What's the Word?





For some students, language is both overwhelming and confusing. The Orton-Gillingham (O-G) tutor introduces language:

• Systematically: beginning with individual phonemes which are letters that build language such as a, p, s, etc. that the student learns to recognize as sounds that evolve into syllables and words.
• Sequentially: identifying consonant blends, vowels, digraphs (e.g. sh, ch, tch) and diphthongs (e.g. oi, ew, oo) in a format that builds understanding of optional spellings.

Orton-Gillingham uses:

• Structure: as language advances into syllable types, roots and affixes, multisyllabic words that are more complex are seen.
• Reinforcement: of known work in order to bolster new material being taught.
• Cumulative instruction: which builds skills the student uses to develop.
• automaticity and fluency with his or her reading and writing.

The following information has been provided with permission by “The Prospect Centre for Multisensory Learning” (www.prospectcentre.ca)

The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction is a language-learning strategy

It is based on the research of Samuel Orton and the later research of Anna Gillingham, whose main focus was to find a multisensory approach to teaching reading. Several reading intervention programs are based on Orton-Gillingham research and techniques.

The main hallmark of the Orton-Gillingham approach is instruction of isolated sounds (decoding) and instruction in putting sounds together (encoding). Those techniques are generally used with students requiring remedial instruction in reading, spelling and writing. The approach has been adapted over time to incorporate what are known as the “Five Big Ideas” in Reading Instruction.

They include:
  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Alphabetic Principle
  3. Fluency with Text
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Comprehension

Reading is basic to education, and most students learn to read with very little effort. However, students do not all learn in the same way. One student in seven may experience an unexpected gap between their potential for learning and their school achievement.

Intelligence is often not the problem; the problem is language. Some students may have trouble with reading, spelling, understanding language they hear, or expressing themselves clearly in speaking or writing. For this reason, a multi-sensory, cumulative approach can lead to greater success.

The built-in success of each individually structured Orton-Gillingham lesson provides achievement which is the strongest motivator a learner can experience.

Key Features of Orton-Gillingham Instruction
  1. The Diagnostic Lesson
    The Orton-Gillingham (O-G) instructor carefully administers an assessment of the student’s skills. The assessment is carried out in a kind and gentle manner often over a series of lessons. This is the first step in the diagnostic - prescriptive approach that is the built in monitoring component of O-G lessons. The instructor will observe the student’s response to instruction and retention of the skills as they are incorporated over time.

  2. Discrete Phonics Instruction
    Teach letters individually along with their associated sounds, beginning with only one sound per letter. For vowels, teach only the short sound at first (the "a" sound in "cat," not the "a" sound in "fate").

  3. Students should be drilled in letter/sound recognition, and should be able to associate a word for each letter. In the beginning each letter has an associated keyword assigned to it (c - cookie, b – bat the ball)

  4. Begin with only a few letters, but enough so that simple words can be made from them. For example the letters "f", "l", "m", "n", "r", and "s" in the initial position, the short vowel "a" in the medial position, and "d", "g", "p", and "t" in the final position may be blended to make real words such as mad, flag, man, sad, ran, flags and nonsense words for reading (decoding).

  5. Orton-Gillingham (O-G) emphasizes tapping the sounds on the fingers, tracing on tactile surfaces, having the student touch or point to letters as she/he says the sounds and blends them into a word.

  6. The next step to this approach is dictating a word, and having the student use the letters to make a word according to the sounds they hear. Again, the student is using simultaneous visual, auditory, and tactile senses to interact with and spell the words (encoding). This technique is known as S.O.S. or Simultaneous Oral Spelling. Words are eventually extended to phrases, phrases to sentences, and sentences to paragraphs. Older students will learn study skills and essay writing.

  7. Structured and Cumulative Aspects of O-G
    The O-G instructor continues to teach letters and sounds, and later syllables rules and generalizations of the English language until all have been introduced. Letters, their sounds and concepts that were previously learned are reviewed continuously. This is sometimes called over-learning.

  8. Reading Instruction
    Sight words or words that do not fit phonetic rules need to be taught discretely by letter naming and the use of mnemonic devices. Sight words are reinforced through multisensory activities, games and sometimes timed drills. They are often known as Red Letter Words.

    Combining sight words and words with the letters that have been introduced, the student can begin to read sentences and short stories.
    Tapping the sounds on fingers or tracing letters on the table may help with that process. This strategy gives tactile input, allowing the student to use all his/her senses to independently decode the words.

  9. Emotionally and Socially Sound Instruction
    Orton-Gillingham instructors encourage application of decoding skills in every aspect of the student's instruction, but are careful not to frustrate the student. The student can be prompted to sound out, trace or tap a word before receiving assistance with the word. Instruction is interactive and encouraging. As the student’s skills develop the instructor begins to incorporate books at the student's level to foster fluency and comprehension. Reading lists can help with this process.

  10. A word of caution
    Learning anything takes time. If a student does not learn concepts as quickly as you think he/she should, relax. Each student is an individual and will learn in his/her own time and at the pace that results in the best retention.

Validation for the Five Big Ideas of Orton-Gillingham Instruction:

The research of Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham has been expanded to 41 adaptations; some for classrooms and others for diverse age groups from pre-school to adult learners. The leader in this research is the International Dyslexia Association (formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society).


The National Reading Panel (U.S.A)

Many students in the U.S.A. have problems learning to read. If they don't get the help they need, these students will fall behind in school and struggle with reading throughout their lives.
Although parents, teachers, and school officials work hard to help kids learn to read, there have been many different ideas about what ways of teaching reading worked the best - and some ideas contradicted each other.

