Orton-Gillingham is a direct, multi-sensory method of teaching students how to read and write that has proven particularly useful for students with a range of learning abilities.

Phillips said she first heard of IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham training two years ago when another school district sent some of its teachers to a training. After hearing it recommended numerous times by other educators, Phillips discussed the training with her principal, and, eventually set up a training at the school over the summer for any K-2 teacher in the district who was interested.

Just under 30 teachers took part in the training, with two kindergarten teachers, two first grade teachers and one special education teacher from Fairview among the group.

“I just thought, ‘Wow, this could really be a game-changer in my classroom,'” Phillips told the IMSE Journal. “I wanted to just hit the ground running.”

Immediately, Phillips said she began to make connections and see results with her students in literacy instruction that she’d never encountered in her 17 year career thus far.

“I have loved it,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and I’m seeing kids so much more engaged, so much more excited. When I pull out the cards they’re like, ‘Yes!’ — they know it’s going to be Orton-Gillingham time. They’re so excited to do the activities, and I think with excitement comes that engagement, and with engagement is true learning.”

Things like focusing on one letter a day has helped her students break habits of reversing letters when spelling, the three-part drill’s repetitiveness has helped keep the lessons locked into memory, and the hands-on, multi-sensory approach has kept her students not only engaged, but taken their excitement for literacy to a new level.

“I can’t wait to see what happens once we get to the Floss Rule and all the other fun things that are coming,” she said.

“What they like is the repetitiveness of it,” Phillips said. “Doing the three-part drill…that multiple exposure to things and seeing it in different ways, we’re helping build that background knowledge.”

Phillips said though she has a diverse class of learners, IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham strategies are benefitting them each in different ways, while also keeping them on the same page as a class and creating a sense of equity among her students. She uses IMSE’s OG methodology with all 18 of her students during whole group reading and English lessons.

For her advanced students, the structured literacy program led to faster connections. Those who had struggled quickly became more “risk-takers” when it came time for writing assignments — minimizing fear and shame, while bolstering confidence and self-empowerment.

“My kiddos who are maybe above where we’re at right now, they seem so much more engaged than if I was just giving them a paper and saying, ‘Ok write all these letters down,'” Phillips said. “They seem to enjoy it and they’re making connections even faster than previously. I feel like I’m not holding them back to do what the whole class is doing — I can push them forward and say, ‘You’re ready.'”

For her highest achievers, Phillips said IMSE’s OG instruction has helped them shine during writing workshops, transferring knowledge faster than in any other previous year.

“They’re not afraid to write — my lower kids and my higher kids,” she said. “All my kids are being more risk-takers with their writing because now they have the tools to try. Pounding and tapping is transferring so big.”

“I think this is beneficial for everyone,” Phillips said.

The training has been especially useful to her English Language Learners, too, she said, particularly because of its focus on vocabulary.

“I’ve definitely seen this working for my ELL and special education students — just that repeated exposure practice, multi-sensory approach,” she said. “That’s been really cool to see, too. They don’t give up, they keep wanting to do it.”

Though she’s loved her teaching career so far, Phillips said she wished that her students from the previous 16 years had been able to benefit from what she knows now via her training with IMSE.

For other teachers who are challenged to find a way to connect with all of their students in literacy instruction — especially one that’s explicit, systematic and cumulative like IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham program — Phillips said she suggests giving the training a try.

“Definitely take the training and definitely try it out in your classroom,” she said. “Not only did I learn things I never knew about phonics and instruction, as a student or a teacher, I learned how to reach my students better, and I learned things I should have known myself growing up. I felt sorry for all the kids I’ve taught before that I didn’t teach IMSE’s OG, but I couldn’t teach what I didn’t know. So I feel not only has it made me a stronger teacher for my kiddos, it built my personal knowledge — and that’s hard to say after teaching for 17 years.”

“I would say 100 percent, do it.”

Learn more about what you can do to improve literacy for all using the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education’s Orton-Gillingham training.