Tuesday's Teaching Tip

“I have a 3rd grader and she still reverses her b‘s and d‘s.  My friend has a daughter in the 3rd grade who doesn’t do this and she told me that my child  shouldn’t be doing this anymore either.  Should I be concerned?”  This was a question a mama recently asked me.  And I thought it was a good one at that!

I probed further to find out that her child was reading and writing on a 1st grade level.  Developmentally speaking, this student was a 1st grader, despite what “grade” she was actually in.

My response went something like this (cliff note version):

“Your daughter is demonstrating the spelling behavior of a 1st grader because that’s the developmental level she’s in.  Students in this stage still do reverse their letters on occasion, so for her developmental stage, she is ‘normal’.”

We need to remember to look at the whole child as we observe and assess.  Instead of expecting literacy behaviors based solely off of a student’s grade level,  we need to make sure we take into account what developmental stage he is in.

As for the b and d reversals, it can be a source of embarrassment for kids who are the older grades, yet in a different developmental stage.  This is what I tell the students I tutor who struggle with this particular reversal: With a pencil, lightly write a capital B at the top of your page.  The lower case b will fit inside of it.  When you’re done with your writing, erase your B and no one will ever know that you needed it. 🙂

And a big P.S.– Even if this mama’s 3rd grade girl was developmentally in the 3rd grade, ALL KIDS ARE DIFFERENT!  We need to be careful that we avoid playing the comparison game with our kids.  It can negatively affect how they see themselves as writers and readers!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suzie
    May 24, 2011 @ 22:59:56

    I have never used your idea for b! I love it! I always used the word bed to teach my students, I would show them how the word can be turned into a real bed…. but now I can show both!
    Love the tip!


    • This Reading Mama
      May 25, 2011 @ 07:25:46

      Yes, I used the word bed when I taught K-1 and had it posted in my classroom for kids to refer to. There’s also another one where the kids make the b and d with their hands and that’s supposed to help, too. But the lower case b within the capital B is more discrete and with older kids, that’s important. One tutee in particular had complained that her classmates were making fun of her for using her hands to make the b and d; which absolutely broke my heart!


  2. Michelle Breum
    May 26, 2011 @ 00:31:11

    I didn’t think to use the capital B trick either. Thanks for sharing this! If a child writes in manuscript or D’Nealian style writing it helps prevent reversals in writing. I can usually get a reader to write the letter they are trying to read in the air to decide if it’s a b or d.

    Too bad kids have to make fun of each other. Your trick is great.

    Love your blog!


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