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The Orton-Gillingham Approach to Reading and Spelling

When I developed All About Reading and All About Spelling, I combined the key features of the Orton-Gillingham approach with the latest research and proven spelling rules. But why? What’s so special about Orton-Gillingham?

Owl pointing to the words "The Orton-Gillingham Approach"

What Is Orton-Gillingham?

Orton-Gillingham (OG) is a powerful approach to teaching reading and spelling that uses instruction that is multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, phonics-based, and explicit. Though often touted primarily as an instructional method for children with dyslexia and other learning challenges, the OG approach helps make reading and spelling easy for all children.

Who Were Orton and Gillingham?

Dr. Samuel T. Orton (1879-1948) was a pioneer in the study and understanding of dyslexia. He studied numerous children with language processing issues and eventually developed teaching principles designed to help these children learn language more effectively. One of Dr. Orton’s students, Anna Gillingham (1878-1963), further developed Orton’s ideas and eventually combined his teaching methods with her own understanding of language structure. The first Orton-Gillingham manual was published in 1935.

Why Does the Orton-Gillingham Approach Work?

The Orton-Gillingham approach helps take the mystery out of reading and spelling by focusing on why words are spelled the way they are. Though the English language contains just 26 letters, these letters combine to create approximately 44 speech sounds, and there are over 250 ways to spell those sounds. But the OG approach translates the spelling of these sounds into phonograms and demystifies reading and spelling by teaching students to apply rules and generalizations that help make what was once difficult much easier! (Click to download our Orton-Gillingham Approach poster!)

7 features of Orton-Gillingham infographic

In a nutshell, Orton-Gillingham works because it …

  • instills confidence;
  • helps children overcome learning disorders;
  • makes it easier for children to learn to read, including children with dyslexia and other learning challenges.

Are you ready to explore all the features that make the Orton-Gillingham approach so effective? Read on!

What Are the Key Features and Benefits of the OG Approach?

  1. Multisensory

    Multisensory

    Multisensory instruction is the hallmark of the Orton-Gillingham approach. This technique focuses on the idea that when children learn through three major pathways to the brain—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—they learn more than when they are taught through only one pathway. But the real power comes when you engage the senses of sight, sound, and touch all within the same lesson. So with the OG approach, you don’t have to figure out if your child has a particular learning preference because all three pathways are already built in to every lesson.

  2. Sequential

    Sequential

    When instruction is sequential, lessons are presented in a logical, well-planned sequence. This sequence allows children to make easy connections between what they already know and what they are currently learning–an important step in achieving long-term learning. And that makes learning a rewarding experience for your child.

  3. Incremental

    Incremental

    With incremental instruction, each lesson builds carefully upon the previous lesson. This helps your child move smoothly and naturally from simple concepts to more complex ones, ensuring that there are no gaps in his learning. It’s a lot like climbing a ladder: when lessons are incremental, each rung of the ladder helps your child get closer to the goal of reading and spelling. Even students who have experienced failure with other programs can learn to read and spell with this approach.

  4. Cumulative

    Cumulative

    Two of the most important components of cumulative learning are mastery and constant and consistent review of previously taught skills. When instruction is cumulative, students master one concept before moving on to a more advanced concept. Those concepts are further reinforced with review that is integrated into every lesson. The goal of mastery and review is to make sure that the brain permanently stores, manages, and retrieves information for later use; in short, to achieve learning that “sticks.” When a concept is learned and mastered, the goal of long-term learning has been reached.

  5. Individualized

    Individualized

    Because everyone learns differently, the Orton-Gillingham approach is always concerned with the needs of the individual. Anna Gillingham once said, “Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you must.” Curriculum that follows this approach makes it easy for you to teach to your child’s individual strengths while at the same time respecting the child’s pace. Consequently, this approach works for all ages—beginning readers, intermediate students, teens, and adults.

