How to teach a kid to write b's and d's correctly?
July 28, 2010 12:44 PM   Subscribe

How to teach a kid to write b's and d's correctly? Tips, mnemonics, etc.?

Pretty simple question. There is a kid, going into second grade, with very good reading and writing skills. But she consistently mixes up her lower-case b's and d's. I thought I might check to see if any metafilter users know of any good tips, mnemonics, etc. to help her keep them straight.
posted by Alaska Jack to Education (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I remember noting that a little "b" was just like a big "B" except without the top loop. Then the "d" was, of course, the other way 'round from the "b."
posted by galadriel at 12:47 PM on July 28, 2010

This is kind of dorky, but if you have her make two fists, put them on a table parallel to each other, and stick out her index finger for each fist, and tell her she's making a bed, that can help. It's hard to explain without a visual, so here you go.
posted by superlibby at 12:48 PM on July 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

b is for ball - it bounces away
d is dog - it runs back at you

Made up on the spot. Can't vouch for effectiveness with any given kid but I always found visual imagery tied to mnemonics worked well for me.
posted by Babblesort at 12:49 PM on July 28, 2010

Long ago I had trouble remembering which was my left hand and which was my right hand. Only by thinking about it many times was I able to eventually fix this distinction in my mind (of course by now, I know it without having to think about it). If I wanted to invent a mnemonic device for the letters b and d, it would go something like this:
the bee looks to the right - be right!
the dog looks to the left - he supports PETA (and other leftist organizations). I realize that this might be a bit complex for your purposes, but it's the best that I can come up with.
posted by grizzled at 12:50 PM on July 28, 2010

Hmm I just thought of one that might work. She's right-handed. I could tell her to think of the word "draw." If she straightens the last three fingers of her drawing hand, her thumb and forefinger would make a "d." I wonder if that would work.
posted by Alaska Jack at 12:51 PM on July 28, 2010

Oh I didn't expect so many answers so quickly!
posted by Alaska Jack at 12:52 PM on July 28, 2010

Picture the word 'bed' in your head. The word looks like a bed viewed from the side. That's how I always remembered it, anyway.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:53 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

bed! See it it looks like a bed, right? With a big head board and a foot board sticking up at the other end. Who would want to sleep on a deb? You would be all scrunched, wouldn't you?

dog! He's got a big nose and pointy ears and his tail is hanging down. Probablly wagging too. A bog just doesn't make it at all.
posted by Some1 at 12:54 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

le more de bea arthur's suggestion is exactly how I learned it as a kid, too.
posted by scody at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2010

Oh, le morte. phhhhht.
posted by Some1 at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2010

These are great ideas, especially the "bed" thing. Thanks everyone!
posted by Alaska Jack at 12:58 PM on July 28, 2010

When I had this particular problem, my father told me that "b's have bellys and d's have derrieres". For some reason it worked and I never confused the two again. (I remember thinking, "Well what if b's have butts? Oh, then that doesn't leave anything for the d's."
posted by defreckled at 1:02 PM on July 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm 38. I still use the "bed" device to orient myself at least once a week at least. It's a very useful tool!

(I also use the L for left pretty much every day.)

Why yes, since you ask, I do have a form of dyslexia.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:26 PM on July 28, 2010

(Slight derail since the child probably doesn't know the following bit of table setting arcana, but -- the bread dish goes on the left and the drink goes on the right. Any time I'm seated at a large table where I might mistakenly grab my neighbor's water, I look down at my fingers -- my left hand forms a 'b' for bread and my right a 'd' for drink.)
posted by devinemissk at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2010

I learned the 'bed' trick in kindergarten. It's incredible
posted by alligatorman at 2:04 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you touch your forefinger and thumb together to form a circle while holding your fingers straight up, your left hand will form a b and your right hand will form a d.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 2:14 PM on July 28, 2010

Well, as an educator I was taught in college that this is a developmental issue that has to do with the shape of the eyeball still molding and that it is very difficult to "teach" the difference if a child is not developmentally ready. In practice, I often had students well into the 4th grade who reversed those two letters. While I would correct them and point it out, as a teacher, I personally never counted off for it, especially if the child could tell me what letter they meant to be there. It did sometimes help once they started writing in cursive because the two letters are so obviously different in cursive.
posted by tamitang at 3:02 PM on July 28, 2010

If you're looking from left to right, the vertical stroke on "b" is before the rest of the letter. On "d", the vertical stroke means you're done.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:05 PM on July 28, 2010

begin and end

The b faces into and begins the word begin. The d faces back and is at the end of end.
posted by Araucaria at 4:13 PM on July 28, 2010

I had a terrible time with this when I was a child, what saved me was learning to write cursive. Because cursive b's have that little loop in the stem. I still have to think of them sometimes when I try to print one.
posted by Saminal at 5:36 PM on July 28, 2010

Nthing "bed." A kindly first grade teacher wrote it on a card for me (even drawing a little stick figure sleeping on it) and taped it to my desk.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:06 PM on July 28, 2010

The "bed" thing is a neat trick that I'll have to keep in mind.

Alaska Jack, your question reminded me of a particular episode of Speaking of Faith that you might find interesting. (This might sound really odd if you're not familiar with the radio show, but this isn't completely OT...I hope.)

For the episode (called "Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education") the host Krista Tippett interviewed Adele Diamond, a cognitive developmental neuroscientist, and they talked mainly about education and educational approaches for children (mostly really young, pre-school kids, but also elementary school).

At one point, Diamond mentioned young kids who had trouble with "mirror-writing" -- instead of "b" and "d" though, the example she gave was where kids might write the number "6" reversed. She then talked about how Elena Bodrova (researcher in developmental and educational psychology) had this method: instead of having the kid write the number repeatedly to practice, ask him/her to stop and use a red pencil whenever they had to write the number 6. This would resolve the mirror-writing issue within a day.

I know, it sounds way too simple. But basically (if I understand correctly), the important thing was that this process allowed the child to break free of the first inclination of mirror-writing because it would create the time for the child to consider and write the number correctly.

Adele Diamond says it better (and more interestingly) than I do -- I think it's worth reading the short paragraph in the transcript of the episode -- just do a browser find for "Elena Bodrova" and you'll end up in the relevant paragraph.

I found the entire episode to be fascinating, and highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in education, kids, the value and importance of play and the arts, and/or psychology (and IMO there's a really moving story near the end). Aside from the full transcript, the episode page also offers some media (a few videos, as well as downloadable mp3s of the episode and the unedited full interview with Diamond) and links to related articles.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:55 PM on July 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

In Japanese, there's two letters, 'chi' and 'sa' that are basically mirrored versions of each other, like 'b' and 'd'. To learn them, I followed a pattern to tilting my head. Chi is tilting head to the right, sa is tilting head to the left. It's great and you find yourself getting less and less used to the tilting over time and you can identify letters immediately.

So basically, have her tilt her head left for b, and right for d. Soon enough, she'll get it.
posted by Senza Volto at 1:57 AM on July 29, 2010

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