulating phonemes. This article provides a deep dive into phonological awareness intervention strategies for SLPs.
Here are some example phonological awareness activities:
- rhyming awareness: the speech pathologist could use fronting minimal pairs, and ask “Tall and Call. Do these words rhyme?”
- production of rhyming words: a child might be asked to “think of a word that rhymes with cape”
- phoneme blending: an SLP could say /k/…/ae/…/p/, and the child would blend the sounds together to say the word “cape”
- phoneme segmentation: when given a word by the speech therapist (“cape”), the student would break it down into the individual phonemes (/k/…/ae/…/p/)
- phoneme deletion: the SLP might say, “What new word would we have if we said ‘cat’ without the ‘k’ sound?”
Word Lists for K
It is helpful to have articulation word lists nearby when you need them in speech sessions! Articulation word lists can provide quick targets to use in therapy.
Here is a handy list of k words to use in speech therapy. These k sound word lists also include some multisyllabic words, as well as consonant clusters.
How To Use Minimal Pairs in Speech Therapy
Minimal pairs can be a great way to target articulation and phonology errors.
Minimal Pairs for Fronting
When patterns of errors occur, minimal pairs can provide a simple way for young children to learn to discriminate between the correct sound and the incorrect sound. Different words that show the contrast between correct production and incorrect production can be helpful to practice.
Velar Fronting Minimal Pairs (Velar Sounds)
T vs K Minimal Pairs Initial Position
- tea vs key
- tall vs call
- two vs coo
- tape vs cape
T vs K Minimal Pairs Final Position
- bat vs back
- bite vs bike
- height vs hike
- pit vs pick
D vs G Minimal Pairs Initial Position
- dough vs go
- down vs gown
- do vs goo
- date vs gate
D vs G Minimal Pairs Final Position
- bad vs bag
- bud vs bug
- mud vs mug
- did vs dig
Palatal Fronting Minimal Pairs
SH vs S Minimal Pairs Initial Position
- sigh vs shy
- sew vs show
- sip vs ship
- sell vs shell
SH vs S Minimal Pairs Final Position
- gas vs gash
- mass vs mash
- swiss vs swish
- class vs clash
Here are ready-to-go minimal pairs to use with speech therapy students.
Check out initial, medial, and final k word lists.
Engaging Fronting Speech Therapy Activities
When working on new sounds and patterns in speech therapy, it is important to have fun and provide motivating activities for young children!
Minimal Pair Worksheets- Fronting Activities for Speech Therapy
These minimal pair sheets are perfect for the busy slp who doesn’t have time to create detailed lesson plans. A speech therapist can spend an entire session using these no prep worksheets. Elicit a ton of trials easily! This fun activity can be paired with play dough, a magnetic wand and chips, or a fun game. If there’s no time to laminate, simply place the desired pages in sheet protectors. This will ensure a high number of trials during each therapy session. The picture stimuli provided are clear, and the page is organized.
Each page includes an auditory bombardment list for the target sound. Auditory bombardment simply means providing several opportunities for the child to hear the target pattern for that session. The child would listen to the SLP read the list of words, but they are not to repeat the words after the SLP. In other words, they are to be “bombarded” with auditory examples of this target pattern. Visual cues of speech sound mouths are provided on each page, which assists with correct sound production and auditory discrimination.
Home practice is simple and parent friendly, as instructions are included on each sheet. This makes these minimal pair sheets wonderful for getting home involvement. I always let parents know that even more auditory bombardment at home is incredibly beneficial! Pointing out words around the house, while completing daily activities, or while out on excursions with the target sound or pattern is a great way to draw more attention and awareness to the pattern. For example, if a child is working on the k sound, a parent might over-emphasize words like “call” when they are calling grandma.
“Magical” Fronting Activities Speech Therapy
This “magical” themed fronting activity is another great way to target k, g, and sh sounds. Different minimal pair targets are included on each page. These fronting activity pages are no prep, and can be paired with daubers, a magnetic wand and chips, or play dough.
Speech-language pathologists will also enjoy using these articulation cards for phonology or articulation errors. In addition to showing a picture of the word, these cards also include a visual cue of the mouth. A lot of time, this can be a great reminder for articulatory positioning during speech sound production. The target words chosen primarily use simple syllable structures, which makes this a great resource for children who are just learning how to produce k, g, or sh sounds. Short phrases can be modeled if desired by the speech pathologist.
