Younger students often confuse b/d and p/q, especially in grades Prek-3rd. First, let’s think about this phonetically. The phonemes for B and D both make a voiced sound. That means if you put your hand over your throat while you make the /b/ or /d/ sound you can feel the vibrations on your hand.
The difference you should point out to your students if they are confusing the sounds of /b/ and /d/, is that /b/ sound is made with the lips together and /d/ is made with the tongue touches the back of the front teeth. You can make students aware of this by having them make the sounds while watching their mouths move in a handheld mirror.
Now the /p/ sound is like a tiny puff of air. The lips are together but it is unvoiced. If you feel your throat while creating the sound, there is no vibration. The /q/ sound also has air in it. So this may be why students phonetically confuse these letters b/d and p/q. If you want to know more about voiced/unvoiced phonemes go HERE.
Now let’s talk about the orthographic, or written component. Often when students are writing the letters of b,d or p, q, they confuse them because they are basically made of similar formats. All those letters are built with a circle and stick (to put in primary terms). When you are teaching handwriting/letter recognition always make sure to teach these letters separately. I would not teach b and d in the same lesson.
There are many creative ways to help students with these letter confusions:
· I had a simple sign hanging in my classroom that said “b sees d”. Every morning as a part of our calendar routine I would have students read the sign while hold their hands up. The left hand would have the thumb out and symbolize “b”. The right hand would have the thumb out and symbolize “d”. I would explain how the letters had to face each other in order to talk. I found this method highly successful because my students no longer seemed to confuse b/d.
· You can also have them use the left hand to represent b and the right to represent d, but use the index fingers to point upward while the others make a loop or circle.
· Use these helpful songs from Karen Stamp to sing about b/d and p/q. Sometimes music can be underutilized as a teaching tool in the classroom, but the great thing about it is it only takes a few minutes to sing a teaching song. You can squeeze it in at the end of the day while the students are lining up or at the beginning of the day during a transition time. You can find the FREE download HERE.
Kickin’ It In Kindergarten has created a neat freebie of b and d posters to help your students differentiate between the two. You can grab it HERE.