In the 1930s, neuropsychiatrist and pathologist Dr. Samuel T. Orton and educator, psychologist Anna Gillingham developed the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction for students with “word-blindness,” which would later become known as dyslexia. Their approach combined direct, multi-sensory teaching strategies paired with systematic, sequential lessons focused on phonics.
Orton-Gillingham is a step-by-step learning process involving letters and sounds that encourages students to advance upon each smaller manageable skill learned throughout the process. It was the first approach to use explicit, direct, sequential, systematic, multi-sensory instruction to teach reading, which is effective for all students and essential for teaching students with dyslexia. Today, the Orton-Gillingham approach is used around the world to help students at all levels learn to read.
- Multi-Sensory – The teaching of new concepts incorporates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pathways. With this approach, students learn language by ear (listening), mouth (speaking), eyes (seeing), and hand (writing).
- Structured, sequential, and cumulative – Through direct, explicit instruction, it progresses logically at the primary level and progresses to more advanced concepts that build upon the previous skill learned, with practice and review.
- Flexible – Through assessment, differentiation, and grouping, teachers can instruct students based on their needs.
- Language-based – Directly teaches the fundamental structure of language, starting with sound/symbol relationships and progressing to more complex concepts such as higher-level spelling rules and Greek and Latin Bases.
- Sequential – Lessons are presented in a logical, well-planned sequence. This sequence allows children to make easy connections between what they already know and what they are currently learning.
- Incremental – Each lesson builds carefully upon the previous lesson. This helps students move simple concepts to more complex ones, ensuring that there are no gaps in their learning.
- Cumulative – Through direct, explicit instruction, it progresses logically at the primary level and progresses to more advanced concepts that build upon the previous skill learned, with practice and review.
- Individualized – Anna Gillingham once said, “Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you must.” Curriculums that follow this approach make it easy to teach students based on their individual strengths.
- Phonograms-Based – By teaching the phonograms and the rules and patterns that spell the vast majority of English words, the Orton-Gillingham approach takes the guesswork out of reading and spelling.
- Explicit – Students are taught exactly what they need to know in a clear and straightforward manner. Students know what they are learning and why they’re learning it.
Where Orton-Gillingham Fits
While Orton-Gillingham has long been associated with dyslexia, teachers have been advocating for years that the Orton-Gillingham method be utilized in every classroom.
Orton-Gillingham places a strong emphasis on systematically teaching phonics so that students understand the how’s and why’s behind reading. Word recognition is best taught through a phonics-based approach, wherein students develop knowledge and skills about how the alphabet works to become expert decoders. Children can then apply the knowledge they learn to decode and encode new words.
For over 25 years, the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) has refined its Orton-Gillingham approach to empower modern educators to teach the foundation of the English language.
- Adaptable – IMSE’s approach can be your primary reading program or integrate with your current reading program and curriculum. Lessons can be done in smaller parts to fit your daily/weekly schedule.
- Flexible – Assessment guides the instruction, so teachers can differentiate instruction and create groups based on readiness levels. IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham approach also fits into all three tiers of RtI from the whole classroom to 1:1.
- Fits the modern classroom – IMSE’s approach meets the needs of today’s teachers and students.
- More multi-sensory – IMSE is continually adding innovative and creative multi-sensory ideas to lessons and activities to keep students engaged and to meet the needs of all learning styles.
- Uses technology – IMSE has created a lesson planning and assessment app called Interactive OG to make lesson prep, grouping, and reporting faster and easier.
- Supports English Learners (ELs) – with the increase of ELs in classrooms across the country, IMSE is committed to using practices and strategies that best meet the needs of all students.
- Teachers Teaching Teachers – All instructors are professionals in the field of education and have first-hand experience using this in the classroom. Therefore, it is practical and relevant, not just theoretical.
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.
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