I have had many parents come to me worried that their preschool or kindergarten aged child may be dyslexic* after he or she continues to spell and write words/letters backwards, upside down, in mirror image, or mix up letters within a word.
Let me say now that this writing behavior is totally normal at this stage in your child’s pre-writing and pre-reading development and in most cases* is not indicative of a learning disability.
Let’s think about this…
We, the smarter-than-the-average-preschooler mommy teachers, see a triangle. 3 sides + 3 points = triangle no matter how you look at it.
(Technically that last one is a pyramid says my 5year old, but you get my point.)
What, then, is the letter A?
It is but a mere visual representation of a sound in a word… a symbol… or simply, a shape, not unlike our friend, the triangle. We recognize this shape no matter the direction, font, size or color. Our brains are hardwired to group these similar shapes together so we can recognize them even though they may look slightly different than the Times New Roman capital letter A.
Our kids are naturally doing the same exact thing which is why they can still find the letter A in a pile of letters, even though some of the As are upside down.
To help teach correct directionality (the direction in which we read and write in English), use your index finger to guide reading: top-bottom, left-right. This is a learned skill and will become ingrained through repetition and practice. In Leyson’s case, if he knew that he should have spelled the letters out from left to right, the word would have actually spelled JAMES instead of SEMAJ – but with a sideways S and an E for an M… babysteps.
When Leyson spelled James’ name backwards, I then modeled how to spell his own name as he said the letters out loud to me. Leaving those letters in place, I then pulled a second set of letters for his name and asked him to put them in order directly under the one I had done.
“Which letter comes first? Which comes second?” Etc.
To fix his sideways S, I lined up a few of the same letter and laid them out right side, upside down and sideways and we chose the correct letter. This taught him that it DOES matter which way a letter is written… BAM! Epiphany.
Back to his spelling of James’ name:
Me: “Now, if we spelled the name LEYSON with the L over here on the left, what is different about how you spelled JAMES?”
Leyson: “I used an upside down E as an M!”
* Dyslexia is a Developmental Reading Disorder (DRD) which is one of the most common learning disabilities. A small percentage of those with this type of DRD actually see and write letters backwards or upside down. Most often dyslexia is diagnosed within the critical beginning reader years (kindergarten – 2nd grade) if a child of normal intelligence still has difficulties with visual and/or auditory reading comprehension, spelling and phonological awareness.
If after age appropriate and developmentally appropriate reading and writing strategies have been correctly taught to your school-aged child and you find he or she is still struggling with reading, begin to log your perception of your child’s reading abilities and share it with your child’s teacher or doctor so they can determine if your child may need further evaluation.
Sean Patrick has really just lately taken an interest in writing.
Compare his grasp here to the ones in the following picture and you will see that he is just getting used to the “alligator chomp.”
We have done lots of pre-writing activities to work out his little muscles in his hands to ready him for writing…with Playdough, drawing in the dirt with sticks, driving his little cars all over different surfaces, chalking outside, coloring, tearing paper, etc.
But only lately has tracing HIS letter “S” really become a priority.
When I introduced him to holding his crayon with the “ALLIGATOR CHOMP” he became obsessed with it… he would literally tell random receptionists in offices that he could hold his crayon with the alligator chomp too.
This grip has to be modeled and you may have to take your little one’s hand to get them to have a feel for it, but first we did the alligator chomp without holding anything in our hands.
I have really started to take advantage of the love of his pencil grasp and his love for his letter S by trying out lots of different tracing activities.
I always model what he is going to do first, then I take his hand and we do it together (if he will let me – independence is important to him too), and then see what he can do on his own.
1) I wrote out his name while singing his song (I always do this first…. he knows his song).
2) Then I showed him how to trace his S with a little saying “Make a ‘c’ and then back around” (talking out the process of making the letter is important).
3) He then traced his “S” in every color … also called “rainbow writing”
His little sister scribbled all over it but you can see that he had fun with his “S”
4) We then put a paper over his name written in black marker so he could trace his name that way.
5) Since he mostly focused on “S” we made an entire page of just “S” and he had so much fun with this. He finally took off the top paper and started tracing his “S” with all the colors again, but side by side as shown in the following picture would be the next step after he masters tracing 🙂
If you try this and it is not fun for your little one… then go back to some of the pre-writing activities I mentioned earlier. You don’t want writing to be stressful for your little one… your little one will write when he/she is ready 🙂
Here is a short video demonstration:
If you have any questions or tips to add then please message or share them here in a comment on this post!
Ya know, I need to just start off by saying that I am just like any other mom. I go a little crazy when the chores pile up and my house is messy. I don’t always have my meals thought out. I can’t compare myself to other moms…. Because then I’ll just feel like a hot mess. I am not perfect, and I am actually relieved that I am not expected to be. But, like any other mom, I want the best for my kids, and I am always trying to figure out what more I can do to be the best mom that I can be for them.
I give myself lots of grace because I believe there is a huge learning curve when it comes to raising these little impressionable people.
But, when I am not feeling like a very intentional, efficient, or productive mom, I am not completely satisfied in my role. So that is why, both when I was a SAHM and now as a working mom, I get those motivational moments to sit down and plan out something to make the most of my time at home with my kiddos.
Sometimes just ONE thing can make your day feel like a HUGE success. You might sweep one floor, exercise for one small chunk of time, cook one meal, check off one thing from the to-do list, etc.
Well, even though I aim to purpose learning as a mindset and not just in a compartmentalized way my ACTUAL GOAL is to purpose one quality activity a day.
Most of the time, I sit down & think of a daily activity that I think my son would enjoy and one that I know can be used to teach important skills.
In these times, I can get inspiration from:
1) Pinterest… depending on my children’s age or what I am working with on them. Follow meFollow Casey
2) Friends…which is why I have teamed up with an AWESOME mommy teacher, Casey, to share ideas.
3) Teaching experiences… Which Casey and I both share with you here 🙂
4) Connecting with other moms, whether in my mom peer groups, or moms around the world who share what works for them.
But lots of times, I just get inspiration from what I know would be meaningful to my kids.
The other night, my son was missing his Texas cousins…. So, writing a letter to them was naturally the most meaningful activity for us to make the most of.
1) We pulled out some card stock cut into cutesy shapes (Stationary Template Printable here!), as well as some markers, crafty stamps (his idea), pens, envelopes, and mailing stamps. (Stickers would have been fun too.)
2) I asked Sean Patrick what color he wanted for Kaylee, what color he wanted for Presley, and then I let him decorate.
3) Then I asked him what he wanted to say and I re-vamped it a little and read it to him as I wrote it. He also stamped the bottom with his fingerprints and I drew a heart around it.
4) He carefully placed the stamp in the right-hand corner so the mailman knew we paid for it.
5) He helped me say the numbers in the address so he the mail carrier would know where to bring the letter.
6) He stuffed & licked the letter.
7) I let him put it in the mailbox and lift the flag.
Here is the vocabulary he used to tell daddy about our activity: mail, letter, address, deliver (he said “liver it”), mailman, and mailbox.
And as you can see…. just this ONE, SIMPLE activity made our day an unforgettable and meaningful one.
Share your simple, yet meaningful activities with us & other mommy teachers around the world…comment here or post pictures on our Facebook page 😉