Some programs claim to be based upon Orton-Gillingham methods, but some are questionably so. The programs might be “Orton-Gillingham” from the standpoint of being somewhat multi-sensory, but usually the multisensory aspects of pseudo Orton-Gillingham programs are lacking.
Programs which claim to be Orton-Gillingham based usually provide direct and explicit instruction in reading, which is better than whole language for a child with dyslexia, but these programs often don’t work well for a child with dyslexia because they are not truly multi-sensory programs. A child with “true” dyslexia or another language based reading disability needs multi-sensory instruction.
Below are a few features to look for when selecting an Orton-Gillingham-based reading program. I’ve used a key of “A” (Auditory), “V” (Visual), “K” (Kinesthetic) and “T” (Tactile) so you’ll know which elements apply to specific learning styles (which I’ll discuss below). For each program, consider:
- What types of body-movement activities are incorporated into the lessons? (K/T)
- Are there large and small body movements in each lesson? (K)
- Is the sense of touch used with varied materials (carpet, velvet, sandpaper, etc)? (T)
- What visual images are available to a child during lessons? (V)
- Are there any drawings, images, or three dimensional elements like clay work or plastic letters? (V)
- Does the child rely solely upon seeing printed letters? (not good) (V)
- Does the child speak, recite, or parrot back auditorily presented materials? (A K)
- Does the teacher speak out loud to ‘teach’ content? (A)
A program that incorporates all of the elements in the list above is a true Orton-Gillingham program. MANY programs incorporate a lot of visual and auditory work, but few incorporate a great deal of meaningful tactile or kinesthetic activity into the program.
If your child is a tactile or kinesthetic learner, you might do well to consider Orton-Gillingham training for yourself so you’ll know how to incorporate more varied activities into your child’s lessons. It will be money well spent. Tactile and Kinesthetic learners are the least served by curriculum writers and you will find yourself needing make significant modifications to effectively teach your child. Additionally, you WON’T get meaningful instruction of this kind in most general public school settings! Almost all “teaching” takes place in an auditory exchange that can leave tactile, kinesthetic, and even visual learners lacking in effective instruction.
The success of any single program can also depend heavily on your child’s unique learning needs. For example, if your child is a visual learner and a particular program is primarily auditory, then your child won’t benefit as much from THAT Orton-Gillingham program. He would benefit more from a program that is more heavily focused on visual activities. The incorporation of all multi-sensory elements (Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile) to reinforce learning will maximize retention. However, generally speaking, a child has one or two primary learning styles as his primary learning channels, and utilizing those will usually bring about adequate learning progress.
You may wonder: How can a program be lacking in multi-sensory elements if it claims to be an Orton-Gillingham based program? As an example, consider pushing a computer button. This is not REALLY a useful multi-sensory activity.. Pushing a button is totally UNlike writing a letter with your fingers in a pan of sand or liquid soap. Yet, almost all computer-based programs that say they are based upon Orton-Gillingham methods rely solely on clicking mouse buttons as the kinesthetic or tactile activity. With today’s touchpad capabilities, some programs may incorporate more meaningful kinesthetic activities, but I don’t yet know of such a program. If you know of one, please feel free to comment and let me know about the program below.
You really have to look at how MUCH and what KIND of multi-sensory activities are built into a program to determine its Orton-Gillingham foundation. Being Orton-Gillingham is like a “seal of approval” in the reading world, so reading programs seek to be Orton-Gillingham whether they are or not. Consumers do have to be aware of gimmick language to make sure they are getting a true Orton-Gillingham program. 😉
The key in any Orton-Gillingham program is in how well multi-sensory elements are utilized with the program and how many variations are included. Success also will depend how much your child “needs” varied multi-sensory input. Any Orton-Gillingham based program can be good or bad depending upon how MUCH multi-sensory teaching is used, how it is used, and whether the program is followed closely or not.
As an example of how to determine if a program meets your needs, you might want to look at my “S.P.I.R.E. Orton-Gillingham Program Review” to see how I assess the content of the program. You can also learn more about Multi-sensory instruction and HOW to assess your child’s primary learning style by going through the short tutorial at: learningabledkids.com/multi_sensory_training/ — It is free online and generally takes about 20-30 minutes to go through.