  6. Based on Phonograms

    Based on Phonograms

    The Orton-Gillingham approach simplifies the English language by focusing on why words are spelled the way they are. By teaching the phonograms and the rules and patterns that spell the vast majority of English words, the OG approach takes the guesswork out of reading and spelling. When a student has a working knowledge of the phonograms and their sounds, reading and spelling are much easier. In fact, even children with reading disorders like dyslexia can overcome the language processing issues associated with these disorders.

  7. Explicit

    Explicit

    In an Orton-Gillingham reading or spelling program, students are taught exactly what they need to know in a clear and straightforward manner. Students know what they are learning and why they’re learning it. This direct instructional approach helps children master skills and gain confidence. When instruction is explicit, there is no guessing, no ambiguity, and no confusion.

All About Reading and All About Spelling make it easy to use the Orton-Gillingham approach to teach reading and spelling. Our lightly scripted, open-and-go teacher’s manuals walk you through each step—with no experience, special training, or extra prep time required by you! You will be teaching like an expert from the very first lesson, and your child will receive all the benefits of this effective method.

For more details, be sure to download our free e-book, The Power of the Orton-Gillingham Approach. And let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about teaching reading and spelling. We’re here to help!

The Power of the Orton-Gillingham Approach

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Anna Grigoli

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Please include me on the newsletter emails.

Robin

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I have signed you up for the email newsletter, Anna. You should have received a welcome email by now. If you have not, please check your spam folder. If it is not there, please let me know.

June

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I’ve been using All About Reading and Spelling with our homeschooled 7 yo since last year and I am extremely happy with the progress he’s made. He started out struggling to read consonant blends at the end of kindergarten and has grown into a confident reader of chapter books in just under a year. Every aspect of the program is very well thought out! I wish a similarly well-developed and systematic curriculum existed for early writing (not spelling).

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wow, June! Your 7-year-old has made fantastic progress in such a short time. Way to go!

Lura

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The Orton Gillingham approach really helped me as a teenager become a better speller.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That is wonderful to hear, Lura!

Yvonne

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love to get tips

Edward

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Need the help

Robin E.

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Do you have any questions or need help, Edward? I’m happy to help.

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I would love to receive your newsletter.

Robin E.

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I signed you up for the newlsetter, Shannon.

Stacy M.

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I don’t know what I would do without OG resources readily available for parents to work with their children individually.

Robin E.

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I’m glad you have found Orton-Gillingham materials so helpful, Stacy!

Vic

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Very helpful

Robin E.

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Glad to hear it was helpful, Vic!

audrey

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please send me updates.

YaadStyle Homeschooling

says:

A very thoughtful and practical approach to teaching reading and spelling. Thank you for simplifying it for me.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome.

Aini

says:

Thank you for explaining this approach to reading! I need it for my job teaching autism kids.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Aini. I’m glad this was helpful for you. If you haven’t seen it yet, I think you will find our Teaching Reading and Spelling to Children with Autism blog post helpful as well.

Geetha Naransamy

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I would love to know more

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy to help, Geetha! Do you have specific questions I can address? Would you like to know more about All About Reading, All About Spelling, or something else?

Amanda M

says:

Thank you for explaining this approach to reading! I need it for my two adopted daughters who are struggling to read and spell.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Amanda. If you have specific questions or concerns, I’m happy to help!

GG

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This is so interesting!

Robin E.

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I’m glad you found this interesting! If you have any questions or would like more information, please let us know.

Deb Kiser

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I need this!

Jenna

says:

I am going to start homeschooling my 7th grade son. He has audio processing issues, adhd, and dyslexia. Spelling is a major struggle. His reading has improved greatly but is still not on grade level. I don’t know where to start him. It feels so weird to think about starting him at level 1 as a 12 year old. Advice?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenna,
I understand your concerns, but with a student that struggles with spelling, it is best to start at Level 1 no matter their age. Often older students struggle with spelling because they have gaps in the foundational skills and knowledge necessary for spelling success. Starting with Level 1 will ensure your student fills those gaps. However, older students will go quickly through the first few levels.

