4 Ways to Cope with b and d Confusion

Most tutors and teachers of Orton Gillingham have a student (or 10!) that confuse “b” and “d.”  It’s a common challenge for kids, but throw in a dyslexia diagnosis, and it gets even harder. There are several strategies to use to help students overcome this issue.

Why Is It Common to Confuse b and d?

The confusion between “b” and “d” is common because the letters are mirror images of each other. This can make it difficult for children to distinguish between the two, especially when they are first learning to read and write.

When to teach b and d

When teaching b and d, b comes first in the scope and sequence. You would teach the sound with the keyword and teach mind-motor coordination with tracing the letter while saying the letter name – just like other letters. The d is a little later in the scope and sequence.

You would not teach the letters b and d together. The b and d confusion can happen once kids start reading and writing after you have taught them both. It’s just the nature of these mirrored letters. Students might also have an issue with p and q.   That’s when you might begin using some of these techniques and activities. You don’t need these activities to teach b and d – you use them if you have a student confusing b and d.

Strategies for Overcoming b and d Confusion

Activity #1

There are several strategies that can be used to help. One effective strategy is to use visual cues to help kids remember the correct orientation of each letter. For example, draw a “bed” on a piece of paper and label each letter to help children remember which one is which.

Activity #2

You can also use multi-sensory activities to help children learn the difference between “b” and “d.” For example, ask students to trace the letters in sand or shaving cream, or on paper, to help them develop muscle memory and remember the correct orientation of each letter. Repetition is key here.

Activity #3

Recently, a friend and fellow tutor showed me her clever idea. She took broccoli and a donut to her session and put them on plates and gave the saying, “Eat your broccoli before your dessert.” She said her student loved it and it really helped him remember.

Activity #4

Students improve their writing skills by having plenty of opportunities for practice. Writing practice can include everything from drawing pictures and writing letters to writing stories and journal entries. As students become more comfortable with writing, they become more confident in their ability to distinguish between “b” and “d.”

Final Word

Confusing “b” and “d” is common, but by using visual cues, mnemonic devices, multi-sensory learning activities, and providing plenty of opportunities for practice, your student can jump this hurdle and move forward in the Orton Gillingham journey.

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