Orton-Gillingham Reading Programs: What Exactly Are They?
If you have been researching dyslexia and appropriate instructional intervention then you have heard about the Orton-Gillingham reading approach. You may be wondering as I was at first, what the Orton-Gillinham reading program is? I remember thinking that it was one specific reading program, however, you should think of Orton-Gillingham as a specific method of Reading Instruction and not one specific ready made reading program. There are literally hundreds of Orton-Gillingham based reading programs available today, and many of these programs are very effective for dyslexic children. Check out our resource page on our website for program reviews and useful information. The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is essential as documented and replicated by leading dyslexic researchers, such as Sally Shaywitz, MD.
So what are the essential components of instructing your child using an Orton-Gillingham approach? There are four essential elements to the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction:
- Multi-Sensory: When teaching new sounds in a specific sequence to dyslexic students you must engage the child in activities that are tactile in nature and include simultaneous oral sounding of the sound being taught. For example: the beginning reader is just beginning the Orton-Gillingham sequence and you are instructing him or her on the short vowel sounds. You place a small tray with colored sand in front of the child and then show the child the letter “a” on a note card. The child then says the sound “a” while drawing the letter in the sand with a finger or hand.
- Sequential: Before beginning an Orton-Gillingham based approach to teaching reading, you determine a sequence for sound introduction leaving nothing out. For example: you begin with a, e, i, m, and p, you progress to digraphs and blends: th, sh, sl, pr, etc
- Direct and Explicit: You follow the same process of instruction daily, practicing each new sound until mastery, not moving forward until the child has mastered every sound, letter combination in the English vocabulary
- Small group or individual instruction: Dyslexic children learn best with one-to-one intervention, meaning one teacher for every student, or in small groups such as one to three or one to four groups. It is helpful if each child in a small group is in roughly the same place in their journey to becoming a reader. Obviously, children will progress at different rates.