The Science Behind Orton-Gillingham: Why It Works

When it comes to effective literacy education, the search for impactful teaching methodologies is on the rise. A popular approach that is helping educators everywhere address all instructional tiers is the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach. Based on the science of reading (SoR), OG is a widely recognized methodology focused on a systematic, sequential approach that utilizes multimodal instruction for teaching reading and spelling.

Understanding Orton-Gillingham: A Methodology Rooted in Science

Developed in the early 20th century by Samuel T. Orton and Anna Gillingham, this structured, multisensory approach has become synonymous with effective remediation for individuals with dyslexia and other reading challenges.

At its core, the Orton-Gillingham methodology recognizes that language is a complex system and tailors instruction to the unique needs of each learner. The evidence-based approach focuses on teaching students the connection between phonemes and graphemes through the use of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic pathways. Using multiple pathways to teach and review concepts helps solidify the connection between what students hear, say, see, and write.

Orton-Gillingham isn’t just a methodology; it’s a testament to the power of research-driven strategies in unlocking the door to literacy for every individual, regardless of their learning profile. As we delve into the intricacies of Orton-Gillingham, we discover a methodology that not only stands the test of time but continues to evolve, grounded in the ever-advancing landscape of scientific understanding in literacy education.

Neurological Alignment: It Starts in the Brain

The magic of OG lies in its alignment with the brain’s neurological processes. The evidence-based approach focuses on teaching students the connection between phonemes and graphemes through the use of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic pathways. Using multiple pathways to teach and review concepts helps solidify the connection between what students hear, say, see, and write.

Multisensory Learning: The Key to Success

At the core of OG is its multisensory approach. Engaging multiple learning pathways simultaneously—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—ensures a deeper, more comprehensive understanding and retention of language concepts. Learners who hear, see, write, and speak a word or phrase create stronger neural connections, reinforcing learning and retention.

Consistent Corrective Feedback and Individualized Instruction

One of OG’s hallmarks is its adaptability. OG focuses on a prescriptive-diagnostic teaching methodology. OG-trained educators diagnose their students’ academic abilities and/or limitations, then prescribe an appropriate course of action through tailored lessons to suit each learner’s unique strengths and challenges. With an emphasis on corrective feedback, students must master each skill before they move on to the next. By identifying specific areas of difficulty and employing targeted strategies, OG fosters a supportive learning environment where students can thrive.

The Efficacy of Orton-Gillingham in Practice

Its integration of neuroscience, personalized instruction, and multisensory techniques signifies a progressive stride toward inclusive and effective literacy education. Numerous success stories stand as a testament to the transformative power of the Orton-Gillingham approach. Students who once struggled with reading, spelling, and language comprehension have deveoped confidence and proficiency through this method. By building a solid foundation in phonemic awareness, morphology, orthography, semantics, syntax, and more, learners equipped with the power of OG are sure to become more adept readers and writers. 

Check out IMSE Impact Structured Literacy Professional Development and begin your journey toward unlocking the potential of every learner and revolutionizing literacy in your classroom with Orton-Gillingham.

Step-by-Step: How to Implement Orton-Gillingham in Your Classroom

Educators everywhere are eager to create an inclusive and effective learning environment that caters to learners of all capabilities. Implementing the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach supports children as they develop the skills necessary to become successful readers and writers. Developed in the 1930s, this structured, multi-sensory approach has proven successful in teaching reading, writing, and spelling to all learners, including those with dyslexia and other language-based learning difficulties.

At its core, OG is an instructional model that provides direct and explicit instruction.  Foundational skills are introduced systematically with cumulative review. The OG approach integrates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities into instructional routines. The goal of OG is to create a foundation for language that fosters a fluid transition from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. 

When it comes to implementing OG, it starts from the ground up. We have detailed a step-by-step implementation process for educators to get OG instruction off the ground and their kids reading with success. 

Step 1: Educate The Educator

Before diving into implementation, grasping the fundamental principles and methodologies of OG is essential. Educators can acquire comprehensive knowledge of the English language structure (i.e. phonemes, graphemes, syllable types, orthography rules, etc.) through workshops, online courses, and other available resources. Teachers empowered with extensive knowledge of the English language are critical for effective implementation in the classroom.

Step 2: Assessment and Individualization

Understanding students’ literacy levels is paramount to effectively guiding their learning. Conducting comprehensive assessments is vital to pinpoint individual strengths and weaknesses in learning. This data enables educators to customize instruction, meeting each student at their unique learning point. By crafting personalized learning plans that target areas needing improvement, a tailored and differentiated approach ensures every student receives the support they require.

Step 3: Multi-sensory Instruction

The heart of OG lies in its multisensory instruction. The multi-sensory component is the simultaneous use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pathways to input learning by sight, sound, and writing.  When learning using a multi-sensory approach, students associate a printed letter with its name (visual) and its spoken sound (auditory).  Students tap into the kinesthetic modality by making associations between the printed letter and feeling its sound as it is formed in the mouth and also by feeling the motion of the arm as the letter is written or traced. This multi-sensory approach actively engages students throughout the entire lesson, reinforcing the taught material effectively.

Step 4: Structured and Sequential Approach

Another fundamental aspect of OG is its structured and sequential method for teaching language skills. It begins with foundational elements like phonemic awareness and phonics, beginning with simple, frequently-used concepts, and gradually advances to more complex concepts. This deliberate construction ensures that each lesson builds upon prior knowledge logically and progressively.

Step 5: Repetition and Reinforcement

Repetition is key to mastery. Offering abundant opportunities for students to practice newly acquired skills via the Three Part Drill, interactive activities, daily encoding activities, decodable readers, and games is crucial. Moreover, regularly revisiting previously learned material enhances retention, fortifying deep mastery of concepts.

Step 6: Ongoing Monitoring and Adjustments

It’s important for teachers to continuously monitor students’ progress through ongoing formative assessments like spelling, text reading with decoding, and other progress monitoring tools. Adjusting teaching strategies based on individual performance to adapt learning plans accordingly is essential as flexibility is key to effectively meeting the needs of the students in any classroom.

Step 7: Collaboration and Support

Literacy instruction is not an individual endeavor. As a teacher, collaborating with other educators, specialists, and parents creates a supportive network where insights are shared and strategies are built. At the end of the day, educators are there to enrich the learning experience of students and provide support where needed.

Implementing the Orton-Gillingham approach in the classroom requires dedication, patience, and a commitment to individualized instruction. By embracing its principles and methodologies, teachers can create a nurturing environment where every student can flourish in their language skills. Contact us to learn more about the implementation of Orton-Gillingham in your classroom.