18 Easy Ideas for Helping Students with B and D Reversals

B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

B and D Reversals. See what I did in the in title? It’s no Big Deal.

It is not uncommon for young learners to struggle with letter reversals, particularly with letters like ‘b’ and ‘d.’ Let’s explore why these reversals happen and offer some practical strategies to help your kindergartners overcome them.

Letter reversals, such as mistaking ‘b’ for ‘d’ or vice versa, are a common developmental stage in early literacy. It’s important to remember that most children outgrow these mistakes as they become more proficient readers and writers.

However, some children may require additional support or intervention groups for a limited time.

why are b and d reversals common?

B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

Visual Similarity: The letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ look very similar, especially when a child is just beginning to recognize and differentiate letters. We need explicit lessons for recognizing each letter.

We tell children an apple is an apple is an apple. It doesn’t matter how we turn it or how we spin it, it’s an apple.

THEN, we tell them “this shape” is a b, but if you flip it it’s a d and if you rotate it it’s a p. What?

Left-Right Confusion: Kindergartners are still learning concepts of left and right, so they may inadvertently switch the direction of these letters.

Incomplete Phonemic Awareness: Young children are still developing their understanding of phonemes (the sounds that letters represent), and this can contribute to letter reversals. If they don’t consistently know what a ‘b’ and a ‘d’ are, they will certainly have difficulty with ‘b’ and ‘d’ reversals.

How to we help b and d reversals

Correcting ‘b’ and ‘d’ reversals in handwriting can be challenging, but with consistent practice and some creative strategies, progress can be made. Here are some ideas to help address ‘b’ and ‘d’ reversals:

1. Multi-sensory Activities: Engage in activities that involve multiple senses to reinforce the correct formation of the letters. For example, you can use sandpaper, clay, or textured materials to trace the letters while saying their names aloud.

2. Visual Cues: Create visual reminders to help distinguish between ‘b’ and ‘d.’ For instance, you can use the posters as anchors, but also supply desk plates, if needed.

3. Verbal Cues or Mnemonics: Teach your child verbal cues or mnemonics to remember the correct orientation of the letters. For instance, you can say, “bat and ball” for ‘b’ and “doorknob and the door” for ‘d,’ as illustrated.

Also, when discussing penmanship, giving students distinguishing directions is key.

B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

My penmanship statements are clear. B is “tall stick down,” bounce up and around. D is “around a ball and up, up, up and down, down, down.”

Also drawing their attention to the lowercase b fits on top of the uppercase B can help with confusions.

4. Handwriting Worksheets: Find or create handwriting worksheets that focus on practicing the correct formation of ‘b’ and ‘d.’ These worksheets can include tracing, copying, and writing the letters in isolation and within words.

5. Letter Sorting: Create sorting games where your child categorizes objects or words that start with ‘b’ and ‘d.’ This can help reinforce the distinction between the two letters.

6. Letter Tracing Apps: There are various apps available that offer interactive letter tracing activities. These can be engaging and help with motor skills development.

B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

7. Practice in Context: Encourage your child to practice writing ‘b’ and ‘d’ within words and sentences. This helps them recognize the letters in different contexts.

8. Regular Review: Set aside time for regular practice to reinforce the correct letter formation. Consistency is key to overcoming letter reversals.

9. Modeling: Demonstrate the correct formation of the letters yourself. Children often learn by imitation.

10. Positive Reinforcement: Provide positive reinforcement and encouragement when your child makes progress. Positive experiences can boost their motivation to keep practicing.

11. Highlight the Differences: Students need to bring focus to the differences in the letters. Providing the students with 3 dry erase markers of differing colors. One color (maybe black) should be used with the “stick.” A blue marker should be used with the circle to make a ‘b’ (blue/b). A red marker should be used to make the circle to make a ‘d’ (red ends with d). When students start building the letters, they notice the differences.

12. Whole Body Movements: Asking students to make a ‘b’ and a ‘d’ in the air with their “whole arm” allows students to learn the motion in gross motor before asking the child to apply it to fine motor. Science supports a motor-cognition link in early childhood. When asking students to think about the “whole body movement” before writing the letters, students are usually more successful.

13. Handwritten Paper Cues: If you have students who are prone to writing ‘b’ and ‘d’ reversals, ask them to write a ‘b’ in the upper left corner of the paper (or at the “beginning” of the written line). They should also write a ‘d’ in the upper right corner of the paper (at the “end” of the written line). Having the letters on the paper, and allowing for near-point reference is easier than using a far-point reference on a poster.

14. Build It Hands-On Letters: Students can be given a bucket with tongue depressors and bottle tops (the picture includes bottle tops from a sports drink). The teacher needs to draw a star at the top of the tongue depressors and a matching stripe on the left and right sides. Students can match the top to the color striping on the stick and build ‘b’s’ and ‘d’s.’

15. Connect the Lowercase to the Capital: This only works using the Capital and Lowercase Bb. The Lowercase ‘b’ can be found in the capital B. Once students make the connection with the ‘B,’ they will know it’s not the ‘d.’

16. Dictation Practice: Students can practice writing ‘b’ and ‘d,’ as the teacher dictates.

B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

First, the teacher dictates one letter at a time. Secondly, the teacher will also dictate words to practice using ‘b’s’ and ‘d’s,’ like “bib,” “bob,” “dad,” and “did.” Finally, the teacher will dictate words with combined practice, “bed,” “bud,” “bid,” “dab,” and dub.”

B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

17. Write the Room: Teachers can put letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ around the room on color squares. Students can write the letter in the color of the paper on the recording sheet. They won’t have to find the letters in order, just the correct color.

18. Sing it!: Students can be taught the song on the left. Singing to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus, ” students will sing about formation and have word cues (bat and ball for ‘b’; doorknob and door for ‘d’).

Remember that every child is different, so it’s essential to tailor these strategies to your child’s learning style and needs. Patience and consistent practice are crucial in helping them overcome letter reversals over time.

If you find that your child is struggling significantly, consider involving their parent, occupational therapist or a handwriting specialist for additional guidance. Although letter reversals were often thought to be a symptom of Dyslexia, but there is no connection according to the International Dyslexia Association.

If you need visual cues, check out my B and D Reversals product in my store. The product contains 2 anchor charts, a small desk plate/interactive notebook pictures, 5 b practice pages, 5 d practice pages, 5 b and d identification pages, 2 b and d path worksheets, 12 center cards, b, d, and p letter tiles, a song, and MORE. So many options!

Cathy Collier
B and D Reversals: It’s no Big Deal! Cathy Collier

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