Multi-Sensory Strategies to Help Kids Who Confuse “b” and “d”

Multi-Sensory Strategies to Help Kids Who Confuse “b” and “d”

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Are You Familiar With a Scene Like This?

As I prepare for our online tutoring session, I look for a decodable book from RAZ-Plus that will reinforce the CVC pattern my student is working on. I find one that seems appropriate, and click through it to double check. A couple of pages in, I notice words that begin with the letter “b,” and inwardly I groan.

This child’s reading progress is fragile and tentative. Teaching them to begin reading has been like coaxing a scared little animal to come out of hiding. I’m thrilled that I’ve succeeded in convincing them that when they are learning something new, it’s okay to feel confused at first and normal to need practice.

But being confused by “b” and “d” is not new. And they have practiced and practiced and practiced. When I mildly stop them at a “b/d” error and use it as a gentle teaching point, they wilt; they know full well that they’ve been working on this for what feels like half their life.

I’ve come upon the scenario described above more times than I can count, both in my private tutoring and in my public school resource room.

Up until now, I’ve never found a successful strategy or a lesson or a “trick” for teaching struggling readers to recognize the difference between “b” and “d.” I have tried a ton of different visual reminders and plenty of the auditory jingles, too.

A Multi-Sensory Solution to b/d Confusion

I finally hit upon a specific set of multi-sensory strategies to teach b and d that is visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile, plus an effective way to practice online. And it is working! Slowly but surely, my students are beginning to produce the correct sound when they encounter a “b” or a “d” in text. When they write these letters, they are successfully using the muscle memory built through tactile practice and the auditory mnemonic we have practiced simultaneously.

(Equally as important, knowing that they have a strategy to fall back on has built their confidence.)

I created both a color and a blackline version of each of these 8” by 11.5” posters. This allows parents to print out the versions that are most practical for them.

 

When I tutor, I keep the color versions open on tabs, so I can click over quickly when a child needs to refer to them. I send both versions to parents as a PDF, and I encourage them to help their child enjoy the following activities every day (once for “b” and once for “d”.) When my district returns to in-person instruction, I’ll post them in each of the teaching areas in my classroom.

Multi-Sensory Strategies to Teach “b”

Here is how I teach this strategy for the letter “b.”

Visual/Auditory: Look at the poster while saying “First pick up the bat, then hit the ball! ‘b’.”

Kinesthetic/Auditory: Act out the motions while chanting “First pick up the bat, then hit the ball! /b/” Have the child reach down to pretend to pick up a bat, then swing arms as if they were hitting a baseball. During online sessions, I actually have the child get up out of their seat and do this while we chant together.

Tactile/Auditory/Visual: Use either the color or blackline version and have the child trace the letter with their finger while saying “First pick up the bat, then hit the ball! /’b’.” Be sure the child follows the arrows for correct letter formation.

Multi-Sensory Strategies to Teach “d”

The activities for teaching the letter “d” are identical.

Visual/Auditory: Look at the poster while saying “First grab the doorknob, then open the door! ‘d’.”

Kinesthetic/Auditory: Act out the motions while chanting “First grab the doorknob, then open the door! /d/” Have the child reach out to pretend to grab a doorknob and then pull their arm back to pretend to open a door. During online sessions, I actually have the child get up out of their seat and do this while we chant together.

Tactile/Auditory/Visual: Use either the color or blackline version and have the child trace the letter with their finger while saying “First grab the doorknob, then open the door! ‘d’.” Be sure the child follows the arrows for correct letter formation.

Prompt Kids to Apply the Strategies

Here are some ways I use these strategies to support young readers.

I include the steps above as a warm-up or an activity break during the tutoring session.

Sometimes, when I see a “b” or a “d” coming up on a page, I point it out to the child ahead of time. I use the chant and the spotlight annotation feature on Zoom to draw their attention to the letter.

When a child comes to a “b” or a “d” and hesitates, I wait a second to see if they’ll figure it out on their own. If they don’t, I prompt them by saying “First pick up the bat…” or “First grab the doorknob…” or even just “bat, ‘b’” or “doorknob, ‘d’.”

When a child comes to a “b” or a “d” and says the wrong sound, I stop them and use one of the prompts above. I might say “wait here” while I point to the word with the spotlight. Then I’ll say “Bat, ‘b.’ Try this word again.”

Try it Out With Your Young Reader

Download the printables today, and introduce your young reader to this multi-sensory strategy for clearing up b/d confusion.

If you’d like high-quality worksheets to provide your child with extra writing practice to clear up a b/d confusion, check out this fabulous bundle by This Reading Mama.

