The programme was devised by two individuals, Dr. Samuel T. Orton, neurologist, and Anna Gillingham, educator and psychologist, in the 1930’s to develop a new way of teaching children who were experiencing problems with reading and spelling. The Orton-Gillingham explicitly teaches students to listen, split then blend sounds to decode words. The programme also focuses on Phonemic Awareness – the missing link in reading for children with Dyslexia – through manipulating sounds to make new words or nonsense words so children practise listening to separate sounds and blending them. The Orton-Gillingham method is an effective, research-based approach that has been proven to teach children to read and spell and write on grade level or above, even when school programmes and other programs haven’t worked. Characteristics of an Orton-Gillingham Programme are:
• multi-sensory which means at each step the student is required to see, say, touch, hear and build the words through manipulating, splitting, blending sounds.
• intensive – at least twice a week,
• cumulative – you need the knowledge of lesson 1 to do lesson 2. When doing lesson 3, you would be using what you know of lesson 1 and 2 to accomplish lesson 3.
• progressive – each stage builds on the previous ones and skills get increasingly more complex.
“Good teaching can change the brain in a way that has the potential to benefit struggling readers,” says pediatrician Sally Shaywitz of Yale University School of Medicine.
At Cognitive Connections, we use the very successful Barton Reading and Spelling programme and here’s why:
Barton Reading and Spelling Program
Susan Barton, the developer of the Barton Reading and Spelling System, trained in seven different Orton-Gillingham systems before she developed her own program which combines the best features of each. The first level in the program attends to Phonic Awareness and it is the only O-G programme that embeds this skill in the first FOUR levels. This is important because it is the ability to hear and manipulate small units of sounds in a word that ensures your child read at their intellectural potential. To see what phonemic awareness is click here
Orton-Gillingham methodology is different from traditional reading programs in how it teaches:
1. It is a multisensory approach – it engages visual, auditory, kinesthetic and verbal activities. Research shows that people who experience schooling difficulties gain most by manipulating, seeing, hearing and saying what they learn.
2. It is explicit. Explicit or direct teaching means it is clear to the students what is being taught. This is possible when lessons are broken down into the smallest steps and taught one step at a time.
3. It is systematic and cumulative – children are taught from easy to more difficult and each lesson is built upon in the next lesson. Hence knowledge of the first lesson is needed for the next one.
4. During the lessons, the teacher is able to casually make assessments on the progress of each child because of the way the lessons are written. Hence, a child does not go on to the next lesson until he is ready. If he is not, there are also alternaitve words provided for extra practice.
5. The Orton-Gillingham motto is: “Go as fast as you can but as slow as you need to.”
Orton-Gillingham methodology is also different in what it teaches:
1. Phonology and phonological awareness is taught throughout the program. Phonology is the study of sounds and how they work within their environment. Students master the blending of sounds and letters into words, as well as the segmenting of whole words into its individual sounds.
2. Sound-symbol associations are directly developed. The sounds in spoken language correspond to letters and combinations of letters. These letter-sound correspondences are mastered in two directions: visual to auditory and auditory to visual.
3. Six basic types of syllables are taught to facilitate the reading and spelling at the same time, of longer multi-syllable words. Identifying syllable types allows students to accurately predict the sound the vowel will make.
4. Morphology is a critical aspect of reading instruction because our language is both sound and meaning based. Morphology relates to meaningful chunks of language, such as base words, roots, and affixes. It is taught after foundational decoding skills are established.