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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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Sonya

says:

Hi, I have a grade 7 student that has severe reading and spelling difficulties. Would this program be appropriate for a student of that age (12)?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sonya,
Yes, All About Reading and All About Spelling has been used successfully with teens and even adults!

Please start with our placement tests and let me know (either here or through our email at support@allaboutlearningpress.com) how your student places. I will have different tips and suggestions based upon which levels of each program he will need to start with.

Kourtney

says:

Hi! My rising third grader has met and or exceeded expectations in all grades thus far. However, I would like him to develop comprehension skills. Would this program be appropriate for helping him develop the ability to: make text-to-self connections, answer open ended questions, make predictions, visualize, and monitor for understanding? Thanks so much for any feedback you can provide.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kourtney,
You may find our How to Teach Reading Comprehension blog post helpful. It details how All About Reading covers reading comprehension and includes example lessons. I do think you will find our program covers comprehension well.

Robyn Metz

says:

I would like more information

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sure, Robyn.

Both All About Reading and All About Spelling are multisensory programs. They approach learning through sight, sound, and touch. This helps kids remember what they learn because they take in information in various ways and also interact with it in various ways.

All About Reading includes research-based instruction in decoding skills, fluency, automaticity, comprehension, vocabulary and lots and lots of reading practice. All About Spelling focuses on encoding skills, spelling rules, and other strategies that help children become good spellers.

Each lesson time is simple and explicit, and will include 3 simple steps: review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching. The program is designed for you to move at your child’s pace, so you can go as quickly or as slowly as your child needs through each step.

The lessons are laid out in an orderly form for the teacher, so that each day you can simply open and go. The programs are easy to do at home without special training or previous experience.

Lessons are logical and incremental. They provide the structure, organization, and clear guidance that kids who struggle need in order to learn. AAR and AAS break every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teach the lessons in a logical order, carrying the students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on the one the student has already mastered. Our sequence was very carefully tested to reduce confusion for the child.

AAR and AAS use specially color-coded letter tiles or letter tiles app. Working with the letter tiles or the app can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

AAS and AAR are scripted, so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage. Marie, the author, also spent a lot of time researching how to word the rules. Our rules are worded so they are as easy for children to remember as possible.

Both programs have built-in review in every lesson. Some children need lots of review in order to retain concepts, while others don’t need as much. This leaves you are free to adjust this to your child’s need. After a concept has been taught, we don’t assume that the child knows it. With AAR and AAS, your child will have a Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows. Customized review is important for kids with short attention spans because you want every minute of your lesson to count.

One of the things that Marie noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids to gain fluency, which is why All About Reading includes lots of varied reading practice.

All About Spelling includes dictation that starts out very short and gradually progresses. Level 1 starts out with just words and then progresses to 2-word phrases. Level 2 includes phrases and shorter sentences, while Level 3 moves up to slightly longer sentences. This gradual progression helps to build writing stamina and to strengthen working memory. Dictation is more useful than tests for ensuring students have mastered spelling concepts.

Note, the programs are independent of each other so students can move as quickly or as slowly as they need to with each skill. Kids generally move ahead more quickly in reading, and we don’t want to hold them back with the spelling. For more information, check out this article on Why We Teach Reading and Spelling Separately.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you would like more information or have questions.

Jane apisani

says:

Trying to help my 7 year old read
I have read your way of teacing on google
I found it very interesting

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

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

Sarah Moon

says:

Hello, My kids have been recommended to participate in this type of curriculum from their previous elementary school. I am Highly interested And am looking for the best way I can accommodate during these times. I am looking for instructors as well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
All About Reading and All About Spelling lessons are laid out in an orderly form for the teacher so that each day you can simply open and go. The programs are easy to do at home without special training or previous experience.

Let me know if you would like more information about our programs or have any questions.

Kim Todd

says:

My son is just finishing 2nd grade and is really struggling with reading and spelling. I knew he was behind but I really had no idea how bad it was until we started this remote learning. I’ve been considering homeschooling him next year. I’ll definitely continue looking into this approach. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kim,
Please let me know if you have any questions or need more information. I’d love to help you with placement or anything else you need. You may wish to start with our helpful Why Our Programs Work video.

