How to Correct Letter and Number Reversals

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Letter and number reversals are a common developmental problem for preschool and kindergarten-age children. Young children often have difficulty processing spatial opposites such as left-right and up-down. These challenges sometimes persist as letter and number reversals for beginning readers. As a child matures, her brain usually develops the necessary pathways to accurately process spatial information. Parents and teachers can reinforce the importance of these skills, and facilitate reading development, through play and extra practice.

  • Sandpaper letters
  • Letter writing worksheets
  • Connect the dot activity sheets featuring letters and numbers
  • Clay

1 Evaluated

Have the child’s vision evaluated. Letter reversals are sometimes the result of poor vision, and a doctor’s examination is required to rule this out.

2 Play games that drill left-right knowledge

Play games that drill left-right knowledge, such as “Hokey Pokey” and “Simon Says.” Problems with left-right discrimination frequently correlate with letter and number reversals. Playing games that teach and reinforce this knowledge often generalizes into reading skills over time.

3 Add a tactile component to teaching letter discrimination

Add a tactile component to teaching letter discrimination. Before addressing word-level confusion, students should be able to correctly identify the letters or numbers in question 99 percent of the time. Tactile feedback -- from letters made out of sandpaper, for example -- frequently facilitates learning for children who are struggling visually.

4 Incorporate a kinesthetic element into learning

Incorporate a kinesthetic element into learning. Provide tracing opportunities, activities requiring children to connect dots to form letters, and clay to mold into letters and numbers. Similar to connect-the-dot games, worksheets that use arrows to direct letter and number formation can help children train their eyes to recognize definitive directional features as they write. Kinesthetic activities can help the brain process visual information for children with visual-processing weaknesses.

5 Simplify discrimination tasks

Simplify discrimination tasks so that you present only one half of frequently confused pairs to the child at a time. Initial letter identification drills should include one typically confused letter mixed with easily named letters. Once the child's identification accuracy reaches between 95 and 99 percent, include both letters in drills.

6 Introduce simple words

Introduce simple words. Include only one half of confused pairs in the word set. For example, if a child frequently confuses “b” and “d,” over-teach words with “b” in the initial, final and medial word positions, then do the same with “d” until the child reads the words correctly 95 percent of the time. Avoid reversible words, such as “was/saw,” until reversals are rare.

7 Include words

Include words such as “bed” that incorporate both halves of previously confused pairs in a non-reversible way once the child reaches 95-percent accuracy on simple words with both letters independently.

Meredyth Glass has been writing for educational institutions since 1995. She contributes to eHow in the areas of parenting, child development, language and social skill development and the importance of play. She holds a Master of Science in speech, language pathology from California State University, Northridge and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from California State University, Northridge.