Are your students struggling with b and d reversals? Did you know that it’s actually a very natural process of your brain? Let’s take a look at the research, the importance of speech to print with this concept, and some tips to help your students if they need it. These activities are perfect for kindergarten and first grade (and great for you as a teacher to understand what is going on). Keep reading for more B and D reversal tips!
This activity goes well with these Simply Kinder resources:
Why Do Students Reverse These Two Letters Really?
Stanislas Dehaene is a French cognitive psychologist, researcher, and author. He has done extensive research on the brain and reading and discovered something really powerful about reversals. The brain actually reverses images when it processes them.
His research included studies on faces. If you think about a mirrored face, your face is your face not matter what direction you see it in. But when you apply that to letters, a letter is not necessarily the same letter in it’s mirrored form and in the case of B and D, it’s actually what is happening.
Therefore, it’s a natural progression for this part of the brain to identify letters in mirror images and assume they are the same too. The way to progress is through practice, letter-sound knowledge, and building decoding/reading skills!
So what does this mean? It’s natural to reverse letters and we just need to point it out to students and help them to remember the difference. (It’s almost like unwiring that natural part of our brain right?)
We found this great video explaining this body of research he has done and it explains it so well if you are interested. (Fast forward to about 11:00 if you want this specific part).
Read more about how the brain learns to read here:
Let’s Start with Studying How We Make the Sounds
Since we are moving the speech sounds of B and D to print, let’s chat about how we make the sounds. This is super important for building a good foundation of these two letters.
These sound photo cards and much more are part of the Simply Kinder Phonics & Phonemes bundle here.
The Tips For Teaching D & B Reversals
B & D Reversal Tip #1 – Look at the placement of the letters in the alphabet. If you look at how you write the actual strokes of the letters a, b, c, and d, you will see something cool. The last stroke of the a is a straight line down and the first stroke of the b is a straight line down. The same is true of the c and d. The only stroke for the letter c is a curved line around and the first stroke of d is that same curved line around. How cool is that.
TB & D Reversal Tip #2 – Draw the letters into pictures. I like to do this with magnet letters on a marker board so they can easily see the letter. Give each letter a head, two arms on the same side so they are both walking the same way, and two feet. The letter b has a big belly and the letter d has a full diaper. We then move the letters and draw the letters in so they know that they can make this to remember when they need it.
B & D Reversal Tip #3– The good old bed trick. I also like to do this with magnet letters and dry erase markers. I start by having students draw the bed. Then they sound out the word bed and place them onto the pictures. We then talk about how bed has b at the front and d at the back and how they make the posts on the bed.
The Importance of Explicit Handwriting Instruction
Reading is the input, writing is the output. Writing is how we prove we know how to read, we produce things that others can read. Think about it, can someone write if they can’t read? Most likely not (I’m sure we could find research on that too). Writing letters and forming them correctly needs to be explicitly taught together alongside letter sounds. It’s vital that students built muscle memory by writing letters correctly and practicing the sound they make in keywords.
We have two resources that can help with this.
First is our Alphabet Bundle with Real Mouth Photos to help connect speech, print, and writing! This bundle (included in our Phonics and Phonemes bigger bundle) gives you alphabet cards, writing printables, Seesaw activities, and even brochures to send home reinforcing all this. It is a must-have!
The second resource we suggest is our Letter Formation Poems. We wrote the poems because we could not find anything where the poem matches the actual strokes the students make and the poem reinforces the most common first sound. So we made them. These poems are catchy to remember and show the students how to make the strokes for the letter if they think about the pictures.
B and D Reversal Tips
We hope the above b and d reversal tips are helpful for you to use in the classroom! Remember it’s a natural progression for students in kindergarten and first grade to reverse these letters. Build strong letter-sound knowledge to help support the foundation of reading fluency!