b’s, d’s, p’s & q’s

Why do children get so muddled when it comes to writing these letters?

b is for bat and ball.” 🏏
d is for drum and drumstick.” 🥁
“Ethan for the tenth time today...that’s a ‘q’ not a ‘p’!” 🤦
“Remember your curly caterpillar and one-armed robot letters!” 🐛🦾

Sound like a normal day in the classroom?

Despite your best efforts, are your students still reversing their letters? Are they just ignoring your handwriting lessons, your rainbow-coloured, co-constructed display boards and letter-sound cards on their table or is there something else at hand?

Look at the following. What do you see in each picture?

I’m going to go ahead and point out that what you should’ve said was a cat 🐱 (any other adjectival phrases and you’re just being an overachiever here).

This is one picture of a cat that has been reflected.

Now look at this. Again, there is one single picture that has been reflected.
Same question: What do you see in each picture? (My hand is not the correct answer here!)
visual for letter reversals

A different letter in each picture. Interesting. 🧐

A cat is a cat whether it is upside down, facing left or right, curled up, stretched out or scratching the base of your sofa, right? As young children, we learn to recognise objects in different forms and still assign the same word to them. My book can be open, closed or on a shelf but it’s still a book. My t-shirt can be folded, scrunched up or on a clothes hanger but it’s still a t-shirt.

Look around you and identify 5 concrete nouns (things) that you can see. My list looks like:

  • mug ☕

  • phone 📱

  • bicycle 🚲

  • umbrella 🌂

  • door 🚪


Test: Does the orientation matter? If any of these things were upside down or on a funny angle, would you still use the same noun to name them?

Stop for a second to think about it.

We all developed this understanding at some point in our learning about text so we take for granted this knowledge of how to recognise and write letters. What about your students who haven’t clicked onto this concept of orientation being important yet? 🤔

Spreading awareness is never a bad thing.

Take a couple of minutes to discuss this concept with your students in your next handwriting lesson or procrastinating-doing-work chat. Sure, it might not be the miracle solution for solving the b/d/p/q confusion, but you might just surprise yourself at how receptive young children can be to this little pocket of revelation - I know at least half of my Year 2 class went all wide-eyed over this news and this actually sparked some pretty decent conversation (meanwhile the rest of my class just feigned looks of understanding or stared blankly into the distance like normal...). It’s all about how you present it; show your students that teachers learn new things all the time too and share that this really got your mind ticking! Besides, even if just one student has an 'Aha!’ moment from this, then that’s a pretty significant win in my book! 🙌

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