Orton Gillingham

What is Orton Gillingham?

Orton-Gillingham (O-G) is an approach to teaching reading that is the gold standard for tutoring struggling readers, especially students with dyslexia. It has the following features, which makes it effective, according to brain-based research.

  • Diagnostic and Prescriptive. A trained O-G tutor is able to diagnose specific strengths and needs of a student and to design prescriptive lessons to meet those needs. This is ongoing, as tutoring sessions are not part of a program but, rather, custom-designed each lesson, based on student progress and performance.​

  • Direct and explicit. Lesson material is directly taught and practiced. Nothing is just mentioned or assumed unless it has been previously taught and mastered.

  • Language Based. O-G teaches systematic phonics and applied linguistics, teaching the components and structure of spoken and written language. Students begin by learning individual phonemes (sounds) written as phonograms (letters or letter combinations), that blend into syllables and words. Later, morphemes (prefixes, suffixes, and roots) are taught.

  • Multi-sensory. O-G lessons utilize visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities.

  • Structured and Sequential but Flexible. O-G is structured both in content and in format. Lessons follow a consistent sequence so that students interact with material using different senses. Reading, writing, and spelling are connected. Material is introduced from the simple to the complex, and learning is cumulative. It is flexible in that varied reinforcement and/ or reteaching is provided until mastery is achieved and concepts are taught in an order that makes the most sense for the individual student.

  • Cognitive. Students learn generalizations and rules that govern language structure and spelling. Rules are applied to mastery. Students think, not guess.

  • Emotionally sound. O-G builds on successes. Material is taught to mastery, previously taught concepts are continually reviewed, and connections are made to new concepts. These practices ensure a high degree of success, building confidence and self-esteem.

  • Comprehension is inherent. O-G sessions always include reading of connected passages that include the lesson’s focus concept. Students are asked questions and may write or discuss answers. This reinforces the primary goal of reading – to understand. Pronouncing words is not enough; the reader must interact with text to create meaning. Comprehension is not only the primary goal; it is the essence of reading – it is what makes reading JOYFUL!