For younger students working on k, g, or sh speech sounds, play-based activities are beneficial. Hiding cards in sensory bins can a hands-on activity, or putting picture cards with target words into a “feed the monster” or “feed the crocodile” activity, can be engaging for younger students. Articulation mini objects may be purchased as well and placed in sensory bins.
Additionally, using words with simple syllable structures during play while following the child’s lead can be a great way to elicit trials. For example, one might practice words like “eek!”, “yuck!”, “ick!” or “look!” during any play-based activity.
Correct Production of K and G
The k sound is a voiceless, lingua-velar “stop” sound. The g sound is a voiced, lingua-velar sound. The front of the tongue (the tongue tip) is placed behind the front lower teeth. The back of the tongue is lifted, or raised, during k or g production. It makes contact with the soft palate. This forms a seal. Air pressure builds up behind the tongue. When the soft palate seal breaks, we hear an explosion of air as it is released into the oral cavity.
Reference: Peña-Brooks Adriana, and M. N. Hegde.
Articulation and Phonological Disorders: Assessment and Treatment Resource Manual. PRO-ED, 2007.
How To Elicit the Velar Sounds (K and G)
Here are some ideas to elicit the k and g sounds in speech therapy for children who are exhibiting stubborn fronting sound errors:
- Try introducing minimal pairs.
- Do auditory bombardment and amplification activities.
- Use terms like “low” and “high” or “up” and “down” to explain tongue movement and positioning. Pair this with hand movements to provide a visual.
- Describe the tongue as “awake” or “asleep”. An “asleep” tongue should remain “down” in bed while producing the velar sounds.
- Change the name of the sound. Sometimes I call the /k/ sound a “low t” versus the actual “t” sound, a “high t”.
- Instruct your student to touch his tongue tip to the bottom front teeth.
- Model a wide open mouth while practicing this sound. Keep the jaw lowered so the tongue cannot lift up.
- Use a typodont and play dough or highlighter tape as a reminder to touch the bottom lower teeth and not lift the tongue.
- Shape /g/ from /ng/ while plugging the nose (ng), then unplugging to produce /g/.
- Use tactile cues to teach correct articulatory placement. Hold the tongue tip down, using a finger or tongue depressor, to keep it from lifting to touch the alveolar ridge.
- Practice saying the k or g sounds in front of a mirror.
Correct Production of SH
The SH sound is a voiceless, lingua-palatal fricative sound. It is considered to be an obstruent, which means airflow is obstructed.
When producing the SH sound, the lips are slightly puckered. The soft palate is raised. The sides of the tongue touch the palate or upper back teeth (molars), while the tip of the tongue is elevated toward the palate. Airflow is directed through a wide groove in the center of the tongue.
Reference: Peña-Brooks Adriana, and M. N. Hegde. Articulation and Phonological Disorders: Assessment and Treatment Resource Manual. PRO-ED, 2007.
How To Elicit the SH Sound
Here are some ideas to elicit the sh sound in speech therapy for children who are exhibiting stubborn fronting sound errors:
- Try introducing minimal pairs.
- Do auditory bombardment and amplification activities.
- Shape “sh” from “s”, and tell the child to “pucker the lips” (or make “fish lips”).
- Give the sh sound a name, such as the “quiet sound”.
- Slowly push your hand forward and in front of you as a visual to represent continuous airflow for the sh sound.
- Use a typodont to show your student where lingual-palatal contact occurs.
- Practice saying the SH sound in front of a mirror to provide visual feedback.
In summary, fronting is a phonological process that may be treated in speech-language pathology treatment sessions. A phonological process is a speech pattern simplification. Fronting occurs when a sound typically made in the back of the mouth is instead substituted with a sound made in the front of the mouth. Velar fronting occurs when a velar sound, like k or g, is replaced by a sound made in the front of the mouth, like t or d. An example would be “doe” for “go”. Palatal fronting occurs when a palatal sound (such as “sh”) is replaced with a sound made in front of the mouth. An example of palatal frontal is “fis” for “fish”.
SLPs may find the following fronting speech therapy activities beneficial: