The Orton-Gillingham method is still the foundation for most dyslexia therapy and intervention approaches. Here’s all you need to know.
The Orton-Gillingham approach entails a multi-sensory, structured literacy curriculum. It was developed almost a century ago by Anna Gillingham and Samuel Orton, and to this day, it’s the foundation for most writing, spelling, and reading instructions given to struggling readers.
In the following paragraphs, we’re covering everything you need to know as an educator looking to incorporate Orton-Gillingham into your lesson plans, and we’re taking a look into some supplementary tools you can use to take this OG approach even further.
What educators should know about the Orton-Gillingham approach
There is a reason the Orton-Gillingham methodology has remained the most popular reading program for so long. This teaching approach has a lot to offer, and it can be the foundation for every kind of literacy instruction, no matter the grade level.
In short, the Orton-Gillingham lessons are:
- Multisensory: Learners engage with the lessons in a way that lets them rely on all their senses when trying to hone their reading skills. They use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic exercises to build phonological awareness and remember everything that they have learned in the classroom.
- Structured and systematic: All best training programs revolved around progressive increments in difficulty. Orton-Gillingham is no different. It follows a well-structured sequence of reading comprehension exercises that help build cumulative language skills at a steady pace.
- Tailored for dyslexic learners: The Orton-Gillingham method is tailored for dyslexic learners and those with other kinds of learning and reading disabilities or special education needs. It can thus be adapted and tweaked to match each learner’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Suitable for both individual tutors and classroom teachers: Orton-Gillingham exercises can be adapted to suit any practicum, no matter whether you’re teaching in-person, one-on-one classes, or have a small group of students counting on you.
What does Orton-Gillingham training consist of
The Orton-Gillingham approach emphasizes the use of systematic instructions and multi-sensory approaches to building phonemic awareness.
Usually, the curricula consist of exercises meant to teach students how to break words into segments, decode syllable types, and improve their visual and auditory memory to master reading and retain information gathered while reading.
In short, the goal is to teach students the rules and principles of the written English language and prepare them for independent reading endeavors and further academic development.
Who can teach using the Orton-Gillingham method?
Specialized reading instructors are usually the ones teaching using this method. The certification process for Orton-Gillingham involves a course and a study program, which includes supervised instruction hours.
To become certified, you can contact The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) or the Orton-Gillingham Academy (OGA) for details about the evaluation exams.
What are the principles of Orton-Gillingham?
Orton-Gillingham is based on the idea that dyslexic students have the most trouble making sound-letter connections. Thus, its chief goal is to remedy that. It does it by working based on a few key principles:
- Stressing the importance of explicit instructions: Clear and explicit instructions are crucial, especially when teaching those with learning difficulties, so Orton-Gillingham is all about perspicuousness.
- Seeking to provide immediate feedback: There is no better motivation than feedback, and there is no better way to get insight into everyone’s progress than keeping track of their errors and fixing them as they pop up.
- Using repetition and constant reviewing to teach phonics: Many say repetition is the mother of learning, and Orton-Gillingham is all about repetition and constant revision.
How teachers can create a more inclusive classroom for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities
The science of reading shows us that it is not enough to rely on proven teaching programs if we don’t do our best to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for learners. That goes for both classroom and homeschooling approaches.
To make the learning environment more welcoming and help learners develop their literacy skills more quickly, you can:
Use kid-friendly assistive technology
Giving students with dyslexia access to assistive tools such as spell checkers, scanner pens, and text-prediction software can support their reading in ways you can’t even imagine. That is especially true with text-to-speech programs.
Speechify, for example, is a TTS app developed for dyslexic students specifically. It can be used as an auditory tool for teaching the patterns of English pronunciation, phonetic decoding, syllable division, etc., or you can use it to turn reading materials into audiobooks.
The app can also provide students with immediate feedback and allow them to correct themselves after hearing the correct pronunciation of all assigned words.
Collaborate with parents and other teachers
Lots of young kids love working with their parents. If you can, you should involve them as much as possible, even if it’s just for homework. You can also invite other teachers and instructors to help you with your multisensory teaching programs. They can provide more objective feedback and use their skills to suggest a more effective course of action if needed.
Remediate the environment
Classroom remediation is the most obvious way you can create a more welcoming learning environment. To do that, you can:
- Use tons of visual aids: All good classrooms are well-equipped with diagrams, phonogram charts, illustrations, and a bunch of other aids that can inspire kids to learn more.
- Use colors as much as possible: Highlighting and color-coding are both proven methods for combating dyslexia. Use colorful charts and make sure the room is well-lit so that they are clearly visible.
- Get rid of any distractions: Distractions are bad in any kind of classroom, but especially in a special education classroom. So, keep the room quiet and remove any clutter or useless junk that would only divert everyone’s attention from the more important matter.
- Change everyone’s seating arrangements: It might seem silly to adults, but kids love having their own seating arrangements. If you can, allow your students to choose where they sit and provide them with various desk and chair options.
- Come up with break schedules: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. To make sure you avoid burnout, let students take breaks every now and then to focus on other, less serious things. That will reinvigorate them and make them ready to go on.