Orton-Gillingham (known as OG), is a multisensory, sequential, cumulative, systematic, direct, cognitive approach to teaching literacy that benefits all students, but is especially important for those who struggle with language or dyslexia.
It is the original approach that was the result of a collaboration between neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, Dr. Samuel Orton, and psychologist, Anna Gillingham bringing together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation. The content and practices are time tested and have been validated by research over the past 70 years.
It is the basis for various reading programs; many are marketed as “OG-based”. However, one of the very strengths of O-G is the fact that it is diagnostic and prescriptive. These “programs’ all begin at a basic level (such as closed syllable words) and progress in a specific sequence dictated by the program. The Orton-Gillingham Approach, in contrast, is an approach rather than a program; instruction using this approach allows the teacher to instruct the child at the level of his or her need and make informed, diagnostic decisions about the direction that particular student’s curriculum should take. The knowledge of the teacher and the ability to assess a student during the lesson allows for an approach that uses a student’s strengths to address areas of weakness. Each lesson is based on the careful analysis of the previous one – thus being diagnostic and prescriptive.
The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Approach is designed for educators, tutors, special education, reading teachers, parents of children with learning difficulties, professionals in children’s health sectors, and individuals seeking a career in educational therapy. It is appropriate for teaching in the primary grades through college level and adults. It is practiced as an approach, not a method, program, system, or technique.
What is the Orton-Gillingham Approach?
It has been described as a language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible approach to teaching reading and writing skills to people of all ages with language-based learning difficulties such as dyslexia. As per the Academy’s website: http://www.ortonacademy.org:
Teaching begins with recognizing the differing needs of learners. While those with dyslexia share similarities, there are differences in their language needs. In addition, individuals with dyslexia may possess additional problems that complicate learning. Most common among these are attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD).
It uses all the learning pathways: seeing, hearing, feeling, and awareness of motion, brought together by the thinking brain. The instructor engages in multisensory teaching to convey curricular content in the most understandable way to the student. The teacher also models how the student, by using these multiple pathways, can engage in multisensory learning that results in greater ease and success in learning.
DIAGNOSTIC AND PRESCRIPTIVE
An Orton-Gillingham lesson is both diagnostic and prescriptive. It is diagnostic in the sense that the instructor continuously monitors the verbal, nonverbal, and written responses of the student to identify and analyze both the student’s problems and progress. This information is the basis of planning the next lesson. That lesson is prescriptive in the sense that will contain instructional elements that focus upon the resolution of the student’s difficulties and that build upon the student’s progress noted in the previous lesson.
The teacher presentations employ lesson formats, which ensure that the student approaches the learning experience understanding what is to be learned, why it is to be learned, and how it is to be learned.
It uses systematic phonics, stressing the alphabetic principle in the initial stages of reading development. It takes advantage of the sound/symbol relationships inherent in the alphabetic system of writing. Spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds, and the letters of written words graphically represent those speech sounds.
It draws upon applied linguistics not only in the initial decoding and encoding stages of reading and writing but in more advanced stages dealing with syllabic, morphemic, syntactic, semantic, and grammatic structures of language and our writing system. At all times the Orton-Gillingham Approach involves the student in integrative practices that involve reading, spelling, and writing together.
It increases linguistic competence by stressing language patterns that determine word order and sentence structure and the meaning of words and phrases. It moves beyond this to recognizing the various forms that characterize the common literary forms employed by writers.
SYSTEMATIC AND STRUCTURED
The teacher presents information in an ordered way that indicates the relationship between the material taught and past material taught. Curricular content unfolds in linguistically logical ways, which facilitates student learning and progress.
SEQUENTIAL, INCREMENTAL, AND CUMULATIVE
Step by step learners move from the simple, well-learned material to that which is more and more complex. They move from one step to the next as they master each level of language skills.
CONTINUOUS FEEDBACK AND POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
The approach provides for a close teacher-student relationship that builds self-confidence based on success.
Students understand the reasons for what they are learning and for the learning strategies they are employing. Confidence is gained as they gain in their ability to apply newly gained knowledge about and knowledge how to develop their skills with reading, spelling, and writing.
Students’ feelings about themselves and about learning are vital. Teaching is directed toward providing the experience of success. With success comes increased self-confidence and motivation.