The United States Congress asked the National Institute of Student Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the U.S. Department of Education to form the National Reading Panel to evaluate existing research about reading and, based on the evidence, determine what methods work best for teaching students to read. The National Reading Panel's analysis made it clear that the best approach to reading instruction is one that incorporates explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, systematic phonics instruction, methods to improve fluency, and ways to enhance comprehension.


Early Literacy - Report and Recommendations (Canada)
Following on the heels of the National Reading Panel, The National Strategy for Early Literacy - Report and Recommendations, 2009 supported the findings of the National Reading Panel. They found: Teacher and resource teacher education should be based on a three-tier model for teaching students to read. Through this process, all students would receive a standard baseline of core classroom instruction, sufficient for most students to learn to read.

Regular assessments would quickly identify the approximately 20% of students for whom this core instruction may have been insufficient, so that supplemental instruction can be provided before they fall far behind their peers. Further assessment and intensive intervention would then be provided for the approximately 5% of students who require this level of service.

Ensure that each school and school board puts in place an explicit literacy assessment, instruction, support, intervention and monitoring process, implementing the three-tier model that ensures that all students acquire fundamental literacy skills through an evidence-based instructional program that must include systematic, direct, and explicit instruction, supporting the acquisition of essential alphabetic, code-breaking skills, and the development of strong oral language, vocabulary, grammar, fluency, and reading comprehension skills.


Certification of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners (Canada and U.S.A.)

Orton-Gillingham is presented by professionals trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach. Certification for practitioners is through the Canadian Academy of Therapeutic Tutors (Orton-Gillingham) and the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (U.S.A).


The following is a summary of the National Reading Panel's findings:
Phonemic Awareness Means knowing that spoken words are made up of smaller parts called phonemes. Teaching phonemic awareness gives students a basic foundation that helps them learn to read and spell. The panel found that students who learned to read through specific instruction in phonemic awareness improved their reading skills more than those who learned without attention to phonemic awareness.
Phonics Instruction Phonics teaches students about the relationship between phonemes and printed letters and explains how to use this knowledge to read and spell. The panel found that students show marked benefits from explicit phonics instruction, from kindergarten through 6th grade.
Fluency Fluency means being able to read quickly, knowing what the words are and what they mean, and properly expressing certain words - putting the right feeling, emotion, or emphasis on the right word or phrase. Teaching fluency includes guided oral reading, in which students read out loud to someone who corrects their mistakes and provides them with feedback, and independent silent reading where students read silently to themselves. The panel found that reading fluently improved the students' abilities to recognize new words; read with greater speed, accuracy, and expression; and better understand what they read.
Comprehension: Vocabulary instruction Teaches students how to recognize words and understand them. The panel found that vocabulary instruction and repeated contact with vocabulary words is important.
Comprehension: Text comprehension instruction Teaches specific plans or strategies students can use to help them understand what they are reading. The panel identified seven ways of teaching text comprehension that helped improve reading strategies in students who didn't have learning disabilities. For instance, creating and answering questions and cooperative learning helped to improve reading outcomes.
Comprehension: Teacher Preparation and comprehension strategies instruction Refers to how well a teacher knows things such as the content of the text, comprehension strategies to teach the students, and how to keep students interested. The panel found that teachers were better prepared to use and teach comprehension strategies if they themselves received formal instruction on reading comprehension strategies.
Teacher Education in Reading Instruction Includes how reading teachers are taught, how effective their methods of teaching reading are, and how research can improve their knowledge of teaching students to read. In general, the panel found that studies related to teacher education were broader than the criteria used by the panel. Because the studies didn't focus on specific variables, the panel could not draw conclusions. Therefore, the panel recommended more research on this subject.
The Orton-Gillingham Approach to Mathematics Instruction

Provided with permission by “The Prospect Centre for Multisensory Learning” (www.prospectcentre.ca)

The application of the Orton-Gillingham methodology is based on the use of a multisensory approach in teaching language and mathematics. Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic patterns reinforce each other for optimal learning, and provide flexibility for accommodating individual learning differences.

This educational methodology embodies teaching strategies which are beneficial to all learners. The emphasis on step-by-step development of skill has proven essential to both early success and lasting results.

For some students, mathematics is a road traveled in small steps. A successful multisensory approach leads the student through small increments of understanding toward unifying themes in mathematics. Student’s strengths and needs must be recognized and addressed with built-in "checks for error," as well as a built-in system for building confidence and competence.

C.R.A. is an intervention for mathematics instruction that research suggests can enhance the mathematics performance of students with learning disabilities. It is a three-part instructional strategy, with each part building on the previous instruction to promote student learning and retention and to address conceptual knowledge.

The C.R.A. instructional sequence consists of three stages: concrete, representational, and abstract:
• Concrete. In the concrete stage, the instructor begins teaching by modeling each mathematical concept with concrete materials. Students know the concrete level as the building step.
• Representational. In this stage, the instructor transforms the concrete model into a representational (semi-concrete) level, which involves drawing pictures. Students know the representational level as the drawing step.
• Abstract. At this stage, the instructor models the mathematics concept at a symbolic level, using numbers and mathematical symbols to indicate addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.
In summary:
• The Concrete is the “doing” stage using concrete objects to model problems.
• The Representational is the “seeing” stage using representations of the objects to model problems.
• The Abstract is the “symbolic” stage using abstract symbols to model problems.
Students know the process as: Build it, Draw it and Name it.

C.R.A. supports understanding underlying mathematical concepts before learning “rules,” that is, moving from a concrete model of blocks for multiplication to an abstract representation such as 4 x 3 = 12.

Research-based studies show that students who use concrete materials develop more precise and more comprehensive mental representations, often show more motivation and on-task behavior, understand mathematical ideas, and better apply these ideas to life situations.

Once the student is confident with the C.R.A. approach it can be integrated with other Orton - Gillingham techniques and curriculum subject areas.



What's the Word? © 2014