Below, you will find the Orton-Gillingham Manual itself, which you can learn from and do at home for much less than it will cost you to use a trained provider. This is THE “official” manual written by Anna Gillingham. The manual and cards are all you REALLY need. Other programs can make the process easier by doing all of the planning for you or scripting your work, but that also removes some of the flexibility you might want in tailoring your teaching to your cihld’s specific needs.
**Gillingham Manual (Eighth Edition)By Anna Gillingham & Bessie W. Stillman / Educators Publishing
Service – The Orton-Gillingham method is a classic in the field of specific language disabilities. This method is commonly used with children and adults with dyslexia and other reading disabilities. Based on extensive research about the learning styles of children with specific language disabilities, this Orton-Gillingham methodology uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic associations to help students learn sound-symbol relationships.The Gillingham manual, a classic in the field of specific language disability, is the backbone of the Orton-Gillingham technique. This multisensory phonics approach may be used with individuals or small groups and is appropriate for young children, older students, and adults as well as children. The manual covers reading and spelling (including a history of the English language that helps explain some curious spellings and pronunciations), training for older students, acquiring familiarity with sound symbols (letters and letter combinations), spelling patterns and generalizations, handwriting, and dictionary technique.The Manual has been completely revised and updated. While the principles and techniques of the Gillingham method remain unchanged, the manual is now more readable and easier to use, including a full revision and updating of the index and an expansion of the appendix that includes more resources, tests, charts, and more.Skills addressed:
- History of the English language
- Sound-symbol relationships
- Letter formation
- Spelling generalizations
- Dictionary use
- Short and long vowel sounds
- Affixes and roots
- Word structure
- Consonant sounds
- Decoding and encoding words
**Phonetic Word CardsBy Anna Gillingham & Bessie W. Stillman / Educators Publishing Service – This case contains 610 cards for use with any Orton-Gillingham based approach to reading instruction. The cards are divided into 43 groups of phonic sounds. Single words and detached syllables are used to exemplify the important patterns and generalizations found in reading and spelling. The cards can be used for decoding practice, to introduce spelling rules and generalizations, or for dictation. They are organized sequentially beginning with CVC words and moving on to spelling generalizations, syllabication, and word structure. One case per student is recommended.
**Gillingham Phonics Drill Cards (8th Edition, without pictures)By Anna Gillingham & Bessie W. Stillman / Educators Publishing Service – The Orton-Gillingham method is a classic in the field of specific language disabilities. This method is commonly used with both children and adults with dyslexia and other reading disabilities. Based on extensive research about the learning styles of children with specific language disabilities, this Orton-Gillingham methodology uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic associations to help students learn sound-symbol relationships.The majority of these non-picture Phonics Drill Cards are unchanged, though some of the key words have been revised and updated to follow the new manual. The cards are organized into three sets of separately numbered cards, each set designated by a color. White indicates consonant phonograms; salmon indicates vowel phonograms; and yellow indicates sound symbols for spelling. The word and the sound symbol of the phonogram are printed on the back of the card. The teacher pronounces the sound, and the student names the letter or letters that spell the sound. One pack is recommended for each student.
**Gillingham Phonics Drill Cards (8th Edition, with pictures)By Anna Gillingham & Bessie W. Stillman / Educators Publishing Service – These phonetic cards are designed for use with an Orton-Gillingham based approach to reading instruction. Each of the 170 cards is printed with a letter or letter combination and picture on one side; the key word and sound-symbol are printed on the back.The cards are organized into three sets of separately numbered cards, each set designated by a color. White indicates consonant phonograms; salmon indicates vowel phonograms; and yellow indicates sound symbols for spelling. The teacher pronounces the sound, and the student names the letter or letters that spell the sound.These cards have been updated to reflect the key word changes in the revised Gillingham Manual. One pack of cards is recommended for each student. Please note that the cards are also available without pictures (#379202).