backwards letters/numbers - ProTeacher Community


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backwards letters/numbers
Old 11-01-2006, 01:22 PM
 
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i recently got a note from a parent that says she feels it is too hard on the students (1st graders) to expect them to write their letters and numbers correctly. she is frustrated because i mark the answers wrong on spelling tests if the students have a backward letter.

i have gone OVER and OVER this with my students. i realize they are young, but i also know that they have gone over these things in preschool and K already. We have the alphabet all over our classroom, and they have it right under their noses on their nametags. Whenever we write something I tell them to check it over...."check your letters, do you have any pancake flips to make?" When we take tests I say it after EVERY word. Then, at the end of the test, I tell them to check again, and I say each word again. I have even showed them how having a backward letter can change a whole word....for example, dog/bog. Two totally different words all because of a flip.

They know the pattern when we write things.....write something, check it over, write, check, etc, etc. We also practice our letters and words daily. Whenever I see someone with something backwards I have them fix it. I know it takes children a long time to learn some things...that's why we go OVER and OVER it.

Am I being too defensive about this? Am i really expecting too much from my students? Any feedback would be great!


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I wouldn't
Old 11-01-2006, 01:42 PM
 
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I wouldn't mark the answers wrong on a spelling test for what I consider to be a developmental handwriting issue. I would continue to work on it (as you do) and make good examples of the correct way to write the letters but I wouldn't mark the words wrong if they are otherwise spelled correctly.
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I do the same
Old 11-01-2006, 01:42 PM
 
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I have the alphabet all over my room. The students are expected to check their work before turning it in. When we practice, I circle and have them fix it too.
I explain to parents that because of standardized testing- the students have to get into the habit of checking their work now- I will not be able to help them in anyway during these tests.
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developmental
Old 11-01-2006, 02:30 PM
 
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I think two things:

First, I think it's good that you hold them to a high standard.
Second, I think that it shouldn't be something that affects their grade and it shouldn't be something that they are always thinking about to the point where that becomes a focus. They will get it eventually. I taught second grade and it took the whole year for that to extinguish. That was normal.

For many children, looking at a letter is like looking at ANY object in our world. A cup is a cup no matter if the handle is to the left or to the right. Now, we tell them that it IS a cup if it's to the right, but it's something else all together if it's to the left. That's why it takes years for them to get.

As for it being all around the room-- it's great that you are immersing them in it, and it's great that they know where to look for it. BUT, it's just not always possible for them to cross check and be able to pick out that it looks wrong. Again-- it's just a cup flipped the other way to them. The only way they could check their whole test would be to literally check every single letter, because to them , they all look right-- they look like letters!
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Old 11-01-2006, 02:40 PM
 
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I agree with you happyteacher. I don't think you are expecting too much. I count them wrong in second grade too. If they aren't counted wrong, then they may begin to think that they are right when in fact they are not. You have provided enough help, its their turn to make sure they are writing them correctly. I don't want kids coming into second grade thinking that they have been writing their letters correctly all year in 1st and come to me and have to relearn them correctly. I have a few that still do this, but on a Spelling test these are wrong-because it IS the wrong letter. Thanks for taking the time to really emphasize this is 1st grade.


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Backwards Letters/Numbers
Old 11-01-2006, 02:51 PM
 
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Here's what I do:

If a number or letter is backwards and it doesn't change the meaning of the word, I just circle it and write the correct number or letter above the incorrect one.

If a letter is backwards and it changes the meaning, like bab when they were trying to write dad, then it is counted wrong.

It is very frustrating to see students write numbers and letters backwards, but I have always heard that it is developmentally appropriate until 2nd grade.

