Teaching The Difference Between Lower “b” and “d”

My second-oldest is in kindergarten this year.  We’re not doing anything too intensive, but she’s showing some signs of being ready to learn so we are starting to learn phonics through All About Spelling 1.

I quickly noticed that she has trouble differentiating between lowercase “b” and “d”.  (All About Spelling teaches primarily in lowercase letters, which makes sense to me since we primarily use lowercase letters!)  While I’m not worried about it since she’s only just turned five, I looked around to find some helps for teaching the difference between “b” and “d” and thought I’d share them in case one of your students is having the same issue.

Kinesthetic methods for teaching the difference between “b” and “d”

School Sparks suggests a technique where you form the lowercase “b” and “d” with your left and right hands, which allows you to associate the letter “b” with your left hand and the letter “d” with your right hand.  Read more here (last paragraph for this particular technique, though there are several suggestions for learning the difference between “b” and “d”).

Auditory methods for teaching the difference between “b” and “d”

The Phonics Page encourages students to pay attention to the shape their mouth is making when they sound out the words.  Read more about this idea in the last paragraph here.

Here’s a song and video that uses the “bed” method to teach discrimination between “b” and “d”.  Of course, the bed method assumes that your kids know what a four-poster bed is!

Visual methods for teaching the difference between “b” and “d”

Activity Village has a nice poster of the popular “bed” method for teaching “b” and “d”.

My friend Joy at Five J’s has great illustrations of the letter “b” as a bumblebee and the letter “d” as a dog, including coloring pages!

All-around methods for teaching the difference between “b” and “d”

All About Learning Press has a good perspective on the common “b” and “d” reversal and also some helpful exercises to help teach kids how to properly form the letters to prevent confusion.  As with their spelling program, their methods include auditory, kinesthetic, and visual helps to reinforce the concept.


Do you have any tips for teaching the difference between “b” and “d”?



  1. We never had too much trouble with the difference, but I remember telling my daughter that ‘d’ is made from a ‘c’ and a ‘stick’ (because I’m technical like that, lol). ‘d’ comes after ‘c’ because it needs ‘c’ to exist, or something like that, and that was enough to help her see how they are different.

    Mostly I think it’s developmentally appropriate for kids that age to spend some time unclear on it, so I didn’t worry about it. I’d be more concerned if she were still struggling when she was older. I didn’t make a big deal out of reversed letters, words, mirror writing, etc., because there is research out there that says it’s related to brain development and just part of the process. Hope that helps! :)

  2. Would learning the American Sign Language symbol for the letter b help differentiate?

    Brain Gym does an exercise where you make a “b” in the air with your finger, then go back to the starting point and do a letter “d”. This helps make connections in the brain, too! Learning to draw the letters in the air seems easier than trying to manipulate a pencil on lined paper for beginners.

    Just a couple thoughts……

    • Good point. She’s not a great writer yet, and I’m definitely *not* going to push that because I know it will come. I’ll bet she’d like writing in the air, or like Laura suggested, writing on a cookie sheet with some rice. Or, now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve seen people color gel and put it in a ziploc bag and write in the gel.

      Now my wheels are turning. :) Thanks, ladies!

  3. We did some of that too, LizA, and we would also put a thin layer of uncooked rice on a tray and ‘write’ in the rice. It was fun!

    • We would “write” directly on each other’s back with our finger. Once they know a few letters then they can quiz you (or you can quiz them).”What’s this letter?” Fun!

  4. I know this was 3 years ago, but I just wanted you to know that I really appreciate all of these suggestions! my son is going to turn 5 in July and I’ve decided to homeschool him so I figured I would get a jump on it. I’ve been using all about spelling even though I wasn’t sure if it was meant for kindergarten, so everything in this post has made me a little more confident in what I’m doing :)

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