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My Kindergartner Reverses His Letters

Allison Gardenswartz
Allison Gardenswartz

By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator

Question:

My son reverses some of his letters. Should I point this out to him, or is this just part of learning to write? How can I help him to write the letters the correct way?

Answer:

Reversals in letter formation are very common at this age. It is most important to teach him the correct order or process in which to form the letters - which lines to make first.

Most elementary schools teach D'Nealian printing, which leads nicely into cursive writing in the later years. You should correct his errors by modeling the correct formation. But don't tell him he did it wrong. Ask him if he can "try it this way."

Kindergartners are very tactile. Another great idea is to practice forming letters in sand, or you can put uncooked rice in a box without a lid and ask him to trace letters in it. Then shake the box to have a clean slate, and he can continue to practice. The idea is that the process is fun at this age as motor skills develop. You want to help him get excited about writing without being frustrated.


Allison Gardenswartz is the founder of a San Diego tutoring center specializing in gifted and remedial learning and test preparation studies. An educator for over 15 years, Allison is an expert in identifying and enhancing the learning abilities of school-age children. Allison now fully devotes her time to parent education, consulting and college counseling. Allison has a teaching credential and has taught for several years in various public school systems. She has three children: Jacob, 11, Sofia, 7, and newly adopted Ryan, who is 3.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

05/5/2009:
"When you state that 'most' elementary schools teach D'Nealian handwriting, I am wondering what the numbers are. Most elementary schools in our area of Iowa teach Zaner-Blozer or a similar style. I would be interested in seeing your research on this. Thank you"
02/14/2008:
"This really doesn't answer the question...are reversals STILL developmentally appropriate at age 5? When should a parent begin wondering about the presence of a learning disability such as dyslexia or dyscalcula?"
02/14/2008:
"To add to the above advice -- school is the first real experience where directionality is crucial. When a toddler learns that a chair is called a chair, it can be upside down, backwards, or sideways, and it is still and will always be a chair. Learning our alphabet and how our words are formed from left to right is not typically encountered until the pre-reading experiences of preschool and kindergarten. Developmentally, we are not overly concerned about reversals until the end of first grade, as often it takes that long for some children to make the connection with the critical importance of directionality. Many opportunities to explore those troublesome letters (b,d,p,q for example), should rectify the problem. As far as the D'Nealian style of writing, many schools have actually moved away from this style, because the little tails on the ends of most D'Nealian letters cause them to look too similar. There have been some very interesting research studies of late that h! ave shown that struggling readers have more difficulty in distinguishing between letters because of this similar look. The argument that learning this style of writing would aid the transition to cursive is not a powerful enough reason, since learning difficulties emerge in first grade, and most cursive writing instruction is not introduced now until third grade, when children should already have strong reading skills in their repertoire."
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