Articles – b and d confused

Many students confuse letters that are similar. Here is one way to help students remember which letter is which. Sometimes, students have trouble knowing what sound to make when they see a letter, some have trouble knowing which letter to write when they hear the sound. This method solves both problems.

Note: When I’m referring to a letter, I’ll write the word letter, and then write the letter e.g. letter b.
When referring to a sound, I’ll write the word sound, and place the relevant letter between slash marks e.g. sound /b/.
Note: The sound /b/ is a quiet sound. The sound is the one you can hear at the end of the word cob. It’s really just the lips popping open. Be careful to say sound /b/, and not sound /buh/ – which has a bit of a grunt at the end.
In all these examples: the student will be male.

Before beginning, you will need:

  • 2 “wrist markers” – one for your left wrist/thumb, and one for the student’s. Suitable wrist markers are: a watchband; a loose, thick elastic band; or a colourful hairband. Suitable markers for a thumb are: a ring, band aid, or other easy-to-see marker for the left thumb;
  • a piece of paper with a printed (not cursive) lowercase letter b at the top of it, with a line below it (where the student can write the letter b a few times;
  • a piece of paper with a printed (not cursive) lowercase letter d at the top of it, with a line below it (where the student can write the letter d a few times;
  • a pen or pencil for the student to use for handwriting.

Step 1

The first step is to help the student differentiate between left and right, without having to think. It’s essential that the student doesn’t have to think about this.

To help the student know which side is left without having to think about it, position yourself next to the student so you both face the same way – so it is easier for him to copy your movements.

Place your marker around your left wrist/thumb, and get the student to copy you by placing his marker around his left wrist/thumb. Check that sleeves are not hiding the markers. There should be nothing on the right wrist or thumb.

Say, When we read and write, we always begin on the “marked” side and work across to the other side of the page.

Get the student to place his hands a little apart on the desk.

Step 2

Tell the student you’re going to show him a way to remember which sound to say when he sees letter b.

Place the paper with the lowercase letter b in front of him, between his hands.

Point out that the letter is made up of two shapes, a line and a circle. Ask him which of those shapes is nearer to the marked side. He should answer, line. Tell him that since the line is nearer to the marked side, that means the lips should make a line first, then they should pop open to form the circle. Let him watch your lips as they make sound /b/ a few times, so he can see they begin by making a line, then make a circle. Let the student make a few of these sounds.

Step 3

Tell the student that he can use what he’s just seen to remind himself how to write letter b.
In the same way that his lips form the line first in saying sound /b/, then make a circle, he must write the letter by writing the line first, then write the circle. Then get him to write a few letter b’s as he makes sound /b/. Check he is forming the line and circle in the correct order.

Step 4

If your student is easily confused, you might need to do the next two steps on another day
Tell the student you’ll show him how to remember which sound to say when he sees letter d. Both of you should sit side by side at the table, with your wrists marked. Your student should have some space between his hands.

Place the paper with lowercase letter d between his hands. Point out that the letter is made up of a line and a circle. Ask him which of those shapes is nearer to the marked side. He should answer, circle.

Tell him that since the circle is nearer to the marked side, his lips should make a circle first. Let him see your lips making sound /d/ a couple of times, so he can see your lips form a circle. Let the student make a few of these sounds. (If you student asks why his lips don’t make a line after they make the circle, say that once lips make a circle, they usually go on to make another sound straight away, so they don’t have time to make a line. If he doesn’t ask, don’t mention this to him.)

Step 5

Tell the student he can use what he’s just seen to remind himself how to write letter d.
In the same way that his lips form the circle first in saying sound /d/, so he must write the circle first when he writes letter d, then he writes the line. See that he forms his letter d shapes in the correct order. (See the note below, which explains why this is important.)

NOTE: Many students confuse letter b and letter d because they write – line, then circle for both letters. Many students find it VERY confusing when they are expected to perform practically identical movements, but (seemingly randomly) are supposed to have different outcomes. This is why it’s important to make different movements for creating each letter.

To learn more about the Reading Course available on this site, click Reading Course, in the menu.

n