Why is Orton-Gillingham Needed?


The National Institutes of Health report that one in six people in the United States have difficulty learning to read. They also report that 75% of children identified as having reading difficulties after nine years of age continue to have difficulties throughout High School. Traditional methods for teaching reading are ineffective with this population of children and adults.


In 1999 the National Reading Panel submitted a report to Congress showing that a successful reading program should consist of systematic phonics instruction integrated with phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies.


The Orton-Gillingham method has been successfully used for more than 75 years and incorporates these recommended components of a successful reading program. Orton-Gillingham is a structured, multisensory phonics approach. It is systematic, proceeding from simple to complex, and it is cumulative in that new information builds on what has been previously learned. Multisensory reinforcement and practice cements new learning into long-term memory. Although it is structured, the program is also flexible, which means that the method can be adapted by building on the strengths of the individual while providing remediation of weaknesses.


The Orton Gillingham Approach (the how)



Below is a summary of the detailed description of the Orton Gillingham method, as provided at the
Academy's website.



Recognizes the individual needs of learners.
While dyslexic students share similarities, there are always differences between students. Dyslexics students often have additional problems that complicate learning such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dysgraphia.



Uses all the learning strands: seeing, hearing, feeling (tactile), and awareness of motion (kinesthetic). For example, letters can be written in the air while the sound is said aloud. Even math can be multisensory!


Diagnostic and Prescriptive

It is diagnostic in the sense that the instructor continuously monitors the verbal, non-verbal,
and written responses of the student in order to understand both the student’s challenges and
progress. This information is used to plan the next lesson. That lesson is prescriptive in the sense that
it is designed to help resolve the student’s difficulties and build upon the student’s progress noted in the previous lesson.


Direct Instruction

Lesson content includes explaining to students what
is to be learned, why it is to be learned, and how it is
to be learned.


Systematic Phonics

It uses systematic phonics, stressing the 'alphabetic principle' in the initial stages of reading development. The principle teaches that words are made up of individual speech sounds, and the letters of written words graphically represent those speech sounds.


Applied Linguistics

Formally teaches syllabic, morphemic, syntactic, semantic, and grammatical structures of language and writing. Involves the student in integrative practices that involve reading, spelling, and writing together.


Linguistic Competence

Stresses language patterns that determine word order and sentence structure and the meaning of words and phrases. Also examines common patterns and literary forms employed by writers.


Systematic and Structured

Information is presented in an ordered way that indicates the relationship between the material currently being taught and material previously taught.


Sequential, Incremental, and Cumulative

Learners move from the simple, well-learned material to the more complex, only after mastering each step along the way.


Continuous Feedback and Positive Reinforcement

A close teacher-student relationship that builds self-confidence based on success and mastery.



Students understand the what why and how of the learning process. Confidence is gained as they improve their ability to apply new knowledge about the learning process itself.


Emotionally Sound

Teaching is directed toward providing the success.
With mastery comes increased self-confidence and motivation.




Orton Gillingham Content (the what)


Though first and foremost an approach or method for teaching dyslexic students, Anna Gillingham's reading program also has six content elements which are important for reading success:


Phonological awareness

Difficulty with phonemes is at the heart of dyslexia and so not surprisingly, the teaching of the specific sounds of language and the ability to parse or segment words into their constituent sounds is an integral part of the OG curriculum. Teaching phonological awareness does not have to involve text, just the voice and the ear. The student should be able to distinguish and reproduce the fundamental sounds of the language.


Sound-Symbol Association

Students must learn to associate the sounds with the letters (graphemes) that represent them. This is a two way street, wherein students have to be able to read
the letter and make the sound and hear the sound
and then draw the letter. Naturally, this skill is then extended into two letter blends, (digraphs) and then longer blends and syllables.



To read without comprehending is not to read at all,
and so semantics, or the comprehension of the written text, is critical. It is shockingly common for weak readers to slog through text only to arrive at the end
and have no idea what they just read.



Instruction must include the teaching of basic syllables and syllable division rules. Types of syllables include closed, vowel-consonant-e, open, consonant-le,
r-controlled and diphthongs.



How to order words in a sentence is taught explicitly through the study of grammar, sentence structure and good writing practices.



The study of root words, prefixes and suffixes with an aim to to understand how words can be built up and manipulated to change their meaning.




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