Confusing letters hinder your child’s reading or writing. Try my favorite letter reversal activities to kick letter confusion once and for all!
Disclaimer: These are tried and tested teacher tips but cannot help with any medical or special conditions.
Letter confusions are very common but for learners just beginning to read or write, it can easily get frustrating. Before ruling out the possibilities for solving this, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that my child has dyslexia. (But also, I have read that many dyslexic kids don’t necessarily confuse letters either!)
In this blog post, we’ll dig into letter reversals, why they occur, and, most importantly, actionable ideas, strategies, and activities to fix letter reversal problems.
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What are letter reversals?
Letter reversals (also called mirror writing or reading) are when children confuse or reverse letters when reading and writing.
What is an example of a letter reversal?
If a child reads or writes b as d (or vice versa), that’s a letter reversal! Kids can reverse even words, e.g., read or write on as no, or dab as bad.
Some common confusing letters are:
- b and d,
- p and q,
- m and n,
- f and t,
- s and z,
- and g and y
These confusions can occur in kindergarten, first grade, and even second grade, but when should we get worried?
My kids struggled with this as we live in a multilingual society (3 languages are used every day!). I didn’t give him explicit instructions on letter formation and path of motion, plus he had to be constantly reminded to read from left to right in English. If b is the first letter he saw and knew in the word cab, he would say that first.
Is it normal for children to reverse letters? At What Age Are Letter Reversals a Concern?
If you have any of these questions,
- At what age should a child stop reversing letters?
- At what age is the reversal of letters a normal part of visual and motor development?
- Or even, is mirror writing a problem?
Then here’s a little reassurance for you: it’s very normal for young children to confuse letters when reading or writing (especially if they have not practiced the proper path of motion for making letter strokes in the case of writing!).
This is why I always make sure any tracing sheets I use for my kids have a starting point or a black dot or star. Otherwise, they won’t know where to start a line and will develop incorrect writing habits (like drawing a line from the bottom up!), which are hard to undo once muscle memory has developed.
However, if letter confusion doesn’t go away beyond the second grade after repeated support, then early intervention can help against any future learning difficulties.
What causes letter reversals?
Why do children reverse letters? Isn’t the difference between b and d obvious? It is a natural thing to recognize a person, no matter if a child sees their left or right side. Kids bring this identification method into letter recognition too where this subtility matters.
- Still developing visual perception,
- lack of enough letter recognition or visual discrimination practice,
- incorrect path of motion for making letter strokes when writing letters,
- Etc., among other reasons, can cause letter reversals.
How to Fix Letter Reversals: The Best Ways to Help Your Students
Now, if you’re wondering, “How do I get my child to stop reversing letters?” then you’re in luck. Here’s a list of fun letter reversal strategies you can start using today. Many kids learn in different ways, so use as many as possible until something lights the bulb.
- Focus on proper letter formation strokes and path of motion from the beginning
- Use sticky poems, ditties, or chants for letter formation.
- Letter Reversal Games: Play is the fastest way to build memory pathways in kids. Focus on the differences between two confusing letters to make it fun so kids remember!
- Reinforce letter recognition with visual discrimination worksheets: Give kids drill-type practice by using worksheets that focus on visual discrimination between confusing letter pairs.
- Tell Funny Stories or Ditties About Confusing Letters: I always try to make a story out of everything to help my kids remember it better. E.g., B had a big belly that made him feel bad about eating burgers. D always has a full diaper because he ate too many donuts. B and d love their neighbors; b starts with the stick of a, d starts with curvy c.
- Visuals, like letter reversal posters and cards. One picture can replace a thousand-word verbal explanation, especially when teaching. Some kids also have a photographic memory, so we use that to our benefit! Add letter reversal posters with clear visual distinctions between confusing letters on your class wall or student desk. For example, use the bed visual for b and d (b is the headboard, and d is the footboard).
- Make it movement-based: Make kids do body or hand poses for letters.
- Make it multisensory
- Make it audio-visual. Use sound-mouth pictures for this. B
Whenever asked, “How do you help students with letter reversals?
Here’s what my go-to response is:
- Reinforce recognition! In isolation and with similar tricky letters. Some kids simply need more practice than others.
- Make it multimodal because different kids learn in different ways.
- And most importantly, make it fun because it’s the fastest way kids pick and retain!
Must-Try Letter Reversal Activities
- Letter reversal Funny jokes
- Letter Scavenger Hunt
- Confusing Letters Comprehension Passage: Practice letter reversals when reading with a fun short paragraph full of confusing letters written for kids.
- Letter Tic Tac Toe
- Confusing Letters Bingo
- Letter Reversals Worksheets/ Coloring Page – Color by Code to Reveal Mystery Pictures
- Pocket Chart Cards Sorting
- I Spy
Kick Letter Reversal Activities for Good!
Letter reversal with confusing letters is common, but we can easily fix this most of the time with some deliberate effort! Engaging letter-reversal activities and games, visual aids, consistent reinforcement, and early intervention can help.
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