Orton-Gillingham and Structured Literacy
The Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach originated from a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, Samuel Orton, and an educator
and psychologist, Anna Gillingham. The two worked together in the early 1900's to create an effective way to teach dyslexic children
how to read. The OG approach is intensive, sequential and phonics based, also using multisensory applications,
to help reinforce the sounds and rules. By the 1930's their approach was used in many small special education classes and one-on-one tutoring.
Their method is widely used today in various forms, and is still just as effective. Today, the approach is often called Structured Literacy.
Structured Literacy, or the Orton-Gillingham approach, is supported by scientific research to be the most effective method to teach dyslexic individuals to read.
How Non-Dyslexic Children Learn to Read
Most children today are taught a combination of phonics along with whole language, which is sufficient for most. These children learn to read by initially learning the sounds of the letters, learning word families and memorizing high frequency words. When reading, they use these tools to decode words. If faced with a word they don’t know, the child is able to identify the word's components and translate it into something recognizable. To the parent, it seems like they just “pick it up” as they read. This is not the case for a dyslexic child.
How Dyslexic Children Learn to Read
Dyslexia is a language based disorder, therefore, people with dyslexia must be taught phoneme and morphological awareness. This means they must learn all the sounds and how the sounds are put together to form words. They must also learn all of the spelling rules as well as the exceptions, which requires an intensive phonics program, unlike what is usually offered in the mainstream schools. Since those with dyslexia often have a poor memory where language is concerned, this should be done with constant repetition for reinforcement as well as utilizing as many multisensory implementations as possible. The program should also be flexible so that it can be personalized to the student when needed.
The Four Principles of a Structured Literacy Program
Explicit Instruction - Concepts must be clearly explained with
guidance and feedback from the instructor, and in no way should the student be expected
to discover concepts on his or her own.
Systematic and Cumulative - Concepts must be taught systematically and must build on prior concepts already taught. The skills should be taught from the most simplest to the more difficult. This should be well planned and include review.
Multisensory - When more than one sense is used, the likelihood of learning increases. This is especially true for those with learning differences, such as dyslexia. Students should use their ears to listen to write, their eyes to see to read, and their hands to manipulate phonics tools, such as letter tiles, sound cards, phonics games, etc. This multisensory approach will help the brain make connections and strengthen memory. Since a Structured Literacy program contains many sounds and rules, there's a lot to commit to memory, and the more avenues used, the better.
Responsive - The instructor should monitor the student as he or she progresses through the program to make the necessary adjustments. For example, the lessons may need to be done at a slower pace or in a different manner. Diagnostics should also be done to track the students progress.
To learn more about our reading programs for dyslexia, select the age group below.
& Our Reading Programs
Our reading programs are based on the Orton-Gillingham approach for a complete, multisensory curriculum that can be done at home with no training. Our programs teach phonics, rules, exceptions, and is done with repetition. When a lesson introduces a topic, the exercises for that lesson will be a combination of what was just taught and what was taught in earlier lessons.
Each lesson has a blend of elements in which the student is required to listen, speak and write. Exercises are kept short and to the point to avoid frustration and boredom. We also have fun, phonics based games and manipulatives available for reinforcement. Our programs are flexible in that concepts can be monitored and redone as needed. In addition, we have many games (on-line and physical) so you can add additional review when needed. For more information, see below.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #1
Although dyslexic students share similarities, there are always differences. A proper OG approach must be personalized for each student.
We rely on the instructor to determine how to personalize implementation of our reading programs. First, the proper program must be determined, which may or may not depend on age. For this, you must know the maturity level of your student, and know what he or she can handle. For example, a thirteen year old may see a long word list and immediately withdraw. This child may need our Blast Off to Reading program which has shorter lists and shorter exercises, otherwise, a more confident thirteen year old may use A Workbook for Dyslexics.
When using our program(s), you may find that your student is remembering and applying everything that has been taught, therefore, there is no need for the intense review that is built into the program. You may not have to go through each flash card or do every exercise. This extra reinforcement is there, if needed. You may find that your student needs more practice than the program delivers. It is not difficult to find reinforcement materials to work on. With that said, our programs do not require that a sound or rule be mastered before moving on. The constant, built-in review will result in mastery at some point. On the occasion where it does not, supplemental material can certainly be applied.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #2
A multisensory approach using the eyes, ears, hands (tactile), and motion (kinesthetic) is needed.
