Braille Reversals (e.g. d-f and h-j)

Beginning print readers may experience difficulties recognising and writing print letters, particularly those letters that are mirror images of each other, such as b-d, p-q.

Similarly, early braille readers may require support to master the complexities of braille.

The braille code is a representation of print based on 6 dots in various combinations. Nearly all of the symbols in the braille code are the reflection (left-right or top-bottom) of one or more other braille symbols.

Letter reversals, such as d-f and h-j are common for beginning braille readers; here are a number of creative and fun ideas that can help.

First:

  • Make sure you refer to each braille symbol as a unique item – it is quite unhelpful to say to young children, “The letter d is a reversal of the letter f.”; “d is f backwards”; “you got d and f confused again” etc. Instead, describe d as dots 1-4-5 or the top dot in the first column and the top two dots in the second column or whatever strategy you normally use.
  • Ensure that your student is not “scrubbing” when they read (meaning that their fingers run backwards and forwards over the braille) or turning their wrists, and therefore perceiving the braille symbols at an angle.
  • Ensure that your student’s hands are flowing from left to right in one smooth motion with as many fingers as possible on the braille.
  • Enlist the student’s agreement that it is time to work intensively on particular “focus” braille symbols – and that you have a number of fun strategies that will help!

Then, in broad terms:

  • Provide intensive and targeted practice on one “focus” braille symbol at a time – ensure that one symbol is “overlearned”, before moving to the next.
  • Initially, ensure that the braille text (letters, contractions or words) is super-predictable and achievable for early success.
  • Include re-reading, games and singing if possible.
  • Continue to work on hand position and flowing hand movements.

Braille “feature of the week” (or 2-3 weeks) e.g. f!

Associate f with the exclamation mark (which is the same shape as f but in the lower part of the braille cell) and make up sentences with your student using words that start with the letter f, feature the letter f, and end with the letter f! This means that your student will have the experience of seeing f as a capital, f at the beginning, middle and end of words, and f in association with punctuation.

e.g. Five fleas eat beef and figs on the floor. OR Fifty flashy fish sniff one stiff leaf.

Nonsense is fine so long as the child’s level of understanding is considered. Begin with short sentences and add to them, making them sillier and sillier e.g. Fleas eat figs … Five fleas eat floppy figs … Five fleas feast on frosty figs on the filthy floor …

Of course, there are bonus points for thinking of words that begin AND end with f! Make sure to have a laugh!

If possible, avoid the use of the letter(s) or braille symbol reversal(s) so that the student is just able to focus on one troublesome thing at a time. If your focus is f, try to avoid b, d and/or j.

During the f week(s) don’t have any conversation at all about the other problem letter(s). If the student misreads a word due to a reversal, immediately tell them what the word is and move on.

Talk about the shape of the f and the exclamation mark! When you read the letter f, you find two dots followed by one dot.

Have the student suggest a “memory hook” based on the shape of the letter, e.g. the f kind of points forward to the next exciting adventure! Point to the right, in the direction that the text is going. That’s where the adventure is heading!

Put a sock puppet on your hand and hold it in the shape of f, always appearing in the shape of a braille f from the child’s perspective. Decorate the f-shaped sock puppet or draw it using a drawing kit. Colour in an f-shaped sock puppet on a tactile worksheet. Call the f-shaped sock puppet character something funny, like Fifi or Fluffy! Give the f-shaped sock puppet a silly voice or an engaging personality. Help your f-shaped sock puppet think up words containing f and write them in braille!

Do warm-up f reading activities before you do general reading with your student.
e.g. Fluff the flying frog felt fairly frisky!

Use lots of reading practice including re-reading, singing the sentences – anything that maintains interest and motivation!

After a week or so, take a break from f except for the occasional reminder if needed; maybe have your sock puppet on hand if required. Or repeat a mis-read f-word in your sock puppet’s silly voice.

Moving On! Pick a New Feature Letter

Identify the next focus letter and using the above ideas begin work on the new “letter of the week”:

  • d: Dashing David drove down the dirt road and dived down a drain. The end.
  • h: Hey Holly! Help Harry hassle the horrid hoola-hooping hippo! Hide that hot, hairy aphid! Blah blah blah! Yahoo and hip hip hooray!
  • j: Jon jams the door ajar. Ninja Jack and Major Jo adjust the juicy jelly! Jim just jots a jolly joke and enjoys Jazz!
  • Resources

    To find words beginning or ending with a certain letter visit: More Words, Word by Letter or other such sites. Rhyme Zone is great for rhyming words.

    For more information, please see The Tactual Learner page.