Tracey Hodge

says:

I have a child (5th grade) who is struggling in reading but does well in spelling. Would this help him?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It is very likely that it would help, Tracey. However, All About Reading and All About Spelling have a one-year “Go Ahead and Use It” guarantee. You can try them, and if for any reason you feel that they aren’t the right match for your child, return them for a full refund.

Both All About Reading and All About Spelling are Orton-Gillingham based, which is a proven approach for helping students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. It’s also the approach that the International Dyslexia Association recommends. The author of AAR and AAS, Marie Rippel, is a member of the International Dyslexia Association and has instructed graduate-level courses in Orton-Gillingham Literacy Training offered through Nicolet College in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She is also a member of Pro Literacy, has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Literary Task Force in Wisconsin, and tutored students for more than 20 years. If you haven’t had a chance to watch their story about her son’s struggles, you may want to check that out (they were told he would never read). Quite amazing!

Here are some ways that All About Reading can help kids with learning struggles:

– Each lesson time is simple and explicit, and will include 3 simple steps: review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching.

– Incremental lessons. AAR breaks every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teaches the lessons in a logical order, carrying the students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on the one the student has already mastered.

– AAR is multisensory. Research has shown that when a child is taught through all three pathways at the same time, a method known as simultaneous multisensory instruction, he will learn significantly more than when taught only through his strongest pathway.

– AAR uses specially color-coded letter tiles. Working with the All About Reading letter tiles or letter tile app can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

– AAR is scripted, so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage.

– AAR has built-in review in every lesson. Children with learning struggles generally need lots of review in order to retain concepts. With AAR, your child will have a Reading Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows.

– AAR has lots of fluency practice. One of the things that Marie noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids who struggle to gain fluency. AAR has fluency practice sheets or a story to be read with every lesson, so children can practice reading smoothly with expression and confidence.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Nahid

says:

Was really helpful.

Rita Lafaive

says:

I am a math tutor turned English tutor. I have some students with English as a second language. Need ideas and help to support the best learning for the students.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rita,
We have a blog post on English Language Learners you may find helpful. Please let me know if you have specific questions or concerns.

Caroline Meier

says:

Are trained MultiSensory OrtonGillingham teachers using this method with children with Down Syndrome?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Caroline,
All About Reading has been used with good success with students with Down Syndrome. Check out our blog post Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome.

Gail Kedsch

says:

I loved reading the post on th O G approach . Ready to find out more. Thanks for giving so much useful information on your blog.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Gail. Let me know if you have any specific questions or concerns and I can maybe direct you to blog posts with more information.

Taylor Wright

says:

I found it interesting that engaging sight, sound, and touch in a lesson can be powerful for those with dyslexia. My sister just found out her daughter has dyslexia and wants to find a school that offers the Orton-Gillingham approach. I’ll be sure to pass this along to her as she continues to look for the best school for her daughter.

Tamara Hanks

says:

I have used and loved Sing Spell Read Write, but have been lost after level 1 as the program seems to merely repeat , loosing it’s singing, and I was disappointed. Are you familiar with it? You seem to have the same underlying phonics approach as they do? We took 2 years to cover their level 1 after a year of public school 1st grade. Where should my basics-mastered “4th” grader start?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tamara,
All About Reading and All About Spelling and Sing, Spell, Read and Write are similar as both are based upon the Orton-Gillingham approach. However, there are many differences between the two programs. For example, one difference is that Sing, Spell, Read and Write includes phonics, reading, writing, grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. Marie, the author of AAR and AAS, has found that most students learn reading, spelling, and writing at different paces. She purposefully made the All About Reading and All About Spelling independent of each other so students can move as quickly or as slowly as they need to with each skill. Kids generally move ahead more quickly in reading, and we don’t want to hold them back with the spelling.

