What is Orton-Gillingham?

readingIn our descriptions of Lexercise, we frequently say that Lexercise is based upon the Orton-Gillingham approach. But what (or who) is Orton-Gillingham and how does it relate to Lexercise and language learning for dyslexic children?

Orton-Gillingham is an approach to instruction specifically designed to match the skills and needs of those with dyslexia. It has been around for more than 70 years and is based upon the work of Samuel T. Orton and Anna Gillingham. Orton studied the language-processing difficulties of people who do not learn to read, examining both the science of the problem and possible solutions. Gillingham, a psychologist and educator, worked with Dr. Orton in the 1930s to compile and publish instructional materials that would benefit language learners with dyslexia.

Their materials came to be known as the Orton-Gillingham Approach and, in the decades since, they have been used, tested, researched and validated again and again.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is different from other methods of teaching. In particular, it is

  • Multisensory – it engages all of the brain’s learning pathways (sight, sound, touch and motion) simultaneously.
  • Structured – it progresses logically from the most basic material to the more challenging; learning builds cumulatively with diligent practice and frequent review.
  • Individual – it is designed to meet the unique learning needs of the individual student. It may be used one-on-one or in small-group teaching.
  • Direct – it is explicit: rules are explained, goals are set and the learner works toward specific benchmarks.
  • Synthetic and analytic – it helps the learner understand and apply the rules of language: how the parts of language work together to form a whole and how the whole can be broken down into its various parts.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach also emphasizes specific learning content:

  • Phonology – phonemes are the smallest distinct units of sound in a language; phonological awareness is essential to the ability to read.
  • Sound-symbol association – helping the reader make the association, both by sight and by ear, of phonemes with their letters or combinations of letters.
  • Syllables – the six basic types of syllables and the rules that control word structure.
  • Morphology – just as a phoneme is the smallest unit of sound, a morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning. This includes the study of base words, roots, prefixes and suffixes.
  • Syntax and semantics – the rules that govern how words work together to convey meaning, including grammar, sentence structure and written language.

With the foundation of these tested and validated Orton-Gillingham principles, Lexercise allows clinicians to customize language learning to the needs of individual dyslexic children. Through the motivating daily practice built into the Lexercise system, children advance more quickly and shorten the total time needed to advance to grade-level reading.

For more information and assistance, please contact us. Lexercise will help you find a clinician who is experienced in the use of the Orton-Gillingham approach.

I welcome your comments and invite your questions at AskSandie@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.
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Photo: Cornell University Library

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.