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Use the Word “bed” to Determine the Direction of the Letters “b” and “d”

October 29, 2009


Learning to read is thrilling for children and deciphering the meaning of all the symbols that we call letters is like giving them messages in code and asking them to find the hidden meaning. They want to understand, but the symbols are meaningless until they learn how to look at them.

So far in their young lives children have learned about object permanence – this is where an object remains the same no matter which way it is looked at. A truck is still a truck if it is upside down or right side up. A bird is a bird when it’s flying in the air, perched in a tree or taking a dip in water.

For the alphabet, we are asking them to change the way they look at symbols. Now a line with a circle is a “b“, “p“, “d“, “q“, “g“, and an “a” or a line with a small hump could be an “h“, “n“, “u“, “m” and an “r“. These are just a few of the letters that can cause confusion.

When you verbally go through the alphabet with your child, take note of those letters that your child hesitates on or gets wrong. Also when your child is writing, look for the letters that confuse them, the direction of letters may be inconsistent sometimes facing one way or the other.

Activities to Determine the Direction of the Letters”b” and “d”

If your child gets confused with the direction or shape of some of the letters, here are some activities you can do to help them see the differences in the them.

Bed Trick

If your child is confused by the direction of the letters “b” and “d” and they know the sounds that “b” and “d” make, then here is a tool they can take with them and use when they are in doubt.

The ‘b’ and ‘d’ in Bed

pencil and paper

1. Write out the letters “b” and “d” show them how the letters are very similar. Ask them to tell you how they are different. Encourage them to see they are so similar except one circle is in front of the line and one is behind.

2. Now say the word “bed” and ask them what letter sound does it begin with? What does it end with? If they know the sounds of “b” and “d“, then continue.

The Bed

3. Now make a fist with your thumbs pointed up and touch knuckles to knuckles. Show your child how to make it with their hands too. See how the thumbs and the shape of the fists looks like a “bed“. The line and circle on the left hand looks like the letter “b” and the line and circle on the right hand looks like the letter “d“.

4. Say the word “bed” emphasizing the beginning sound and move your left hand indicating that is the beginning sound of “b” and looks like the letter “b“. Then do the same with the right hand emphasizing the ending sound of “d“.

use both hands to make the word bed

5. Trace the letter “b” on their fist then the letter “d“.

use both hands to make the word bed, b on left hand and d on the right

So now when they can’t remember which direction to write the letters “b” or “d“, they can just pull out their hands and make their own “bed“.

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3 Responses to Use the Word “bed” to Determine the Direction of the Letters “b” and “d”

  1. Nan on November 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you! Exactly waht I was looking for to help a little boy I tutor.

  2. Tosh on May 2, 2013 at 10:20 am

    In the last red example, we read: "use both hands to make the word bed, b on the right and d on the left"

    From this reader's perspective, "B" is on the left, and "D" is on the right. That is how the word "bed" is spelled!

    • Cynthia on May 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      Yikes! Thanks for catching that! I made the correction!
      : )

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