Orton-Gillingham is an instructional approach that is particularly effective for students who are struggling with reading, writing or spelling.
It is not a program, but is a way of working with students that is built on knowledge of specific instructional content and practices. Orton-Gillingham has been used successfully with dyslexic learners for more than 70 years. This proven approach becomes even more powerful when combined with current scientific understanding of how the brain learns to read and write, what types of processing differences create difficulties in acquiring literacy, and the critical factors that allow students to learn most effectively.
Orton-Gillingham instruction is simultaneously multi-sensory, structured, systematic and cumulative, synthetic and analytic. It is directly taught in a way that is diagnostic and prescriptive.
So what does all that mean?
Simultaneously multi-sensory – Students learn using visual, auditory and kinesthetic-tactile (VAKT) pathways in the brain at the same time, which enhances learning and memory. This is critical for dyslexic students.
Structured, systematic and cumulative – Instruction follows the logical order of the language, and includes all elements that make up the language structure. Students begin by learning the easiest and most basic concepts, and progress systematically, one step at a time, through increasingly complex information. Each lesson builds on previously learned material; content and concepts are practiced until they are mastered, and instruction includes systematic review to create a cohesive understanding of the language.
Synthetic and analytic – Synthetic instruction teaches the parts of the language, and how to combine them to create complex language. Analytic instruction teaches how to take complex patterns and break them down to their component parts. Students build knowledge of reading and spelling at the same time.
Directly taught – Students receive clear instruction in all elements of language. Nothing is assumed, and students are assessed to identify which elements of the language are known and unknown, so instruction can fill the gaps that exist in that student’s knowledge and skills.
Diagnostic and prescriptive – Orton-Gillingham training prepares a tutor to assess what students already know, what they don’t know and what they are ready to learn. Every lesson is designed “from scratch” for each student. During each lesson, if a student is confused about something, the tutor will immediately modify the lesson to correct the area of confusion and allow the student to practice that pattern or concept. The student is constantly being presented with challenging material, but is able to be successful during every lesson. Each student progresses as quickly as possible, but as gradually as necessary, with completely individualized tutoring. After completion of each lesson, the next lesson is planned, based on how the student did in that lesson, and the tutor’s assessment of what the student needs next.
Diagnostic and prescriptive teaching requires a tutor to have a thorough understanding of the structure of the language, the elements of effective reading instruction, and the practices that work with struggling students.