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clarification
Old 11-01-2006, 02:54 PM
 
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I should clarify that I point out backwards letters, I put highlighting tape on certain letters on children's nametags, I highlight them in our spelling dictations, ask children to fix them when they edit their writing etc... I just believe that it should not be marked wrong because it's still developmental.
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Old 11-01-2006, 03:07 PM
 
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I was taught that reversals are developmental until the age of 8. We emphasis it, practice it, practice it some more. But I never mark it wrong on a graded paper.
That's just my opinion. I think what matters more is the parents' perception. You don't want this to turn into a big issue. Have you spoken to other grade level teachers in your building? See what the others are doing because this mother probably has already. What about resource teachers, principal etc... My district is very clear on this policy and we all do the same thing.
I hope that helps.
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I agree
Old 11-01-2006, 03:53 PM
 
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with Bookmuncher. I have learned in my education classes (several years ago) that backwards letters are developmental and may take until the end of second grade to correct. I also highlight them and show the kids the correct way to make them but don't mark them wrong. I teach first grade.

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Old 11-01-2006, 03:55 PM
 
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I agree. I also mark them wrong. I'm sorry but if the word is "bop" and they write "boq", that is incorrect.
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I don"t
Old 11-01-2006, 04:31 PM
 
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count "flipped" letters/numbers wrong in my first grade class.
It's developmental.
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This is a judgment call....
Old 11-01-2006, 05:06 PM
 
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If it is a student who doesn't usually have letter reversals, and you are pretty certain that the reversal is due to carelessness or rushing, then I would mark the word wrong.

If it is a student who ALWAYS has letter reversals, and marking the words with reversals as incorrect would result in the child getting a poor grade in spelling when, in fact, he *can* spell the words but has a perceptual problem with directionality, then I would consider alternatives that would not penalize his spelling grade for the reversals. Having the child spell the words with reversals orally is an option if you can look over the spelling test the same day that you give it. Taking off one point for each reversed letter instead of marking the word as wrong (as long as you have verified that it is indeed a reversal and not a spelling error) might be another compromise.

Having high standards is admirable. Penalizing a student's grade due to a developmental issue is not. Try to place yourself in this parent's shoes - or better yet, in your student's. It is frustrating for a teacher to go over and over something, and offer frequent reminders, and still have students make reversals. But imagine how frustrating it is for that child to know that no matter how hard he studies and how well he knows his words, he is likely to end up with a poor grade on the test because of reversals that *look right* to him.

My son had an issue with reversing b and d through the middle of second grade despite being a gifted student, and usually ended up with Bs on his spelling tests even though he is an excellent speller. He could spell the words orally perfectly, but invariably had some reversed letters on his test that resulted in words he knew how to spell being counted as wrong. I ended up homeschooling him for the last part of his second grade year, ordered a third grade spelling text, and had him spell his words orally forwards *and* backwards for his tests, and he never missed a word!

Just like the experts say, his reversals magically disappeared by third grade, and he maintained 100% grades in spelling.
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I don't agree
Old 11-01-2006, 05:14 PM
 
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with marking reversals as mispelled words on a spelling test with first graders.

like bookmuncher said, this is a developmental error.

Are you assessing their spelling knowledge or their letter formation?

It sounded like you were giving them a spelling test. Grade their spelling..and take note of the reversals so you can have an informed plan of instruction.

A good writers workshop, time, and a handwriting program like HWT should help rid reversals. Spelling is such a visual thing, so without a lot of expirence reading and writing, you haven't had enough opportunity, as a 6-7 year old, to have that as a secure skill.
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Reversals
Old 11-01-2006, 07:04 PM
 
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I have taught first, second, and third. It is developmental in most cases. If it is frequent and doesn't seem to be decreasing, I use it as one measure when I am evaluating a student. I don't mark reversals wrong on a spelling test. I will orally ask a child to spell a word if I think it could be a reversal. Sometimes they still give the wrong letter, so I mark it wrong. On Friday's test, someone spelled sudden with 2 bs. I asked on Monday how to spell sudden. She was able to tell me so i just made the correction on her paper.
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Developmental
Old 11-01-2006, 07:27 PM
 
