The Orton-Gillingham (OG) method, known for its multisensory, structured, sequential, and flexible approach, has long been a championed method for teaching students, especially those who struggle with phonics. But the OG method is not the only one out there that can be effective in teaching phonics, especially when considering the diverse needs of learners as they progress from Primary 1 to Primary 6.
Starting from Primary 1, we must lay the foundation of phonics with methods that are visually engaging, incorporating vibrant images and flashcards. This is akin to the OG method’s multisensory philosophy. However, methodologies such as Jolly Phonics can also be explored, which introduces 42 letter sounds to children in a fun, engaging manner, using actions, songs, and stories. This method makes learning phonics an exciting experience, helping children remember and reproduce sounds more easily.
As we move to Primary 2 and 3, synthetic phonics becomes more relevant. This approach, which forms the backbone of the OG method, involves teaching students how to convert letters or letter combinations into sounds and then blend them together. Techniques like ‘sound buttons’ can be employed, which require children to ‘press’ the sound buttons under each letter or digraph in a word to pronounce it correctly.
In Primary 4, the complexity of the phonics curriculum increases with the introduction of more nuanced sounds. Analytic phonics can be applied here, where the focus is on whole words and recognizing letter-sound patterns within them. This helps children decode new words based on their understanding of words with similar patterns.
For Primary 5 students, the focus shifts to advanced phonics concepts such as diphthongs and multisyllabic words. The Structured Literacy approach, an offshoot of the OG method, could be useful at this stage. It places a strong emphasis on explicit instruction and systematic progression, ensuring students have a thorough understanding of the English language’s structure, starting from simpler concepts and gradually moving to more complex ideas.
Finally, in Primary 6, the emphasis must be on reinforcing and consolidating all the phonics skills that the students have acquired over the years. This is crucial as students prepare for the PSLE, where a firm grasp of phonics can support their success in the English paper, especially the Oral and Listening Comprehension sections. An approach like the Spalding Method, which combines elements of synthetic and analytic phonics, along with rules and generalizations, can be beneficial at this stage.
The Orton-Gillingham (OG) method is a multisensory, structured, and sequential approach to teaching reading and spelling, and it is particularly beneficial for students struggling with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. This methodology provides the scaffolding that students need to connect sounds with letters and words, thereby making it an effective phonics instruction technique.
In Primary 1, students are often introduced to the foundational components of the OG method. They engage with materials that are visually engaging and tactile, which helps to strengthen phonemic awareness—the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds, or phonemes. This multisensory approach—seeing, hearing, and feeling the words—supports students in creating stronger connections and retaining information more effectively.
As students transition into Primary 2 and Primary 3, the OG method emphasizes a deeper understanding of phonics. They continue to develop their phonemic awareness, but the instruction becomes more sophisticated. The students learn about more complex sound and letter relationships, including common spelling patterns and irregularities in English phonics.
In Primary 4 and 5, the OG method focuses on enhancing reading fluency and comprehension. Students learn to identify multisyllabic words, complex consonants, vowel teams, and diphthongs. They also learn about different word types (e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives) and begin to apply their phonics skills to more complex reading and writing tasks. This stage of instruction is also where the OG method’s flexibility becomes apparent. The instruction is tailored to the student’s specific needs, making adjustments based on progress and areas of difficulty.
Finally, as students reach Primary 6, they should have a solid grasp of the English language phonetic and phonemic structure, as well as the skills to decode and spell words automatically. At this stage, the OG method helps students apply their knowledge to more advanced literacy tasks. Students are taught to use their understanding of phonics rules to approach new and unfamiliar words, enhancing their reading fluency and comprehension.
The OG method is unique in its emphasis on individualized, direct instruction, which is driven by the student’s specific needs and progress. By moving from simple to complex concepts and incorporating multisensory techniques, it supports students as they develop their phonics skills from Primary 1 to Primary 6, and it equips them with the tools they need to be successful, independent readers. It is an approach that requires trained educators who are equipped to modify and adapt the method according to the student’s learning needs and progress. The method also encourages constant revision to ensure concepts are fully grasped before new ones are introduced.
In summary, the OG method is a student-centered, evidence-based approach to phonics instruction that can support student growth throughout the primary years. It provides a framework that allows teachers to meet students where they are, helping them to build strong, foundational literacy skills while also preparing them for more advanced language tasks.
In conclusion, the Orton-Gillingham method has many strengths, particularly for struggling readers. However, the journey from Primary 1 to Primary 6 is a long one, and it’s essential to adapt and explore a combination of methods to best support each child’s unique learning journey. Phonics instruction isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and the best educators will be those who are equipped with an array of strategies and methods to cater to the diverse learning needs of their students.