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What is the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method?

The Orton-Gillingham (OG) method is a specialized approach to teaching reading and spelling that employs visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles to help students understand and connect the sights, sounds, and feels of letters and words. It was originally designed to assist students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties but has proven successful for all types of learners due to its flexible, structured, and multisensory nature. Here’s an overview of how this method works:

1. Multisensory Teaching: The OG method believes in teaching to all learning styles – visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), and kinesthetic (moving/touching). Students might trace letters with their fingers while saying the sounds out loud, or manipulate letter cards to form words, engaging multiple senses to deepen learning.

2. Sequential and Cumulative: Lessons are structured and follow a specific sequence. Students start with the most basic elements of the English language, such as single letter sounds, and progressively move towards more complex structures like multi-letter phonograms, morphemes, and syntax. What has been learned is continuously reviewed and built upon, reinforcing memory and helping the information to become automated.

3. Direct, Explicit Instruction: Every concept is taught explicitly, with clear and direct instruction from the teacher. There’s no expectation for students to infer or deduce rules on their own. The method emphasizes understanding the why behind a concept, not just the how.

4. Individualized Approach: The OG method recognizes that every learner is unique and requires instruction tailored to their specific needs and learning pace. It allows for flexibility and customization of lessons, with instructors often spending one-on-one time with students to ensure mastery of content.

5. Synthetic and Analytic: The OG approach teaches students to “synthesize” or blend sounds into words (synthetic) and “analyze” or break words into their individual sounds (analytic). These skills are essential for reading (synthetic) and spelling (analytic).

6. Diagnostic Teaching: The instructor continually monitors a student’s performance to determine which skills have been mastered and which need more instruction. They are then able to adjust their lesson plans and strategies accordingly, making the teaching process very dynamic and responsive.

Method PrinciplesExample Activities
Multisensory TeachingHave the students form letters out of clay while saying the letter’s sound aloud. Or, use sandpaper letters for them to trace with their fingers to feel the shape while sounding it out.
Sequential and CumulativeStart with teaching simple consonant sounds like /m/, /a/, /t/. Once mastered, combine them to make a word like “mat”. Move on to more complex sounds like ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘th’. Reinforce the previously learned materials regularly.
Direct, Explicit InstructionClearly explain and demonstrate how to blend sounds to form a word. For example, demonstrate how /c/ /a/ /t/ blends to form the word “cat”.
Individualized ApproachTailor the pace of lessons according to each student’s needs. If a student struggles with a specific sound or concept, spend additional time on that area before moving forward.
Synthetic and AnalyticTeach students to blend the phonemes /c/ /a/ /t/ to recognize the word “cat” (synthetic), and to break down the word “stop” into /s/ /t/ /o/ /p/ (analytic).
Diagnostic TeachingContinually assess students’ reading and spelling abilities. If a student struggles with a specific phoneme or rule, revisit it in future lessons and provide additional practice opportunities.

By incorporating these principles, the Orton-Gillingham method offers a highly structured process that breaks down reading and spelling into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, and then builds on these skills over time. It allows for the close monitoring of student progress and offers the flexibility to respond to individual learning needs. As a result, it can be particularly effective for students who have not been successful with other reading strategies.

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