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Our first grade teachers (all 8 of them) start counting reversals wrong after Christmas. Before then, they're just circled and written correctly for the student because at this point, it is developmental. I agree, though, that you can tell if they are just being careless and rushing through. My son is in first grade and has been writing his letters correctly since he was 4. All of a sudden, he's doing a reversal here and there. I know it's because he's rushing. I would support counting that wrong.
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Reversals
Old 11-02-2006, 03:37 AM
 
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I would not mark reversals wrong on a spelling test. If I see a possible reversal, I would ask the student to spell the word for me. If they spelled it correctly, I would give them credit. I would point out the backwards letter to them, and highlight it on their test.
I would explain to the parents that this is developmental, but by second grade, they will be required to correctly form their letters.

You have to understand development...and realize that the child is writing their letters backwards because they don't see the difference yet. You can't force a child to develop faster. For example...the speech path. doesn't take in every student that mispronounces a letter. She realizes that some errors in pronunciation are due to development. The students will "out grow" it.

I don't think a child should be penalized because they have not developed at the same rate as other students. You could cause a lot of stress...on the child, and the parents could also be causing stress on the child when a poor grade is brought home. It would be very frustrating to the parents, and could be taken out on the child. (ex."We studied this! Why did you make this backward!? You are going write "b's" until you get this right!")

Parents may not understand child development, but we as educators should, and teach accordingly.
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handwriting
Old 11-02-2006, 04:32 AM
 
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I agree with Nic. I wouldn't mark the answers wrong if the handwriting isn't exactly correct. This is sort of like correcting children every time they say something like, "I brung my lunch to school today." With time and continued modeling, this child will overcome the handwriting difficulty just as children overcome things like the example above about the lunch.
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understand
Old 11-02-2006, 04:42 AM
 
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Happyteacher has the letters right in front of them on their desk. I do understand child development. I've been in the teaching field for almost 20 years with 7 years of college and 6 teaching licenses including special ed. I still say if its spelled wrong on a Spelling test-its wrong. They have had a lot of exposure to the words during the week, have had homework assignments on the words and a practice test. You couldn't make it any easier unless you wrote the letters for them. They need to study and we need to stop giving them excuses for not doing so. They are capable of making a 'p' just as easily as a 'q'.
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mark them wrong
Old 11-02-2006, 02:15 PM
 
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I mark them wrong in second grade. I know reversals are developmental and they do disappear by the end of 2nd grade. However, during a spelling test, how do you know if the kid is just reversing a letter or writing the incorrect letter because they sounded out the word wrong. Sometimes you don't! I tell my kids that they have to do it correctly. While I'm walking around during a test, if I see someone doing d's for b's, I'll ask them, is that a d or b. That's usually enough for them to realize their mistake.
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Old 11-02-2006, 03:02 PM
 
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I teach 3rd and still have kids who write them backwords! It is frustrating sometimes. I will call the child up to my desk and ask them to spell the word. They always see their mistake and tell me what the correct letter should be. I do not usually mark it wrong until about half way through the year. I was told in one of my classes that the child only sees a stick and a circle. I like someone's analogy about a cup is a cup no matter what side the handle is on. That makes so much sense! We have 4 letters with a stick and a circle. I have never taught 1st grade but I don't think I would mark it wrong. They are really thinking about how to spell the word during the test that they aren't really focusing on exact letter shapes.
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Don't count it against them
Old 11-03-2006, 01:40 PM
 
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We don't have spelling tests at our school. I am surprised at how many out there still have spelling tests after all the research that says it isn't effective. We do do word study.

I never count reversals wrong. I underline with a squiggly line and during morning work the child "fixes" the letter (or number). I figure this gives them more hands on practice of writing the letter correctly.

I agree that it is developmental. We shouldn't punish the child, just encourage them to grow.
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Old 11-03-2006, 06:16 PM
 
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I agree with the teachers who called this a developmental issue.

When I was in elementary school in the early 1960s, we didn't start on the alphabet until the first grade. I had learned to write my first name before entering first grade, but I sometimes reversed a letter or two.

