Volume 4 • #7 • August 2005


Regular readers of these newsletters will have noticed that there wasn’t any for July. A couple of family reunions, one in North Carolina and one in Maine (we do get around) took up not only my time, but what little thought I could have drummed up in the middle of the heat waves we have been having.

Meantime, a bright student cooked up what may finally be an effective way of teaching one of the hardest phonics facts in English for a right-brained reader-- the difference between the lower-case letters, b and d , which are mirror images of each other. For a right hemisphere which doesn’t give a hoot about the difference between left and right, there is no important difference, especially since it isn’t associating a sound with either orientation.

So I try all the tricks I have ever heard of, and when they don’t work, I fall back on that piece of advice that sometimes works but just as often annoys classroom teachers: USE A CAPITAL LETTER. THEY DON’T LOOK ALIKE. I have always thought it was better to spell the word correctly with a capital letter in the middle of a word than to use the wrong letter. But an occasional teacher won’t let a student do this, and I don’t want to add yet one more reason for a teacher to get after the hapless dyslexic student in her class.

The other problem with this solution is that half the time, the kid doesn’t wake up and realize which noise he is making anyhow, so even if he knows the difference in looks between B and D, if he doesn’t hear the difference, it doesn’t help.

This was the case with the student I mentioned above, so I went to some trouble to point out to him that the letters were formed differently in your mouth: when you say /d/, you put the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth in front and then spit out some air. But when you say /b/, you have to start with your mouth closed, then pop your lips apart and then spit out the air. So you only have to notice which way you start. I wrote a d and a b on a piece of paper and a B and a D below them. Whereupon the student took the pencil and finished the picture as you see here!

Well, I don’t know whether this works for anybody else, but this kid, at least, hasn’t confused the two since!



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