Are you looking for effective ways to help your students learn correct letter formations? Letter reversal issues and letter confusions are a common struggle for young children when they are learning to read and write, but with the right tools, we can help them to master this critical skill. I'm here to provide you with effective strategies to manage letter reversals. I have also specifically designed some free printables for b and d reversals which you will find at the end of this post. We will discuss why letter reversals occur, how muscle memory helps overcome these instances of errors, and the importance of consistent practice!
Common Reasons for Letter Reversals and How to Help Kids Avoid Them
Letter reversals are one of the most common issues that children face when learning to read and write. Children will often confuse certain letters with their mirror images such as letter b and letter d, or letter p and letter q. These letters are formed with similar shapes, and can be confusing for a beginning reader. Other children may use mirror writing where they write entire words back to front.
I discuss the reasons for letter reversals in this blog post: How to Help Your Child With Letter Reversals
Essentially, letter reversals are often the result of a process called mirror generalisation, or mirror invariance. This is where our brain is able to recognise objects as identical, even when they are in different orientations. For example, a car is still a car, no matter which direction it is facing. This is an important skill for our brains to master, so that we are able to identify familiar objects.
However, when it comes to writing letters, children must learn to override the brain's ability to recognise objects in different orientations. This will come naturally for some students, but many students will require explicit teaching and practice before correct letter formation becomes second nature.
Tips for Properly Forming Letters b and d
Lowercase letter b and lowercase letter d are the most common letter reversals. Here are some helpful tips and a range of effective activities for helping children to avoid letter confusion with b and d.
This little trick is my number one tip for stopping lowercase b and lowercase d reversals - focus on the sound of the letter and use mouth articulation to show students the difference between b and d.
With the letter b, the mouth starts in a straight line. Therefore, we form the letter b with a straight line first.
With the letter d, the mouth starts with an open circle. Therefore, we form the letter d with a circle first.
Get students to say 'b' and 'd' whilst looking in a mirror. Ask them to observe the different mouth formations - straight line and circular.
These free b and d letter reversal posters have visual cues to show the different direction that is used to form each lower case letter. They come in a range of different colours and can be downloaded for free here.
Letter Formation Practice
My free letter cousin posters work perfectly alongside the mouth articulation trick outlined above. The concept of Letter Cousins is simple - there are four bosses: l, c, r and u. Once students can form these four letters, they can form almost all of the other letters in the alphabet, known as the cousins. There are only a few lone rangers who don't fit into any of the letter families - v, e, x and z.
Depending on the style of handwriting that you teach your students (in Australia, each state has a different state font), you may have to slightly adapt your letter 'bosses'. For example, some people may need swap 'v' and 'u', as 'v' is might be the boss of 'y' and 'w'. Options for both alternatives are included in the free download!
My letter formation mats are also a great way to consolidate correct letter formation. The dot indicates where students should start, and they can then follow the arrows. They come in all Australian state fonts.
The b-e-d trick has been around for a long time, and can be helpful for some students. Lowercase letter b forms the head of the bed, and makes the first sound in the word bed. Lowercase letter d forms the end of the bed, and also makes the last sound in the word bed.
Another tip for helping children with letter reversals is to use different multi-sensory approaches, where children trace and form letters of the alphabet with different multi-sensory materials such as playdough, wikki sticks, kinetic sand, rice and more.
Over-sized lowercase letters are recommended to encourage children to exaggerate the movements, and air writing with your pointer finger can be another fun way to focus on the correct way to form different letters.
Any activities that are also building fine motor skills will also be of benefit for children who are having a hard time with letter reversals and/or number reversals. Letter reversal activities and extra practice of fine motor skills can be a simple addition to your morning work routine, but can have an enormous impact.
Investigate additional support from an occupational therapist
Some children may require additional support from occupational therapy, and luckily there are many talented occupational therapists out there who can assist. If you are concerned that a child isn't making progress, even with some of the above interventions, you may want to investigate some targeted intervention with a specialist.
Free Downloadable Worksheets To Practise Letter Reversal for b and d
As discussed, b and d are the most common mirror letters. These free worksheets can be used with Kindergarten students, as well as older students in first grade and second grade, to work on b letter reversals and d letter reversals. In addition to targeting the reversal of letters b and d, they are also a great way to build early phonics skills as students decode the CVC words.
With these free printable b and d confusion worksheets, children must decode the two CVC words and circle the word that matches the picture. They must then write the correct word on the line.
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