For some reason, I sometimes reversed letters, and on occasion, I'd reverse a whole sentence. I really wasn't trying to be defiant, and I never realized when I was doing it. When my mother would see my school papers with backward sentences, she'd become angry. I'm the oldest, and she expected great things from me! She was positive that I was either lazy or careless. The truth was that my first grade brain was confused, and I honestly didn't know what I was doing!

I didn't receive any special intervention, but little by little, the problem corrected itself. By the time I started second grade when I was seven, the letter reversals were gone. I did well in school the rest of the way and earned two college degrees, so I guess I did ok!

I really agree with the responses from Kali, kenworthyk, Ilvtching, and Mrs. T.
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Old 11-05-2006, 03:35 AM
 
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I think you are being a wee bit defensive about this.I circle the incorrect letter and make sure that for that student practices that letter throughout the week ,but i dont take points off untilllllllllllllllllllllllll after the Christmas break and then i do.But the kids know this because i remind them over and over that i will start after Christmas.Hope this helps.
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Old 11-05-2006, 05:41 AM
 
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I can't tell you how many dyslexic kids come into our school demoralized and hating spelling and writing because they have been penalized for handwriting errors beyond their control. It is not a question of lack of studying or lack of effort. It would be like punishing a child who is hard of hearing for not being able to distinguish between similar sounds. I have had students whose former teachers took off points for writing numbers backwards in math, as well. You can imagine what it does to the morale of a child who spent an hour on a single sheet of problems only to have half of them marked wrong, though the child clearly understood the concepts. Others have made the point that reversals are developmentally common for kids without learning problems, but I want to emphasize that it is doubly important to be sensitive to those students who are struggling.

Here are a few suggestions about how to reduce the impact of reversals:
1 - have the kids spell words using letter tiles or index cards with the letters on them
2 - instead of displaying the entire alphabet, just put a reminder on the child's desk with the letters that s/he has difficulty with. A common one is a drawing of a bed with the b and d highlighted
3 - if computers are available, have kids type - and then have a separate handwriting practice time
4 - as other posters suggested, if you are not sure whether the child can spell the word, have her spell it orally.
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"easier"
Old 11-07-2006, 02:12 PM
 
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I think that reversals don't really need an excuse. It is often a common developmental mistake and also appears with children who have learning disabilities. Most classrooms have alphabet charts posted everywhere and they also explicitly teach strategies to help with the common b/d reversal. As for, "they are capable of making a p just as easily as a q" might be right sometimes. However that is also a common reversal. many children stuck on b/d also have glitches with p/q. I mean look at them! It sure makes sense.

I guess if you have a spelling test you can make the rules for it. Count it wrong. Just make sure that it feels like good teaching practice...feels like it works with your philosophy and goals for your sweet learners. Think about what their spelling scores represent, how they inform your instruction, and how they effect a child's academic reports. You always want what is best for your students, so just ask your self those questions to help you decide. I would recomend that if a child has low spelling scores and it is due to reversals, I would make sure that it not only informs your instruction but is written in big letters on that child's school records- so they can be taught what they need to know.

Spelling and letter formation are not really the same thing. It would almost be like grading spelling and handwriting on a test, and when a child scores low because his handwriting is so bad, nobody knows that the child really can spell great!!

You can see patterns, if a child has reversals, then clearly it would appear in writing and not just on a spelling test! Look for a pattern, so you can help give more direct instruction to the students who have reversal troubles. You want to help those kids and clearly a ABC strip isn't the "cure". I personally see so many less reversals since our school adopted Handwriting without Tears.
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I just want to say
Old 11-08-2006, 04:28 AM
 
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that a child who has reversal problems should not be called dyslexic. That's an entirely inappropriate label. Dsylexia is a serious neurological condition, and it's unlikely that you will ever encounter more than a very, very few of them.

