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Good reader but still confusing 'b' and 'd' when writing

(9 Posts)
letsbehonest100 Wed 26-Feb-14 07:33:08

My almost 7yo DS is still regularly confusing d and b when writing.

He has read really well from reception and now reads with the year above (I hope that doesn't sound like a boast, just trying to emphasise that reading is not an issue).

His writing is pretty messy, letter sizes are erratic and he does struggle with getting some letters and numbers the correct way round (mainly b, d, 9 and 3.

For the past two parent evening his poor writing has been mentioned, but no strategies have been suggested to improve it.

I'm beginning to wish that he was offered a bit more support. There is plenty of support available at his school for children struggling with reading and maths, but not handwriting.

He is also feeling frustrated and disheartened.

I have parents evening soon, and am not sure if it would be reasonable to be a bit more assertive about this.

I would welcome any thoughts about the confused letters and poor handwriting.

JohnnyDeppsfuturewife Wed 26-Feb-14 10:39:42

I'm not an expert but I thought I'd say that my year 1 dd still gets some letters confused when writing (b, d, s, 5, z) and so do many of her friends. Like your ds she is also a good reader.

I'm sorry your ds isn't happy. My dd isn't worried so I usually tell her when she's made a mistake and she corrects it. (If she's tired I know she won't react well so don't mention it.) I try not to make a big deal out of it but a few times we've written out words with those letters in and she's really concentrated on the shape of the letters. For example you can write bed and then turn it into a picture of a bed. This has helped her to remember the difference between b and d. I have also let her write the word bum repetitively on a piece of paper. She absolutely loved this because to her bum is a very naughty word.

Her handwriting isn't great (although I haven't seen many others to compare hers too) and I think she gets tired writing too much so we do lots of arts and crafts and she loves drawing and making little cards for people. I also ask her to write things that are quite practical like shopping lists or to do lists. She'll write them neater so that someone else can read them.

I tend to assume that she'll get better but if I thought it was a problem in a later year I would definitely be bringing it up at parents evening.

JohnnyDeppsfuturewife Wed 26-Feb-14 10:43:38

*to not too.

Gah. I will never enter the boards of education again!

PandaFeet Wed 26-Feb-14 10:54:55

Yes, my year 1 DD is the same with b and d. She even gets confused while reading them but obviously can correct her own mistake when she realises the word doesn't make sense.

I actually remember struggling with b and d myself, and I think it was right into y4.

Definitely bring it up at parents evening.

maizieD Wed 26-Feb-14 11:48:16

I can't offer much help on the handwriting, apart from finding a resource which gives lots of practice in making the shapes needed for letter formation, tracing letters correctly formed and practicing writing them independently. There may be something on the internet or perhaps one of the primary teachers on MN could recommend something. (My friend Debbie's page might be helpful: )

I did wonder about pencil/pen grip. If he's not holding his pen or pencil correctly it could interfere with correct letter formation and/or lead to pain and tension when writing.

With regard to the b/d confusion the best strategy I have found is this one (which is a bit complex to explain but easy to carry out)

It's based on the mouth 'shapes' made when saying the /b/ and /d/ sounds. Get your child to say the /b/ sound and note that it starts with the mouth closed and finishes with the mouth open. Mouth closed can be loosely seen as a straight line so when the letter is written it starts with a straight line (the upright stroke), it then has an 'open mouth' (the 'ball'); as letters are always written in a left to right direction (should be...) the ball will end up on the correct side of the upright stroke. 'd' isn't quite so neat, but when said it starts with an open mouth, so 'ball' first, then the upright. As long as the left to right direction is always implemented the child cannot go wrong!

I do think that a lot of the problem starts with children starting the 'upright' at the top (in fact, some schools teach this, which is sad), getting to the bottom amd then not remembering which side the 'ball' goes. If they start with the correct part of the letter and keep going L to R it is much easier. It is a good thing to insist on L to R directionality (is that really a word?) else the child will find cursive (joined) writing difficult.

For reading the 'mouth shapes' apply again; see the upright stroke first, close your mouth to start saying the sound /b/, if the 'ball' is first, open your mouth /d/.

This also works for p/q confusion, which isn't as common but does happen.

A few minutes practice each day at writing the letters, saying the 'sound' as they write the letter, helps to develop automaticity. Just do one letter at a time; once one is reliably correctly written practice the other one.

For number confusion I would suggest the same sort of practice, maybe starting with tracing the number so as to establish the kinaesthetic 'feel' of it, saying the number as it is traced or free written also helps to establish it in memory.

maizieD Wed 26-Feb-14 11:53:28

Sorry, should also have said to start forming the b/d on the line, not in mid air! You might have to introduce a little 'entry stroke' (as in 'joined up writing') to make it easier. Can't demonstrate this here as I can't change the message font.

Ferguson Thu 27-Feb-14 18:41:43

The word "bed" is also useful, as it makes a 'picture' of a bed. When I was a TA, with children who couldn't remember, I used to write "bed" in very large letters, and then draw a little 'stick person' in bed; which, of course they loved!

ninaprettyballerina Thu 27-Feb-14 18:54:15

DS1 also confused the 2 when writing but cracked it with the thumbs up trick - spelling bed with his hands. Left hand thumbs up makes 'b' right hand thumbs makes 'd' and he knows bed is b e d.

Ferguson Thu 27-Feb-14 19:04:44

maizie - would not the 'stroke' of 'b' start at the top, but the 'curve' of 'd' start off as though it was 'c', and then go 'round, up&down'? (That's as I always understood it.)

I used to tell the children the words 'ascenders' and 'descenders' as well, which they liked because I said they were 'grown up' words, and not everyone knows them!

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