Orton Gillingham Approach: Helping Struggling Readers

The key to promoting reading success is helping struggling readers overcome their apprehension. Children become discouraged and frustrated when they struggle to develop reading skills shown through a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and anxiety progression.  

When assisting struggling readers, teachers and parents should consider not only their academic needs but also their emotional and mental needs that result from their educational deficits.

By using strategies that transform an environment of optimism and success into learning, educators may make a commitment to fostering a sense of accomplishment in students. 

For children who struggle with reading, especially those with dyslexia and related challenges, effective intervention is important. Orton Gillingham, a structured and multisensory approach to reading instruction, has been instrumental in transforming the lives of countless struggling readers. 

The Orton Gillingham method combines tried-tested practices with with scientific evidence about how people learn to read. This approach often uses a one-to-one model, with one tutor working with one student—although it can also work well with small groups of dyslexic children. Even though they receive extensive training, Orton Gillingham is an approach rather than a program. Orton Gillingham tutors create their own lessons and resources to tailor instruction to the needs of each dyslexic child.

Multisensory Learning 

A cornerstone of the Orton Gillingham approach is its emphasis on multisensory learning. This means that learners engage multiple senses, including visual, auditory, and tactile, simultaneously during reading instruction. For example, a student may trace letters in sand while simultaneously pronouncing the corresponding sounds. This multisensory approach helps reinforce the connections between letters, sounds, and words, making it easier for struggling readers to grasp and retain information.

Structured and Sequential

Orton Gillingham is highly structured and follows a sequential, cumulative approach to reading instruction. Lessons are carefully organized, beginning with the most basic phonetic elements and progressing systematically to more complex concepts. This structured approach ensures that learners build a strong foundation and gradually advance to more challenging reading tasks.

Key Principles of Orton Gillingham

Personalized Instruction 

Orton Gillingham recognizes that each learner is unique, and instruction must be tailored to their specific needs. Trained Orton Gillingham instructors assess students’ strengths and weaknesses and develop individualized lesson plans to address their areas of difficulty. This personalized approach allows struggling readers to receive targeted support.

Direct Instruction

Orton Gillingham instruction is explicit and direct. It breaks down the English language into its component parts, teaching phonemes (individual sounds), graphemes (letters or letter combinations that represent sounds), and rules systematically. Learners are explicitly taught the rules and patterns of the language, allowing them to understand and apply them with precision.

Effective Orton Gillingham Techniques 

Phonemic Awareness 

Phonemic awareness, the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds in words, is a fundamental skill in reading. Orton Gillingham places a strong emphasis on developing phonemic awareness through activities that help learners recognize and segment sounds. This skill serves as the building block for reading and spelling.

Syllable Division

Understanding how words are divided into syllables is critical for decoding unfamiliar words. Orton Gillingham teaches students how to break words into syllables, identify syllable types, and apply syllable division rules. This knowledge enhances their reading and spelling abilities.

Spelling Patterns 

Spelling can be particularly challenging for struggling readers. Orton Gillingham introduces learners to spelling patterns, rules, and exceptions in a systematic manner. By understanding the structure of words, students can become more proficient spellers.

Orton Gillingham and Dyslexia

The Orton Gillingham method has become widely acknowledged for its success in dealing with dyslexia, a neurological condition that disrupts language and reading comprehension. The Orton Gillingham approach’s multisensory, structured, and personalized approach is highly compatible with the needs of people with dyslexia.

Building Confidence 

For struggling readers, especially those who have dyslexia, reading issues are main cause of frustration and low self-esteem. Along with improving reading skills, Orton Gillingham also encourages dylexic children to gain self-confidence. Gaining confidence in reading can improve one’s confidence in other areas of life.

To implement the Orton Gillingham approach effectively, instructors must undergo specialized training. Many educators and tutors seek certification in Orton Gillingham to become skilled practitioners. These certified instructors are equipped to provide the high-quality, individualized instruction that struggling readers need.

There are alternatives to one-on-one instruction with Orton Gillingham. It can help learners in small group settings or even in classroom environments, making it a versatile approach that can benefit a wide range of learners.

Final thoughts

Orton Gillingham approach provides a ray of hope for struggling readers, offering them a structured, multisensory path to literacy. Its well-defined principles, and proven techniques make it a gold standard in reading instruction. Whether applied in one-on-one tutoring sessions or integrated into classroom settings, Orton Gillingham continues to empower children with reading difficulties, providing them with the tools they need to unlock the world of reading and language.