Correct Letter Reversals with These 9 Writing Tips
It is common for preschoolers and kindergartners to reverse letters. But, by age seven, children should only be making occasional reversals. If letter reversals persist after handwriting remediation, they can be a sign of dyslexia or other learning disabilities. In that case, further testing may be warranted.
Regardless of whether or not a child has a learning disability, they should be instructed in how to form letters and numbers correctly. If your child is learning to write by simply copying letters, it is unlikely that they will learn proper letter formation. Repeated errors only reinforce reversals. Therefore, it’s important to work toward error-free learning. It’s much easier to develop good habits than to change bad ones, so early intervention is critical!
Here are 9 tips to help correct letter reversals with your child:
Establish a Mental “Picture” of Each Letter
Help your child establish a visual memory of each letter and the letter name and sound. Children who frequently exhibit reversals confuse reversible letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ because they have trouble pulling them from memory.
- Play “Memory” or “Go Fish,” using the letters the child tends to reverse.
- Have them do a letter search by circling all of the letters your child has difficulty with (‘b’s, ‘d’s, etc.) within an article, or have them match pictures to the letters the picture starts with (‘b’ with bird, ‘d’ with dog, etc.).
Also, Letter Reflex is an excellent app for teaching kids the proper orientation of commonly reversed letters. It also provides kinesthetic input to reinforce learning. It has two fun games that become harder as your child succeeds. The games are timed, and you can track accuracy via progress reports the app generates and emails. One of our students said, “This is so fun! I could play it all day!!!”
Correct Letter Reversals of b/d:
- Form circles with your thumbs and pointer fingers to make ‘b’ and ‘d’ with your hands.
- Bring them up to your eyes and look through your b-d glasses (‘b’ on the left hand and ‘d’ on the right hand), OR
- Make your bed. The letter ‘b’ forms the headboard of the bed and makes the first sound in bed. The letter ‘d’ forms the foot of the bed and makes the last sound in the word bed.
Correct Letter Reversals of p/q:
- Make a thumbs down with both hands. The letter p (formed with your left thumbs down) comes before q (created with your right thumbs down) in the alphabet.
Most reversals are left/right inversions like b/d and p/q, rather than up/down inversions like n/u or m/w.
See the Skills 4 Life blog post, Teaching Your Child Left & Right, for some fun ways to facilitate teaching your child left from right.
Group Letters with Similar Stroke Patterns
Prevent reversals from occurring by teaching proper letter formation and grouping letters with similar stroke patterns. For example, the “Magic C Letters” ‘c,’ ‘a,’ ‘d,’ ‘g,’ ‘o,’ and ‘q,’ all begin with a “c stroke.” The “Diver Letters” ‘b,’ ‘h,’ ‘r,’ ‘n,’ ‘m,’ and ‘p,’ all begin with a line down and then swim up and over.
Teaching letter formation this way makes it easier for children to create a mental image of each letter. Thereby, creating a sharper visual memory of the letters commonly reversed.
Once children know that ‘d,’ ‘g,’ and ‘q’ are “Magic C Letters” and ‘b’ and ‘p’ are “Diver Letters,” they will be less inclined to reverse them.
Model Proper Letter or Number Formations
Model proper letter or number formations to demonstrate the necessary arm motions and stroke sequences. Yes, this means you need to know how to form them properly too!
Reference this guide for teaching proper formation: Handwriting Without Tears Letter Formation Charts.
Use Online Resources from Handwriting Without Tears
Use the Handwriting Without Tears Wet-Dry-Try activity, using their slate chalkboard or Wet-Dry-Try App to reinforce the proper graphomotor sequences for capital letter and number formation. Remember to use the Handwriting Without Tears Letter Formation Charts above.
Correct Letter Reversals – One Letter or Number at a Time
Focus on remediating one letter or number at a time so that multiple correct practice repetitions are possible.
- Have your child roll a die and write the letter (or number) as many times as the die says. This activity is also a great way to work on number identification and addition skills by using more than one die.
- You can also have them write as many words as possible, beginning with the letter you are practicing
- Play Tic-Tac-Toe using the letters or digits that are challenging for your child instead of the traditional ‘x’ and ‘o.’
Use Multisensory Activities
Keep writing practice fun and engaging by using multisensory activities.
- Have your child make letters out of different materials and then trace them with their finger. You can try Play-Doh, Slime, Wikki Stix, or sandpaper.
- Write letters in a tray filled with sand, shaving cream, pudding, or rice.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice daily for multiple days to reinforce new habits and develop muscle memory. Just 5-10 minutes of daily practice will strengthen proper letter formation. Have your child check their own work and make sure they formed their letters correctly. If they don’t recognize all of their errors, make a game out of it to see if they can find the remaining reversals.
Use Your Thumb As a Guide
For proper number formation, use your thumb as a guide. Try this Thumb Number strategy!
If your child still needs help, learn more about working with a certified Handwriting Without Tears specialist.
While there are many techniques you can use to help your child correct letter reveals, the best way to prevent them is through proper early education. Focused intervention is the key to becoming a successful writer. Contact one of our certified Handwriting Without Tears specialists for a handwriting assessment and individualized instruction or remediation.
About Skills 4 Life:
Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.