The Orton-Gillingham Approach - Encinitas Learning Center
September 24, 2018

The Orton-Gillingham Approach

In the Orton-Gillingham approach, letters which represent the single sounds of familiar speech are presented to the student, then immediately synthesized into words that carry meaning. By introducing the letters simultaneously through hearing, seeing, and feeling, the student’s weaknesses are lessened by integrating all of his learning pathways.

This multisensory approach helps to ensure automatic memory, which is so difficult for those who lack natural facility in language learning. Progress is made by going from simple to more complex tasks and building in much reinforcement, proceeding as fast as possible, but as slowly as necessary to master the basic elements. The careful pacing, structured but not programmed procedures, and sequential presentation combine reading, writing and spelling to help the student succeed.

The structure of the Orton-Gillingham approach often helps to organize the student’s general ways of learning and working. Its logic helps him when his memory fails and when he encounters unknown words. Its step-by-step progression leads to a sense of mastery and competence. This approach can be valuable to any child, but to the dyslexic child, it is essential!

Characteristics of Multisensory Structured Language Program

Multisensory: Teaching involves using all the learning pathways to the brain: visual, auditory, kinesthetic – tactile. These are used simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning. The eyes, ears, mouth and hand are all working at the same time.

Systematic/Sequential/Cumulative: Each piece is based on what has already been learned. Each new piece is connected to the student’s previous knowledge. Each piece is taught, reviewed, and practiced to an automatic level for application.

Explicit/Direct: Teaching is structured and presented in a preplanned order. Lessons move from simple to more complex. The lesson has a routine. Explicit: Each piece is directly taught. Concepts are explained and given guided practice. Inferential learning cannot be taken for granted.

Synthetic and Analytic: In reading, the sounds of letters in a word are blended, or put together, to form a whole word. (Synthesize)            In spelling, the sounds in whole words are analyzed, separated, or pulled apart, to establish the spelling of the word. (Analyze)

Diagnostic: The teacher continually diagnoses the needs of the student and plans lessons to meet those needs. These skills are built into the lesson to be taught, secured, and reviewed.

Comprehensive and Inclusive: All levels of language are addressed, including sounds (phonemes), symbols (graphemes), meaningful word parts (morphemes), word and phrase meanings (semantics), Sentences (syntax), longer passages (discourse), and the social uses of language (pragmatics).

Orton-Gillingham lessons provide systematic language instruction that

► introduces the phonemes of our language using the kinesthetic production of these speech sounds

► directly teaches the student the phoneme/grapheme correspondences in our alphabetic system in a carefully sequenced progression

► uses the motor patterns of handwriting instruction to support letter recognition

► educates automatic connections from graphemes to phonemes through visual drills

► educates automatic connections from phonemes to the common English spelling patterns through auditory drills

► trains phonological processes of segmenting and blending through finger spelling (segmenting) and the blending drill

► gives the student supervised practice applying these skills in spelling practice and contextual reading.


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