If a teacher is seeing lots of "dyslexic" kids, that teacher needs to learn what dyslexia is and isn't. It shouldn't automatically be considered just because a kid has reversals, and a classroom teacher cannot diagnose it.
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Old 11-08-2006, 12:26 PM
 
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Maryteach, I work in a special ed program with kids who have been diagnosed as dyslexic. I do not make the diagnosis myself. I am well aware of what it is and isn't. Estimates of dyslexia in the general population vary from about 4-10% - hardly "very, very few" of our students.
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You say it over and over...
Old 11-08-2006, 03:48 PM
 
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because it is a developmental lag. All of the repetition in the world won't work. Relax, point it out and don't penalize for developmental errors.
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Old 11-08-2006, 08:18 PM
 
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I apologize. You are always more sensible than that. I should not have lumped you into the same group that throws that term around easily and loosely. Your initial post did not identify you as a person who is a SPED educator working with kids who have actually been diagnosed. I have seen so many posts where dyslexia is (stupidly) blamed for a reading problem--I'm sure you'll agree that teachers (!!) are sometimes guilty of that. In fact, there have been some recent posts on here, on this topic, which have shown horrifying ignorance.

Having said that, though, I will still say that dyslexia is not the first thing we should be thinking about with reversals. But I do apologize to you, dramacentral, and I hope you will accept that from me.

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Old 11-10-2006, 06:26 AM
 
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No problem Maryteach. Sometimes I can end up assuming that people know my other posts or can figure things out from my responses that really are not explicit. To be honest, I am leery of posting too much information because of the anonymity factor. Thanks for the reminder that I should give enough background info for my opinions and statements to make sense.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:23 AM
 
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I really don't think you do understand child development. The child may be physically able to form a "p" just as easily as a "q", but may not perceive them to be different letters. That is where the "developmentally appropriate" comes in. It is typical for a child to reverse letters in K and 1...reversals should diminish by grade 2 and be infrequent by grade 3. They should not be punished if they know how to spell a word, since SPELLING is what is being tested. It is not an excuse...it is DEVELOPMENTAL!!! That's like punishing a baby for not being able to walk...it's silly. Review your child development.
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Old 05-02-2007, 12:07 PM
 
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Back to the focus of your original post.....I do have a suggestion for you happyteach. I don't have spelling tests, but I do dictate words with the sounds we've been learning. This is what I do in my phonics dictation (and my math tests) - I mark the words dictated (don't count the reversals as wrong there) and then have a second note about the number of reversals. Like this; 10/10 3R (my kids know R means reversals) They return the paper to me with the reversals corrected. In this way your parent knows she's been listened to, but the parent and child are both aware of the pattern of reversals. It really doesn't take any extra time. Would this work for you?
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Old 08-19-2008, 05:25 PM
 
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From viewing this thread, I thought I might get an opinion of what I should or shouldn't do. I have researched till my face is blue on whether or not letter reversal should be marked wrong.

My twin daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia two years ago. She not only has problems with reversals, but also with reading. She also has slow motor skills, but she has made great leaps at improvement. She is now in the 4th grade and took her first spelling test this week. She got all of her words correct, except the last one "zipper." She had reversed the z, but it was the correct spelling.

I had informed the teacher at the start of school, one week ago, that my daughter was dyslexic and would turn letters around on occasions. She made a note of it and I thought that would be the end of it, but then I receive her spelling test and she made a B when it should have been an A because of the one reversal.

I jotted a small note on her test and sent it back to the teacher. The teacher did not respond back to me, but instead told my daughter that it was backwards and it would stay marked as wrong.

My question is...If my daughter has dyslexia, should she be marked wrong for something that she cannot help? Should I confront the teacher with this and insist that it be made right? My daughter has studied so hard and I'm so proud of her progress. She asked me over and over again, but mom, I did get them all right though, didn't I? I told her yes, she did, no matter what the teacher said and that I was so proud of her.

I'm frustrated, my daughter is frustrated, and I really do not think the teacher really understands.

Any advice?
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