That’s why it’s so important for Monje, who studied economics in college, to teach English.
In the city of Plainfield in central New Jersey, Monje helps more than 20 kindergarteners each year learn to read, write and spell in bilingual English-Spanish classes. For students who only speak Spanish at home, sound recognition can be tough — but Monje said Orton-Gillingham strategies from the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education are making all the difference.
“We have been getting amazing results,” she said. “The students love the sensory activities. They love the sand. … You know, kindergarteners are not easy, but the routines run very smoothly.”
Washington Community School is home to nearly 600 students in Plainfield, N.J., a city of roughly 50,000 people. The school is majority Hispanic with an ethnically diverse faculty.
In dual-language kindergarten classes, teachers spend two weeks teaching in English, followed by two in Spanish. The schedule alternates all year, with one hour of lessons in the opposite language each day.
During Spanish-language weeks, English lessons come in the form of Orton-Gillingham.
“We want to stay up-to-date with the schedule,” kindergarten teacher Nella Hernandez said. “We have a chant. When we do the morning reading, they start chanting, ‘OG! OG! OG!’ They love it, and they know what’s going on. They know what’s going to happen next.”
Monje was trained in IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham in 2015, a year after IMSE began training in the Plainfield Public School District. Hernandez and several other Washington Community School teachers followed suit in 2017.
Now, the kindergarten teachers sync lessons plans and are seeing amazing results.
Hernandez began teaching in Peru in 1994, and has taught everything from preschool through fourth grade. She said she’s most impressed by her kindergarteners’ writing skills since implementing Orton-Gillingham techniques.
“My kids have a journal,” Hernandez said. “We work in the journal every day, and now, they’re able to write sentences. They’re little kids! For them to be able to put a sentence together — that’s a high-level skill, and they’re doing it. I’m not going to lie to you: There are some that struggle. But when I meet with them, they can still put some words together.”
Hernandez and Monje said their students love working in sand, drawing letters and putting together words on blending boards. The kids are tackling irregular words and get excited when they can decode something new.
Monje has been impressed by the clever words her students come up with during brainstorming sessions — but said penmanship is where she’s really seeing a difference in contrast to years when she didn’t teach Orton-Gillingham.
Hernandez said she knows it can be overwhelming for teachers to undergo new training and change lesson plans. But she wants her fellow educators to know: “Orton-Gillingham is not that hard to follow.”
“In the beginning, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it,’” Hernandez said. “There are so many things put on a teacher’s shoulders, but teachers should know: [Orton-Gillingham] is everything you need to learn. You don’t have to keep looking for other things.”
Monje, for her part, said it means the world to her that she can help families struggling to learn English. She knows the power of language and often provides empathetic words of encouragement to parents.
“It’s making a positive impact for my students,” Monje said. “You know kindergarten is the foundation for other years. I think the first-grade teachers are going to be happy next year. The students are well prepared.”
IMSE believes that all children should be able to read. To achieve this end, IMSE wants to bring Orton-Gillingham to all educators to give children the best literacy instruction possible.
Learn more about what you can do to improve literacy for all using the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education’s Orton-Gillingham training.
Please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to get tips and tricks from your peers and us. Read the IMSE Journal to hear success stories from other schools and districts, and be sure to read the OG Weekly email series for refreshers and tips.