The Orton-Gillingham Approach
For Whom is the Orton Gillingham
Who were Orton and
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
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
Click here for a more detailed history
of the Orton-Gillingham approach for teaching reading.
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