Our programs use a multisensory approach in that the eyes are used to read, the ears are used to hear what is read, and the hands are used to write. In addition, we use many card games, board games, as well as phonics apps. All of these activities correlate with the multisensory approach.
Sand or sky writing (the kinesthetic requirement) is often mentioned regarding this aspect of the OG approach, however, we only recommend this for the very young student who is still learning letter formations. Older students usually don’t need this, however, sometimes tactile practices are helpful in reinforcing direction of same shaped letters (such as ‘p’, ‘d’, and ‘b’). For this, we have a web-app, which also includes activities for other letter & number reversals as well. In addition, you can create “feel boards” for the letters, or employ other types of tactile ideas such as sand writing if the instructor feels it would be helpful, click here for more on reversals.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #3
The student must be monitored continuously throughout instruction in order to assess progress and areas that are problematic. Data will be used in moving forward to develop a lesson that is prescriptive (designed specifically for the student).
Since our programs are designed for one-on-one and small groups, it is natural that the instructor will continuously monitor his or her student(s). As our programs are laid out and already structured, the instructor does not have to carefully plan the next lesson. While this does not make for a tailored instruction (specifically for a particular student) the review given and the lessons are meant to negate the possibility of missing a sound or rule, and to offer practice (if needed). We do recommend that, after a lesson has been taught, that phonics related games be played. This is where tailoring comes in. Games should be selected based on where practice is most needed.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #4
Direct instruction that explains to the student what is to be learned, why it’s to be learned and how it’s to be learned.
Each lesson clearly states what is to be taught at the top of the first page. For students who are older, our program may also give a bit of history, why a word is spelled the way it is. For example, ‘ch’ as the /k/ sound is usually found in a word that is technical in nature, and these words are of Greek origin. We also like students to reach conclusions for themselves. For example, listen to the past tense words “jumped”, do you hear the ‘ed’ at the end? How about the word “listed”? As for how a sound or rule is to be learned, after the first few lessons, students will know what to expect, since the structure is consistent throughout our programs.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #5
Phonics must be taught stressing that words are made up of individual speech sounds and letters represent those sounds.
In our programs, the sounds, as well as the letters that make up those sounds, are taught in accordance with speech. This is done systematically from the most used sounds to the least.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #6
Applied linguistics should be taught, which includes syllabic, syntactic, morphemic, and grammar. This is done by using reading, spelling and writing to involve the student in the integration of our language. In addition, language patterns regarding sentence structure and word order should be addressed, as well as common patterns and sentence formation typically used by writers.
Our programs teach the smallest units of
sounds, to the more complex, along with examples of how words can
morph into other words by adding a suffix (and, for our older
program for older students, a prefix). Grammar, however, is not
emphasized, since our programs primarily teach decoding. Students
will receive a lot of practice reading and writing sentences, in
which they will see many examples of complete sentences. Some
aspects of ELA will be addressed, since they are necessary to
understand the meaning of a sentence (such as apostrophes for
Once long vowels are taught, instructors are urged to start their student in reading books, where the instructor guides the student with his/her finger. Books should be selected based on what the student would find enjoyable. Our goal is to develop a love of reading, and once we find an author or a subject matter that the student loves, we try to “hook” them, and then, with every book that a student reads, he or she will be closer to fluency. In addition to fluency, the student’s writing will improve since he/she will become more familiar with the written word.
Orton-Gillingham Specification #7
Reading should be taught in a systematic, structured manner. The order should be presented with thought on the relationship between material previously taught and currently taught. This should be sequential, incremental and cumulative. From the least complex to the more complex, only after mastery.
All of our programs are extremely structured, systematic, sequential and cumulative. Once a new sound or rule is introduced, it will be incorporated in future lessons. Review will also be done by the flash cards for further repetition. We don’t, however, wait for mastery of a concept to move on. Our experience has shown that when a student gets hung up on a particular sound or rule, they don’t need to stop learning. Since the problematic concept will be seen many times, at some point the concept will “stick”, and the student will “get it”. If we stall the program for mastery, the chance that the student will become frustrated will increase, and boredom may set in. In addition, studies have shown that the longer a program takes, the less effective it is. We like to keep moving. Instructors should make mental notes of the areas that are problematic and reinforce the material by way of phonics related games.