Saturday, November 21, 2015

Number Reversals

Oh my goodness, if I had a nickel for every time a parent has said to me, "He/she still writes some letters and numbers backwards. Does he/she have dyslexia?", I could apply for early retirement! Written letter and number reversals have absolutely nothing to do with dyslexia! So, why do some kids persist in making these reversals?

1. It could be a fine motor skill issue.
2. It could be immaturity or even a later birthday. These skills are often developmental.
3. My personal theory is that practice does not make perfect. Practice can make permanent. Children are learning to write at a very early stage of development now. Handwriting instruction has been terribly neglected since other skills have taken priority over it. Some children have written their letters/numbers backwards for so long that it has become a habit to do so. 

So, what can we do? As an RTI teacher, I see a lot of students with issues like this. My assistant and I have had a great deal of success with a few simple strategies. 

Try placing salt in the bottom of an empty pencil box or travel soap container. Let them form the letter/number with their fingertip in the salt.
Let them rub a fingertip across fine sandpaper.
Write it in the air. Use your finger as an "air pencil".
Shine it on the wall with laser finger pointers.
Line the kids up. Let them form the letter/number on the back of the kiddo in front of them.
Tickle write it! (My kids LOVE this one!) They use their own finger to form the letter/number on the wrist/forearm area of their other arm.

I implemented a new resource this year, and absolutely LOVE it! We used this resource on my SMARTboard during our reading warm up time before small groups begin. I purchased this animated PowerPoint from The Primary Techie. Here is a video of her explaining several cool ways to use this program. You can purchase your own copy of this product {HERE}

We noticed that many students who were struggling with b/d and number reversals were writing in a way that had multiple pencil lifts. For example, rather than making a b with one continuous motion, they were writing a "stick" and then adding a "ball". They often forgot the order of those elements. We showed them how to flow write a b and a d. The motion feels completely different. MOST of their errors DISAPPEARED! 
Now, that we have addressed their letter reversal issues, we are about to tackle number reversals. I searched high and low on the Teachers Pay Teachers site for number formation products. I found so many that were cute or had great poems. However, if the poem for teaching how to write a 3 says, "Go around the tree and go around again to make a 3!", they can follow those steps and still do it backwards! I needed something that specifically taught directionality. 

Then, I remembered that when I taught first grade nearly 20 years ago, we sang a song about each number. The song didn't teach directionality though, so I tweaked it meet my needs. Each number has specific directions sung to the tune of "HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH". We are going to project the pdf onto my SMARTboard and use our tactile strategies from there. We will also use laser pointers, our fingertips, or the SMARTboard pens to trace and write our numbers as tickets to our small group tables. Here is a sample page from this free resource. 

If you would like to check out this free strategy, grab your copy {HERE}. What strategies work for you? I would love to hear from you!


  1. Your blog is darling! Thank you for the freebie! I can't wait to try it!

    1. Thanks, Diane! I hope that the freebie will be helpful to you!