Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Getting letters dackwarbs

Many children get their letters and numbers backwards at some point, and this is perfectly normal, but as parents, we do worry about it. If your child is 7, 8 or even older and still getting (or starting to get) their 'b' and 'd' mixed up, don't despair - chances are they will get the hang of it eventually, but extra stress from you isn't necessarily going to help!

The most common confusion is over 'b' and 'd' but talking to parents and teachers it seems that children can struggle with most letters, and with their numbers too. It's hard to get 'o' wrong, but other regular culprits include 'g', 'j', 'p', 'z', 'h', and 's', and in the number family '2', '3', '5' and '7' can be tricky, as can remembering that twelve is written as '12', not '21'. So what we can do to help our children? Here's a list of tips:

  • Gently correct your child when you see them make a mistake. Saying something like "This is the way we write the letter 'b'. Do you want to try?", can be much more effective than being too strict or worrying them.
  • Use a try of sand or foam to trace the shapes of letters and numbers with your fingers. They can copy yours or do their own, but get them to focus on the letters and numbers they struggle with.
  • When you're reading together, point out the letters they are finding difficult to write, and talk about them. The more they see the correct letter, the more likely they are to be able to identify their own mistakes because their writing will 'look wrong'.
  • Play a tracing game on your hand where you close your eyes and ask your child to trace a letter on the palm of your hand. They will want to get it the right way round so that you can guess the right letter; then do it to them.
  • Don't be afraid to talk to the class teacher if you are worried. Chances are they will be able to reassure you and give you some more tips to try at home.
  • Lastly, don't stress about it too much. Your child may pick up on your worry and become reluctant to try and write, thereby making the problem worse.
Interestingly, I have read that some teachers find that it is the more able children in their classes who continue to get their letters the wrong way round. They seem to be focussing so much on getting their complex thoughts and ideas down on paper that the task on concentrating on the detail is forgotten, and getting their letters the right way round becomes unimportant when the creative juices are flowing!

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