Many beginning and struggling readers have trouble with b and d confusion and other letter reversals. As a child learns their letters it is common for them to reverse letters or draw mirror letters. The letters <b> and <d> are easily confused because of their similar shape.
Many teachers and parents utilize great ideas such as forming b’s and d’s with their fingers or teaching the difference between a b (with belly) to help younger children correct common B & D reversals. Unfortunately, these methods alone may not be enough in helping kids who have difficulty picturing which way these similar letters should face!
This blog post is dedicated to ending B and D confusion for your students. Read to the end for literacy resources that are essential to help them know the difference between the two letters.
Unlike other reading skills which have to do with phonemic awareness deficits letter b and d confusion has to do with faulty letter recognition strategies which are not phonemic problems, they are visual recognition issues.
Consistency is the key to fix b and d confusion
Because <b> and <d> look alike in print we need to help students distinguish between the 2 letters correctly and consistently. That consistency is the single greatest key for correct letter recognition. If kids are constantly guessing “that’s a <b>.” “no <d>” “no <b>” they develop harmful patterns that are very difficult to overcome. That is why it is key to use multisensory strategies to help students get it right every time.
Connect the B’s and D’s to Muscle Memory
I think visual graphics like the word “bed” posters and other graphics are fine.
But I prefer to focus my attention on forming the letters correctly. We need to develop muscle memory. With beginning readers and struggling readers we should focus our attention on correct letter formation while saying how they are writing them out loud.
Talk as you form the letters to fix b and d confusion
This multi sensory approach will often correct or prevent common letter reversals in children. Have young learners form letters while saying what they are doing. For all letter writing, I always begin with lowercase letters because those are the ones we use in books most often.
Form Letters using a Letter Writing Script
For the letter <b> I teach children we begin with the vertical line or straight line. We say, “Start at the top go down back up, and around <b> says /b/.” We practice with one letter at a time until the children can write the letter <b> correctly while saying the steps and the letter sound. Then we add the next letter and practice with it for fluency.
To prevent <d> letter reversals, we say, “Push around up and down d says /d/.” Make sure to say the correct sound it is just /b/ or /d/ not /buh/ or /duh/.
Begin Good Habits Early
We should begin to develop muscle memory with children in Kindergarten and not wait until first grade. If first graders have already spent months “drawing” letters incorrectly this contributes to b and d confusion as well as other letter reversal problems.
Write Letters Don’t Draw Letters
Most kids “draw letters when they are young. It is normal and natural for pre k children to draw letters as they would a picture. But we must teach kids to write letters as they enter Kindergarten not draw them. If you are working with children who are struggling with letter formation because of slow development of fine motor skills they can still use their index finger and either in “air writing” or sand writing the letters in a multi sensory activity. Over-teach writing and correcting letter reversals using the script above.
Use Cursive with Older Students
When I work with dyslexic children that reverse letters I teach them cursive letter formation. The lowercase letter <b> and the lowercase letter <d> are formed quite differently and this usually helps children stop reversing letters. It helps with other commonly reversed letters as well.
However, this does not solve the problem of b and d letter reversal when teaching reading so I still have children form and write b and d until they have a better understanding of these letters.
Provide Lots of Correct Practice
Many children do well during a lesson focusing on <b> and <d> confusion with lowercase <b> and <d> but then they continue to struggle when trying to read with these letters.
The b and d finger strategy
So one of the reading strategies I use is to have children make a <b> with their left hand and a <d> with their right hand but then after showing them this strategy initially I just continue with only the right hand as a multisensory memory device.
Otherwise, the children get confused by going back and forth from hand to hand and it slows down the reading practice as we work with letter b and letter d words.
Use a Bracelet
I call the left hand their letter <b> hand and have them make a <b> bracelet and they always wear it on their left hand during reading instruction. Then children learn every time we come to a <b> <d>or<p> the students check it with their letter <b> hand.
Play B and D Confusion Games with the B Bracelet
We play lots of games with reading B and D words in which we check every time. No guessing is allowed. If you guess you lose points even if you guess correctly. If you have students struggling with B and D letter reversal they don’t feel singled out because all the other children are doing the same game.
Most children are reading b and d letters fluently after practicing with their <b> bracelets games and muscle memory exercises for a few weeks. But some children will need to practice longer. I keep the <b> bracelets around because of all the ideas I have used over the years this one works the best if we consistently use it because it is a physical reminder of the <b> and will help a child remember not to guess at the letter.
Other multisensory strategies children might find helpful
Use the Capital B
For students who need other visuals to aid in b and d confusion. Using the Capital “B trick” may be of help. Lightly draw a capital B as the child begins their writing; allowing it to serve as an outline for the lowercase letter <b> before erasing the letter when their writing is complete – no one will ever know!
Use the Child’s Mouth and a Mirror
Another Way to prevent letter reversals is to have your students look at their mouths when they say the sounds for the letters <b> and <d>. When they say /b/ their lips start in a straight position like the straight line of the letter <b>. When they say the letter <d> sound their lips will be more open and their tongue will curl up like a circle to tap the roof of their mouth like the round part of the letter <d>.
Visual of the bat before the ball
Some children like to visualize the bat comes before the ball and that helps them as they are air writing the letter <b>.
Address Problems early
It is important to try to overcome common letter reversal problems early. Even though many children overcome letter reversals by age 7 they can persist through to second grade for some children and it can have an effect on reading fluency.
So whether you are a classroom teacher or a homeschooling mom. It is helpful to address B and D confusion before those reversals become ingrained patterns that become difficult to correct. So please take advantage of the B and D free download below to help your students.
B and D Download FREE Resource