B and D REVERSAL STRATEGIES FOR KINDERGARTEN TIP!
Research tells us that letters b and d reversals are not uncommon in young children. It is common to see letter confusion between the letter b and the letter d. In this blog post, we will look at a multi-sensory approach to help with correct letter formation and free printables that will make your students giggle!
Is it normal to confuse d and b?
YES! These two tricky graphemes are the most commonly confused letters. These two letters are mirror images, and these reversals are a common mistake that preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers can attest to. Both of these letters have a straight line. The lowercase b loops around to the right. This is usually not an issue, but then the lowercase d enters the picture, and confusion sets in. But what should a classroom teacher do?
First, we will examine why these are the most common letter reversal issues. After that, I will suggest a fun way to remind my students about b and d. I know I want to help my students build the right muscle memory, so I want to minimize these reversals as much as possible.
Hand Dominance and Letter Reversals
Usually, by around the age of 5 years of age, students have developed their hand dominance. Meaning some students will naturally want to write with their right hand while others will write with their left hand. Students who write with both hands can be common and a sign that they have not yet established their hand dominance. You should see a kindergartener (5 to 6 years old) develop their hand dominance within the first few months of formal schooling.
Does reversing letters mean dyslexia?
Do letter reversals suggest a learning difference, such as those seen with dyslexia or dyslexic students? Not necessarily. First of all, letter reversals are age appropriate up until the age of 7 or 8. Writing letters backsword is typical as students develop their handwriting skills. This is a great article about what educators see and do not see in dyslexic children.
When should b and d reversals stop?
Most experts agree that letter reversals should stop by the end of first grade or early second grade. Remember, It takes time to build muscle memory. Each letter of the alphabet follows a unique path of motion. Students of all ages need explicit instruction in the formation of letters. I have seen young learners in first grade or second grade who still start letters at the bottom just because they were never taught how to form the letter correctly.. Building these fine motor skills and muscle memory does not mean an activity pack filled with worksheets. Instead, students need letter formation practice that is TAUGHT, not ASSIGNED. (Sorry for the shouty caps.) The best way to avoid issues is early intervention and explicit instruction.
Should I be concerned about letter reversals during independent work?
The first thing we want to think about is all of the work the brains of our beginning reader has to do to read and write. For example, to write a word, first the student must tap into their phonemic awareness skills to identify the correct sound or sounds in that word. Then they have to attach the letter sound (phoneme) to the actual letter (grapheme). Next, the student must recall how to start and complete each part of the letter. Example: the lowercase letter b starts at the top of the line with a vertical line, then has a big belly. Just writing the lowercase b requires a lot of multitasking.
Teaching Tips to Help with the Reversal of Letters
Here is a list of ideas to use when teaching different letters and their path of motion
- Touch and muscle resistance/vibration: (think about the feeling of a pencil on paper). This sort of sensory input helps the brain process and remember motor patterns. This is extremely helpful for students who struggle with letter recognition. Examples: crayon on craft canvas, letter practice with sandpaper under the paper, shaving cream, chalk writing, sandboxes, air writing, writing on someone’s back, TacScreens on tablets. (Affiliate Link)
- Sound and music: Practice saying the steps of the letter while writing the letter. This helps the brain reinforce the motor patterns that are based on auditory memory.
- Visual: Students benefit from watching the steps of the letter formation when it is modeled for them. Student store these visual cues in their visual memory.
- Smell: Using scented materials triggers both the olfactory system and the emotional memory. Using scented dough is helpful or how about scented crayons, scented dough or scented markers?
- Combining multiple learning systems at the same time. Scented crayons on a plastic screen while they recite the path of motion = touch, muscle resistance, vibration, sound, smell
Here is a great blog post about using dough in the classroom:
This screen helps provide a multi-sensory experience for students when they are using an iPad or tablet.
Here is what the manufacturer says about this screen.
It is a simple bumpy film screen cover that delivers vital tactile stimulation for students or patients diagnosed with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, loss of cognitive functionality due to age or brain injury & ADHD. Transform any touch screen tablet into a multi-sensory learning device by adding the sense off tactile stimulation with it’s bumpy removeable screen.
Provide extra practice one letter at a time. Meaning if students are confusing similar lowercase letters like b and d, teach them separately. Give students who are confused the opportunity to over-learn the letter b before working on the next letter d. You would want to repeat this practice for similar letters that are reversed.
Make it Fun
We tend to remember fun things. When I was student teaching, my master teacher taught me about baby diapers! You make a double thumbs up. Their hands make the shape of the letters b and d. This has worked with great success for me over the years. The students always giggle when I tell them to remember their baby diapers.
Of course, we don’t say, “diaper baby!” Whenever I want a student to check their letters, I tell them, “Check your baby diapers.” Giggles erupt immediately.
I always had an anchor chart in my classroom, but I recently updated it. (You can grab these for free at the end of this blog post.)
My students have always kept a smaller one in their crayon box. So I updated that one too.
These visual reminders anchor charts are also helpful with b and d. Although, I have had some students say “ball bat” and write a d. OY! The drumstick seems to stick better (see what I did there.)
The bat/ball and drumstick anchor chart and student cards are also free, and you can find them at the end of this blog post.
The handwriting paper can be found here:
My final suggestion is to talk to your building occupational therapy provider or specialist. These experts are usually in the building and in your wing of the school. I have always found these experts are willing to do an informal observation and provide a great suggestion or two for you to try with a student.
Other Common Letter and Number reversals
Some mirror letters and numbers can also be confused. They share similar shapes. Here is a list of letters or numbers that are often confused:
- b and d
- n and u
- w and m
- s and z
- s and 5
- 3 and E
- 2 and 5
What to learn more about how to teach handwriting?
Here is a blog post on teaching handwriting to kindergarten and first grade students.
Learn more about whole group instruction
Would you like to know more about our whole group instruction and the science of reading?
free b and d letter reversal posters
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