Boom Learning Cards

One positive thing that has come out of Distance Learning is that I have discovered Boom Cards. These highly engaging, gamified digital task cards provide fun opportunities for kids to practice almost any skill imaginable. I love using them in my private tutoring and during Distance Learning with my students. I couldn’t resist creating a Boom Card deck providing practice differentiating between the letters “b” and “d!” Click here for a preview.

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How to Teach High Frequency Words (and which ones to teach)

How to Teach High Frequency Words (and which ones to teach)

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An important part of learning to read is memorizing high frequency words.

High frequency words are words that make up the majority of printed material, such as news articles, novels, textbooks, and children’s books.

To be fluent readers, children need to be able to read high frequency words quickly and automatically.

High frequency words are not necessarily “rule breakers” or words that can’t be sounded out. There are many high frequency words that are easy to sound out! High frequency words are the words that occur most frequently in printed material.

You’ll find various lists of high frequency words. The most common lists are the Dolch words and the Fry 1000 Instant Word List. In addition, most reading programs provide their own lists.

The Fry 1000 Instant Word List

In 1996, Dr. Edward Fry published his list of the 1000 most commonly used words in English, ranked by order of frequency.

The first 25 words make up 30% of printed material.

The first 100 words make up 50% of printed material.

The first 300 words make up 65% of printed material.

Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why children need to learn high frequency words!

The Fry 1000 Instant Word List is generally divided into smaller lists of 100 words. As a general guide, the first 100 words should be mastered during first grade. (Note – in most states, Kindergarten students are now expected to master anywhere from 20 to 50 of the first 100 words. This wasn’t the case when Fry published his list in 1996.)

The second 100 words should be mastered during second grade, and the third 100 words during third grade. The remaining 700 words should be learned by the end of elementary school.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE AND GAIN ACCESS TO OUR RESOURCE LIBRARY AND DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE FRY FIRST 300 WORDS LIST AND FRY FIRST 300 WORDS FLASH CARDS.

It’s important to note that the Fry 1000 Instant Words are in order of frequency, not difficulty. There are tricky words early in the list, and there are easy words later in the list.

For most children, it’s best to learn the words in small batches of five to ten. For a struggling reader, it’s appropriate to work on learning the words in groups of three. Our Fry First 300 Words downloadable flash cards and online games are in organized in groups of ten.

How to Teach High Frequency Words

A powerful way to teach high frequency words is through multi-sensory learning, with practice and reinforcement through games. Multi-sensory learning includes visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (doing) and tactile (feeling) activities.

Research tells us that if a child learns while using more than one sense, they are much more likely to retain the information.

If you’ve been wanting to help your child master high frequency words, A Family of Readers can help you get started today!

Visit our Resource Library to download your free Fry First 300 Words flash cards. Print out appropriate cards for your child’s grade level and explore the easy multi-sensory teaching and learning activities described below.

Multi-Sensory Activities for Learning High Frequency Words

Activity #1 Tap and Spell

Place the flash card flat on the table. Read the word. With your index finger, tap under each letter while saying the name of that letter. Read the whole word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers. Repeat.

Activity #2 Trace and Spell

Place the flash card flat on the table. Trace each letter with a capped pen or the end of an unsharpened pencil, while saying the name of the letter. Read the whole word as you slide under it with your index finger and middle finger. Repeat.

Activity #3 Table Writing

Keep the card where you can see it. Use your index finger and middle finger to form each letter on the table. Say the name of each letter as you form it. Read the whole word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers. Repeat.

Activity #4 Arm Tapping

Hold a flash card in your left hand. With your right index finger and middle finger, tap your left shoulder and read the word. Use the index and middle finger of your right hand to tap your left arm each time you say a letter, tapping and spelling your way down your arm to your wrist.

When you’ve finished tapping the letters down your arm, return to your shoulder. Slide your index and middle fingers down your left arm as you read the word from the flash card. Repeat.

Activity #5 Air Writing

Hold the flash card in front of you. Read the word. Use your index and middle fingers to trace each letter in the air as you say its name. Then “underline” the word with your index and middle fingers while you read the word again. Repeat.

Bonus Activity

Clip a piece of paper to a piece of #7 Mesh Plastic Canvas. Using a crayon, copy the word on to the paper, saying each letter as you write it. The mesh plastic canvas and the crayon will create raised letters. Trace each raised letter while saying its name. Read the word while sliding under it with your index and middle fingers.

These multi-sensory activities are a great way for your child to master High Frequency words and become a better reader. Help your child spend just a few minutes a day practicing these activities with a small group of words at a time. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they learn!

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