Classroom Tip: Remediating Letter & Number Reversals

Studies have estimated that 10 to 30 percent of elementary school children struggle with handwriting. Researchers have also found that children who experience difficulty mastering this foundation skill may avoid writing, and their overall school achievement and self-esteem may suffer.

One of the most common handwriting struggles young children have is letter and number reversal. Reversals show that the child is having problems with left-to-right orientation, one of the main skills needed for natural, automatic writing.    

If you have students who are struggling with reversals, follow these simple tricks to get them back on track.

  • Work on one letter at a time. Master that formation before moving on.
  • Teach letters in separate groupings; for example, lowercase “b” and “d” are easily reversed. That’s why we teach them in different letter groups:

Teach d with the Magic C letters: Begin with a c stroke, up high like a helicopter, up higher, back down, bump

Teach b with the Diver letters: Dive down, swim up and over, around, bump

  • Use Wet-Dry-Try on the Slate for capital letters, or the Blackboard with Double Lines for lowercase letters. This multisensory activity appeals to different learning styles and offers the repetition needed to correct reversals, yet appeals to children’s different senses, which makes learning fun.
  1. Children use a sponge cube to trace over a letter you have written on the Slate or Blackboard.
  2. Next, they use a paper towel to dry the letter.
  3. Finally, they use a chalk bit to write the letter again. 
  • Play Mystery Letter Games using Gray Blocks or the Slate. This is a fun way to develop good writing habits and correct common letter reversals.
  1. Lead students in making the beginning stroke of a letter without saying the letter.
  2. Make sure students have completed this stroke correctly before moving on to the next letter.
  3. Continue step-by-step until the mystery letter is formed. 

The frame of the Slate helps to prevent and eliminate reversals of capitals and numbers. Similarly, the placement of the lines on the Blackboard is appropriate for learning lowercase letter formation and placement in print or in cursive.

Visit for more information and to check out our video lesson library for Wet-Dry-Try and other activities. 


Comments (9)

One problem is that the students have learned to write their lower and upper case letters by kindergarten. Most have been taoguth to write in PreK and we do a lot of corrective work especially top to bottom, etc.
Another problem is that they write their Upper Case letters using boxes and then have to put the Upper Case only when focusing on writing Lower Case letter. My class gets so confused as long as we have had the program being able to place Upper Case letters on a line.
These methods have significantly helped my students with correct letter formation. If they form the letters and numbers correctly we do not see as many reversals.
I think using a word starting with 'd' (diver) to write a b could be confusing. Why not call them bouncer words? "Bounce down, up and around to make a b."
Thank you for the suggestions. I now realize that I'm focusing on too many letters at one time. Thank you again.
A boy in my preschool class can write his name, but he almost always reverses the "S" at the end of his name. I have taught my class to write in all capitals and this boy can write the alphabet correctly on his own except the "S." Only when I am guiding him with verbal instructions reminding him to start the little curve in the middle and to go toward the left and then make the little curve at the bottom, does he write the letter correctly. He is left handed and I am wondering if that has something to do with "S" being the only letter he makes backwards. Will it help to keep going over this letter using Wet-Dry-Try and the Mystery Letter Games using the Gray Blocks? Is there something else that I can try with him if these don't work? I have used Wet-Dry-Try, but only to introduce a letter, not to remediate. This boy did make the letter "S" correctly using Wet-Dry-Try. I want him to be able to make the "S" correctly on his own. He will be going to kindergarten in September.
I use HWT for handwriting groups for children in K-2 grade. Each group of students and I LOVE the Mystery Letter game. We play often as a warm-up/review of the previous groups. As an educator, I've found it's a great way to to grab the students' attention and give them a reason to make handwriting fun.
I have used your program in my Pre-K class for several years with great success. A question about the formation of the upper case J recently came up. The kindergarten programs in the surrounding districts form the J without the line at the top. I see it written both ways and wondered if you could share why you do use the line at the top. Thank you!
I have a pre-k child who can write her name using Upper case first letter and lower case for all the others. The problem is that the teacher tells her that is not the correct way to write her name. She crosses it out and writes in in all upper case letters. When I talked to her she said she uses HWT and they write all their names in upper case letters and that she will continue marking wrong.
What are your thoughts
I have been searching for the "proper" way to describe to my students how to write their letters. It seems like everything I read and everyone I talk to has a different "hint" for making the letters. I love your tips for teaching how to write b and d and was wondering if you have tips for any other letters? Thanks!

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