All About Spelling is a building block program with each level building upon the previous one. The rules and concepts learned in Level 1 are applied in Level 2, and then those are applied in Level 3, and so on. Placement for spelling is based on the student’s knowledge of spelling rules and concepts rather than grade level, reading level, or the words a student has memorized.

For example, we find that many students simply memorize easy words like “cat” and “kid” but have no idea why one uses a C and the other uses a K, or that the same rules that apply to these words also apply to higher-level words such as “concentrate.” Other students switch letters or leave out letters entirely. This usually occurs because they don’t know how to hear each sound in the word. Level 1 has specific techniques to solve these problems.

However, we encourage parents and teachers to “fast track” if the student knows how to spell most of the words but does not understand the underlying basic spelling concepts. In this case, very quickly skim the parts that he already knows and slow down on the parts that he needs to learn. Pull out several words as examples. Make sure he understands the concept being taught and can demonstrate it back to you with the tiles or app, and then move on. This blog article on Using All About Spelling with Older Students has a good example of how you might fast-track.

If you have any questions, please let me know; I’d be happy to help!

Shaun

says:

Very informative!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Shaun.

MAT :)

says:

Phenomenal!!!
I am EXCITED to explore your program further as I have already experienced numerous teaching insights!!!

Key to note:
You offer information in highly digestible portions.
Whether a parent/ guardian or teacher, the program is immediately accessible and implementable!

I agree tenfold, learning to read should be an enjoyable and self-paced natural process!

Thank you for the wonderful free resources, the beautifully organized layout of all materials, and the simply adorable graphics.
They will be wonderful additions to my daily teaching slideshows!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Mat! I’m pleased to read your thoughts on this blog post!

Laura

says:

This is very informative! How would you recommend adapting your program for a 1st grade age child who is working on correcting crossed eyes and has trouble with double vision or vision flipping?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Laura,
I saw that you emailed a question to us and that Merry was able to help you with a lot of detail. Let us know if you have additional questions.

Rachel Heselschwerdt

says:

OG has been a very successful way of learning for my daughter. She enjoys the games and there is enough variety to hold her interest. Definitely worth purchasing!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Rachel! It’s wonderful to hear that it is working so well for your daughter.

KaTee

says:

I wish every teacher was required to be trained in Orto -Gillingham. It is empowering for the teacher and the student!

Clerissa Kritzinger

says:

My Boys both have Dyslexia and trying to teach them to read has been challenging to say the least but , the games and poster I find here has made learning so much more enjoyable for Mom and kids. And the hands on approach is help them to remember better.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Clerissa,
I’m so pleased to hear that the games and hands-on approach have helped your boys! Wonderful!

Letetia Nelson Baldwin

says:

I am wondering about training for Marie’s Methods.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Letetia,
Are you asking about training for using All About Reading and All About Spelling? If so, no. These programs are explicit and tell students exactly what they need to know to read or spell. We don’t make them guess.

The lessons are laid out in an orderly form for the teacher too so that each day you can simply open and go. The programs are Easy to Teach without special training or previous experience. We also have an extensive blog with hundreds of articles, including free downloads, reinforcement activities, many teaching topics, and videos.

There are organizations that provide training in the Orton-Gillingham approach, but we do not.

Jayde

says:

Really super awesome. Haven’t heard about it before, cannot wait to start implementing this at home and with the kids I work with. Super!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jayde!

Jayde

says:

I was unaware of this learning approach. A really interesting read and Im eager to learn more and implement it with my own kids and the learners I work with. Really great. Thanks!

Nancy Martin

says:

An easy-to-use resource for meeting children’s learning needs when tutoring!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Nancy!

Jess

says:

This approach has been wonderful for my kiddos

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful to hear, Jess!

Beverly

says:

I’m excited to try this for my struggling speller! I’ve had it suggested by multiple friends!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Let me know if you have questions about placement or anything else, Beverly. I’m happy to help!

Cherie

says:

All About Reading and Spelling are excellent !! I recommend them all the time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for recommending All About Reading and All About Spelling, Cherie!

Anna

says:

This approach has been great for my family!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful to hear, Anna! Thank you for sharing.