Your Guide to Orton Gillingham

Parent Guide
For Parents & Students
5 minute read

If you have a child who is demonstrating difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling, you are most likely curious about what resources and programs are best to help your child learn literacy skills. In talking with teachers, parents, and other professionals, you have probably heard of or will hear about Orton-Gillingham or "OG". So what is this program and why is it beneficial for your child to have a tutor who uses this instructional method? In this post, we break down the basics for you, discussing exactly what it is and why it is so helpful. If you want to learn more, schedule a free consultation with one of our Care Specialists!

What Is Orton-Gillingham 

Orton-Gillingham is not a new program. In fact, it has been used in the classroom and by learning specialists and tutors for over 80 years. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham, a neuropsychiatrist and an educator and psychologist, respectively, worked together to create a methodology to teach students with dyslexia and other language processing challenges. 

Other programs, such as the Wilson Reading System and Barton Reading & Spelling System fall under the OG umbrella and use the same methodology. You will often see programs such as Wilson Fundations used for whole group foundational literacy instruction in the primary grades. 

Components of the Orton-Gillingham Approach

One of the reasons for Orton-Gillingham's long-standing success is the highly structured approach. Below are some of the key elements of the OG program. 

  • Sequential- Students move step-by-step from simple material and sounds to more complex language patterns. 
  • Explicit- The rules and patterns of decoding and encoding are directly and precisely taught. 
  • Multisensory- One of the hallmarks of the OG approach is that lessons utilize sight, sound, touch, and motion to engage the student. 
  • Structured- Lessons follow a systematic order that is logical and bridges past information with new concepts. 
  • Diagnostic- Trained instructors continuously monitor the student's progress, making adjustments as needed.

Why It Works For Students with Difficulties 

While learning to read and write, students with dyslexia and other language processing difficulties need more support in order to sort, order, and recognize the components of language. Orton-Gillingham was the first instructional approach to target these struggling readers by teaching the relationships and connections between letters and sounds through explicit instruction. 

By breaking reading and spelling down into smaller skills and then layering these skills over time, students have a higher rate of success. Additionally, OG instructors use a multi-sensory approach. Students engaging in literacy acquisition through a combination of sight, hearing, touch, and movement has proven to be highly effective in helping students with dyslexia learn the relationship between language/sounds and letters and words.

Where You Can Find Orton-Gillingham Instruction 

Although OG can be offered in small groups, the approach works best with one to one instruction. This allows the teacher to focus on the individual needs of the learner and tailor the lessons to the pace of that student. Your student can start a free trial of Orton Gillingham Tutoring by talking with one of our Care Specialists today!s

According to OG certified Parallel learning specialist, Colleen McNabe, Orton Gillingham is a practice easily transferable to virtual settings (such as Parallel) and provides the learning specialists with many resources to make lessons visually engaging and exciting. The basics can be accomplished with just the child, paper and pencil, but can be extra engaging with easily accessible household materials. "For example, I would have virtual students pick their favorite pillow/blanket/book/shirt etc to trace words on for the kinesthetic portion. Whatever they enjoyed the feeling of tracing on," says McNabe. She says that sometimes parents assume O.G. has a lot of "props" they'd have to go get since it is multi-sensory, but that is not necessarily the case.

It is important to understand that just because a tutor is a certified teacher, they may not be capable of providing the Orton-Gillingham approach to their teaching practices. To become OG certified, tutors and instructors must hold a bachelor's degree as well as complete the required training which takes, on average, 60 hours of coursework, practicum hours, and observations. At Parallel, many of our learning specialists are highly trained, Orton-Gillingham and Barton certified educators. Book a consultation with our care specialist to learn more about our personalized tutoring services for reading, writing, and math. Let's work together to get your child started on a successful path!

Key Takeaways:

  • Orton-Gillingham is a highly respected, targeted, and systematic approach to providing foundational literacy instruction to students with dyslexia or language processing difficulties.
  • The structured model includes sequential, explicit, and multisensory instructional methods.
  • Certified Orton-Gillingham instructors can provide 1:1 or small group instruction that is research based and has been proven as highly effective over a long period of time.

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