What is Orton-Gillingham and how does it relate to our nationally accredited Phonics First® curriculum?

What Is Orton-Gillingham

Well respected for over 75 years, but newly discovered by many, the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach is rooted in years of neurological, psychological and educational research. It was a combination of neuropsychiatrist Dr. Samuel T. Orton and education psychologist Anna Gillingham’s research that began the methodology that is today referred to as “Orton-Gillingham.” With the help of Bessie Stillman, a classroom teacher, the Orton-Gillingham instructional processes were developed.

Orton and Gillingham’s early research in dyslexia concluded that children who experience difficulty with reading and spelling need a synthetic phonics approach based on the following Principles of Instruction:

MULTISENSORY: Throughout every lesson, all of a student’s learning pathways are simultaneously engaged by activating visual-auditory-tactile-kinesthetic learning modalities. This powerful, brain-based teaching enables students to rely on their strengths but more importantly, strengthen their weaknesses.

PHONICS-BASED: Students learn critical sound-symbol connections. Sounds are taught individually as opposed to within word families or as whole words. This allows struggling, at-risk, dyslexic and learning disabled students to adequately process, retain and apply sound-symbol correspondences in reading and spelling. At higher levels, students are also instructed in morphology (the study of affixes and Greek and Latin roots) expanding phonetic connections to morphemes.

STRUCTURED: Lessons are organized around a consistent set of strategies, specific patterns and activities. Students find that the routines ease their learning of new material.

SEQUENTIAL: Concepts are taught in a logical order starting with the smaller elements of language and building to larger concepts. Once students master simple word patterns (CVC), the program moves on to complex word patterns, including complex vowel patterns, multisyllabic words, spelling rules, affixes and morphemes.

SYSTEMATIC: The approach’s inherent design leads students to successful mastery without frustration. Each task for reading and spelling uses specific strategies to ensure ease of application.

CUMULATIVE: Consistent review of skills within the context of each new lesson enables students to practice and perfect previously learned material. On-going practice integrates the application of previously and newly learned skills in reading and spelling, moving learning from short-term to long-term memory.

What Orton-Gillingham Is Not: Orton-Gillingham is not a company, a school, a website or even a single program. Orton-Gillingham is an approach that has evolved and strengthened over the 80 plus years it has been in practice.

Orton-Gillingham Best Practices: Many types of Orton-Gillingham programs for use with individuals and small- and large-group instruction have developed. The finest of them are soundly entrenched in the Orton-Gillingham Principles of Instruction and follow the inherent best practices of the Orton-Gillingham approach with fidelity and responsibility.

As with anything that changes over time and in the hands of many, it is critical that programs using the label Orton-Gillingham retain all the non-negotiable elements of instruction without compromise or dilution. To that end, the most outstanding of these courses and programs have sought accreditation through organizations such as IMSLEC (International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council), IDA (International Dyslexia Association) and/or AOGPE (Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners). Attending a workshop, a short course or simply reading books and manuals is not a sufficient or effective way to learn the breadth, depth and scope of knowledge necessary to successfully instruct students or adequately train teachers.

What is Phonics First?

Phonics First ® is Brainspring's nationally accredited Orton-Gillingham Professional Development course to teach reading and spelling.