The Orton-Gillingham Approach
The Orton-Gillingham approach is language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible. Its breadth, perspective, and flexibility prompt use of the term approach instead of method.
The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on a technique of studying and teaching language, understanding the nature of human language, the mechanisms involved in learning, and the language-learning processes in individuals.
Orton-Gillingham teaching sessions are action oriented with auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements reinforcing each other for optimal learning. The student learns spelling simultaneously with reading.
Structured, Sequential, Cumulative
The Orton-Gillingham teacher introduces the elements of the language systematically. Students begin by reading and writing sounds in isolation. Then they blend the sounds into syllables and words. Students learn the elements of language, e.g., consonants, vowels, digraphs, blends, and diphthongs, in an orderly fashion. They then proceed to advanced structural elements such as syllable types, roots, and affixes. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material to the level of automaticity. The teacher addresses vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative manner.
When using the Orton-Gillingham approach, students learn about the history of the English language and study the many generalizations and rules that govern its structure. They also learn how best they can learn and apply the language knowledge necessary for achieving reading and writing competencies.
At best, Orton-Gillingham teaching is diagnostic-prescriptive in nature. Always the teacher seeks to understand how an individual learns and to devise appropriate teaching reading strategies.
In every lesson, the student experiences a high degree of success and gains confidence as well as skill. Learning becomes a rewarding and happy experience.
For Whom is the Orton Gillingham Approach Appropriate?
The Orton-Gillingham approach is appropriate for teaching individuals, small groups, and classrooms. It is appropriate for teaching in the primary, elementary, intermediate grades, and at the secondary and college level as well as for adults. The explicit focus of the approach has been and continues to be upon persons with the kinds of language processing problems associated with dyslexia. Early intervention is highly desirable, but it is never too late to begin!
Who were Orton and Gillingham?
Samuel Torrey Orton (1879-1948), a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading failure and related language processing difficulties. He brought together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation. As early as the 1920s, he had extensively studied children with the kind of language processing difficulties now commonly associated with dyslexia and had formulated a set of teaching principles and practices for such children.
Anna Gillingham (1878-1963) was a gifted educator and psychologist with a superb mastery of the language. Working with Dr. Orton, she trained teachers and compiled and published instructional materials. Over the last half century the Orton-Gillingham approach has been the seminal and most influential intervention designed expressly for remediating the language processing problems of children and adults with dyslexia.
Click here for a more detailed history of the Orton-Gillingham approach for teaching reading.
Information found at www.ortonacademy.org.
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