What is Orton-Gillingham?

One of the reasons I set up my blog was to document my research, frustrations, successes, failures and everything in between. I also wanted to create a place for parents to visit to find easy-to-understand resources written by parents for parents.

Information found online is often overwhelming, especially when trying to find specific and easy to digest material. Opinions are often mis-labeled as facts and trying to organise and process the endless results is tiring and extremely time consuming.

During my dyslexia educational journey, I have learnt much about Orton-Gillingham – but much of the information has been written for educators so I’m forever translating buzzwords and technical terms into layman’s speak. My aim with this latest series of blogs is to discuss the question of ‘what is Orton-Gillingham and how will it help my child?’

dyslexia resource pack

What is Orton-Gillingham and what does it focus on?

At its core, Orton–Gillingham is a structured literacy approach intended for reluctant and struggling readers. It teaches the connections between letters and sounds by breaking reading and spelling down into smaller skills.

It led the way for the multisensory approach to teaching reading. Multisensory teaching is the use of sight, hearing, touch and movement to help children connect language with letters and words. Because of its success with reluctant readers, it has become an important tool to help teach students with dyslexia.

The Orton–Gillingham approach focuses on teaching kids to read at word level, learning letters through sound (saying it) sight (seeing it) and movement/touch (writing it with their finger in sand). It can help to develop reading comprehension, but this is not the main importance. It emphasizes reading rules and patterns. Once children understand these, the will be better able to decode words independently. Essentially they will be learning why a letter sounds the way it does in one word, but different in another.

Click here for 5 fun multi-sensory activities for dysgraphia and dyslexia.

Structure and order

It is a highly structured approach that teaches skills in a specific order based on how children naturally learn language.

For example, phonological awareness (the connection between sounds and the letters that represent those sounds) would be first and would be followed by trying to recognise those specific sounds in words.

In order to move onto the next skill, students must master the previous one. If they are confused, the teacher will explain the skill from the beginning. The aim is for the students to use the skills they’ve learned in order to decode words independently.

This is just an overview and the first in my series on the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching and multisensory techniques. I will also be looking in depth at multisensory techniques for teaching maths and handwriting, publishing free orton-gillingham activities, providing information for using Orton-Gillingham at home and using the approach for learning how to spell ‘red’ words (those which are not sounded out phonetically).

Key points to remember:

  • Orton–Gillingham is a highly researched approach and is well-regarded among educational professionals when teaching reluctant readers or those with learning differences to read.
  • It uses multisensory techniques
  • It a structured step-by-step approach based on how children learn language.
  • In order to truly benefit from this approach, children must completely master one reading skill before moving on to the next.

If you have recently found out your child is dyslexic, read this blog about how I dealt with the initial diagnosis and my fears for the future.

Worried about your child’s future? Click here to read about possible careers for children with dyslexia or here to find inspiration from this list of famous people with dyslexia.