For All About Reading, you can use our placement tests to help you decide where to start. At the end of final level, AAR 4, students have the phonics and word attack skills necessary to sound out high school level words, though they may not know the meaning of all higher-level words yet. Word attack skills include things like dividing words into syllables, making analogies to other words, sounding out the word with the accent on different word parts, recognizing affixes, etc…

For All About Spelling, we also have a placement test. However, with our child’s background with SSRW, he or she may be able to start higher than level two. Keep in mind that All About Spelling seems to focus on syllable division rules and how they apply them to spelling more than other programs and that begins in level 2. If your child is very confident in syllable rules you may be able to start higher. However, if that’s an area of weakness, then you’ll probably want to start with 2 but fast-track through the easier steps. This blog article has a good example of how you might fast track through level 1; the same strategy can be applied to other levels as well.

You can see the complete samples and scope and sequence links for each level here: All About Spelling samples and scope and sequence links. If you decide to begin with a higher level, you may want to purchase the Student Packets from all previous levels in order to have those cards for review purposes.

The program comes with a one-year “Go Ahead and Use It!” guarantee, so feel free to test it out.

I hope this helps, but let me know if you need more information or help with placement or anything else.

Tamara Hanks

says:

Thank you so much, Robin. Your reply help tremendously. I think we’ll start with Level 2 as spelling rules associated with syllable divisions are not taught in Sing Spell Read Write. Thank you again, and we look forward to spelling “class”.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy to help, Tamara. Let me know if you need anything else.

Megan

says:

THANK YOU FOR YOUR AWESOME RESOURCES!
With your help, our homeschool year is going great. My 4 daughters are using both AAR and AAS…We are enjoying it together.
THANKS AGAIN :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Megan! I’m super excited to hear how great your school year is going. Keep up the amazing work!

Hope

says:

We love All About Reading!

Katy

says:

Always a good reminder about *why* we teach this way! Thanks for making it so easy for me to teach this way!

Cathy

says:

Found you while searching for help for me , grandmom, to help my granddaughter who is really struggling in school and exhibiting self esteem issues. THANK YOU for the detail about your program. Ordering books today!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a wonderful thing for a grandmother to do, Cathy! Let me know if you have any questions or need anything as you begin.

Monica

says:

Our second son has dyslexia and AAR is teaching him how to read-and remember- what he has learned day by day! We are saving AAR for our youngest child too.

Kathy

says:

Glad I read this post! I am teaching my son math using a method just like this and have been searching for a reading program that might do the same. This program looks like the perfect fit!

Megan Flowers

says:

What is the math program you are using?

September

says:

This is very good information I will have to look into more. My boys are strong readers and spellers, but I never know how fast or slow to take them through spelling and vocabulary. I like the quote, “Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you must.”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

September,
Yes, that is a great quote! It can apply to so many types of learning too.

Stephanie l Ferguson

says:

I am very new to this so all information is very helpful

Stephanie Murray

says:

I really didn’t know all that much info about this approach to the AAR program, so this was a good read for me. Thanks for the insight :)

Christie

says:

We love, love, love All About Reading and All About Spelling!! What an amazing program this is! I wish I had leaned by this method. I find myself understanding our language so much more now that I ever did as I teach using this approach!! Thank you!!!

Sam

says:

I love this program! It taught my boys who were struggling to read to read!

Amy P

says:

Interesting info—thanks!

Michelle Knauff

says:

This is great! Thank you for explain this method! I love it!

Jenny

says:

I thoroughly believe in the OG method!! I have tried other curriculums for my son, but the steps and method of the OG method seem to make sense and stick for him as well as my daughter. Have absolutely loved all of my AAS (level 1-4) and the AAR levels 1 & 2. Getting ready to start level 3 :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenny,
It’s so wonderful to hear that All About Reading and All About Spelling have worked out so well for your family! Thank you for sharing.

Jennie Kay

says:

My 8yo son is struggling with reading and while I plan to him tested for dyslexia, I also plan to start him on AAR here soon. Thanks for this info on the Orton-Gillingham method.

Chelle

says:

Well written post. I learned a lot.

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