Letter and number reversals are a major handicap for a large number of students. Those reversals make reading, writing and math much more difficult. I have devised a simple but invaluable tool – Dot Patterns – that has an amazing effect on correcting these letter and number reversals. Its success is one of the foundational principles that motivated me to create the TeachAllKids website to share this idea with others.
Since this technique has been very successful for dozens of my students, there is strong empirical evidence that at least a very large percentage of all students who reverse their letters and numbers should be using Dot Patterns regularly. There are also other benefits of this technique which was originally used as a valuable thinking-skills tool. For those students who reversed their letters, I initially used other methods but they proved to have very limited success, by comparison. However, soon after introducing Dot Patterns, I began to notice that students also stopped reversing their letters and numbers.
The Underlying Problem
When a student is unable to isolate the individual lines and arcs that make up a letter, they need a tool to help them learn how to readily see these lines and arcs. Look at the letters: ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘p’, ‘q’. Most people see the difference between the lines and arcs that make up these letters and so know that if the line comes first and extends above and is followed the arc or circle on the right then it’s a ‘b’, but if the arc or circle comes before the line then it’s a ‘d’ and if the line extends below the writing line it is a ‘p’, etcetera. This is very simple for most of us. However, some children appear to see ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘p’, ‘q’ as the same single letter or, at best, as only 2 different letters.
I like to compare letters like ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘p’, ‘q’ to a chair. A chair is a chair regardless of whether the chair ‘front’ is facing us or the ‘back’ of the chair is towards us — the chair, regardless of its position, is still a chair. Yet, we expect children to know that, if the chair is facing one direction, it is a ‘b’ and, if it is facing the same direction but is upside down, it is a ‘p’. For some kids, their brain doesn’t interpret the separate lines and curves plus the different “facing directions” that make up each individual letter in the same way most of us do. To help students learn to see the letters of the alphabet and numbers as a series of lines and curves that form distinctly different letters and numbers, students can use the Dot Patterns series and training techniques I’ve developed. I can’t stress enough how important and very useful these Dot Patterns are for students with such visual reversals.
Students reproduce a Dot Pattern by copying one set of linked dots onto an adjacent blank set of identical dots. In the beginning, the pattern may be trivial and composed of only 2 or 3 lines. For kids who are really struggling, you should go over each line with a different-color marker to make them more distinct. In more severe cases, the child may completely reverse the pattern and will need help in determining which dot to use in order to begin. Showing the child where to start by having them count the number of dots from a corner will help them gain an understanding and knowledge of the spatial orientation of the Dot Pattern design. Since this indicates one of the more serious cases, they should definitely receive extra focus in this area.
By repeatedly copying Dot Pattern designs, students learn to see the different shapes that make up letters and numbers and so overcome their letter-reversal perception issues. As students become more proficient at doing Dot Patterns, they make fewer and fewer letter and number reversals. Moreover, the few reversals that do occur are quickly corrected by the students themselves. Fortunately, the results are not only extraordinary but the benefits are also long lasting — it truly is learning to see things differently (what we’d call “normally”).
Though I’ve been using this technique for years, I am still always amazed at how well this works. Seeing the difference it makes in kids’ lives leaves me very enthusiastic about Dot Patterns, not only for letter recognition but also as a great thinking-skill exercise. I use them with all my students at all ability levels from grade levels kindergarten through to working with adults. Interestingly, the students actually love to do them. I can’t stress enough how important these Dot Pattern designs are to helping a student be successful.
Can something so easy work? Can this simple educational tool equip and empower your struggling student? Can we really ‘Teach All Kids,’ even those who are struggling’? The answer is a resounding, Yes!
Linda Derman is a teacher by profession. She has been been working with children & adults with learning difficulties for many years. Recently, Linda started a website called Teach All Kids because she truly believes it is possible, with the right techniques, to teach all kids – even those with learning disabilities. Visit her website at TeachAllKids.com.