Who are Samuel and Anna Orton????
Samuel T. Orton was a neurologist and psychiatrist who identified the syndrome
of developmental reading disability in 1925 after studying a 16 year - old boy who
could only read first grade material. Dr. Orton combined his neuropsychiatric
background with case-study methodology to create an approach to remediating
Anna Gillingham was a psychologist and educator who did remedial work with
bright children who were failing academically. She read of Orton's work and sought
to put his theories into practice. In 1928 Gillingham brought cases to Dr. Orton after
he moved to New York City. By 1931 Dr. Orton and Miss Gillingham began a
Orton assigned Gillingham and a group of professional teachers the task of
organizing instructional procedures that would teach the phonemic structure of our
language in a whole new way. Based on Orton's strict guidelines, Gillingham was to
create a sequential system that builds on itself. It must be a multi-sensory approach
that involves all senses; visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. The approach must
show how sounds and letters are related and how they act in words as well as how to
attack a word and break it into smaller sounds.
The Orton-Gillingham method is different from other reading methods in what is
taught and how it is taught.
Students are first taught phonemic awareness - how to listen to a single
word or syllable and break it into individual sounds (phonemes). More
advanced phonemic awareness skills are then introduced; blending sounds
into words and manipulating sounds by changing sounds, deleting sounds and
comparing sounds. All phonemic awareness tasks are done with the ears - no
letters are introduced for visual input.
Phonics is the next step. The letters that represent the sounds learned in
phonemic awareness are now taught. Once students learn these sound-
symbol correspondences they learn to blend the letters into one -syllable
words. It should be noted that teaching phonics without first teaching
phonemic awareness will not improve accuracy or fluency. (Phonics, without
phonemic awareness, is useless mechanics!)
Students are then taught the six types of syllables that determine what
sound the vowel will make in the English language. If students can determine
what type of syllable they are looking at, they can produce the correct vowel
sound. Conversely, they will know how to spell the syllable based on the
vowel sound they hear.
Because the English language provides many ways to spell a single sound,
students must learn rules and probabilities. For example, the long /e/
sound can be spelled e, y, ey, ea, ee, ie, ei, etc. Dyslexic students don't learn
these spellings without direct instruction and practice.
Finally, roots and affixes and morphology are taught. Roots, affixes and
morphology (study of word structure)help dyslexics understand the meanings
of unfamiliar words and add them to their vocabulary. For example, once a
student knows the Latin root pre- means before, the student can figure out
that preheat means to heat before use.
The Orton-Gillingham method pioneered the multisensory approach to instruction.
This approach was so successful that, subsequently, the Orton-
Gillingham method became the standard for developing additional programs for
students with disabilities.
This model utilizes the following instructional strategies:
Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction empowers students to store and
retrieve information by utilizing their auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic
senses. When taught a new sound/symbol, the dyslexic student might repeat
the letter they heard, say its name and sound, and write it on sand paper - all
at the same time.
Lots of practice following intense instruction helps dyslexic students
internalize new information. They don't always learn it on the second or third
exposure. They need many opportunities to practice new material.
Direct, explicit instruction provides dyslexic students the opportunity to
learn everything about the English language that they cannot process
Systematic and cumulative instruction helps dyslexic students learn the
logic behind their language. To do this, you must teach one rule at a time and
practice it until it is over-learned for both reading and writing - before adding
a new rule. You must also weave previously learned rules into current lessons
to keep them available for application. This is called spiraling.
Synthetic and analytic phonics instruction is required in order for the
dyslexic student to both blend sounds into a word (synthetic) and to look at a
word and break it into its individual sounds (analytic). Due to the nature of
dyslexia, this is what causes the most difficulty with decoding during the
reading process and spelling during the writing process. Therefore, both
synthetic and analytic phonics must be taught in all lessons.
Diagnostic teaching allows the teacher to continuously assess whether their
student understands the rules and can apply them. When confusion of a
previously taught rule is discovered it must be re-taught. The teacher must
ensure that the student isn't just recognizing the spelling pattern without
understanding the concept of how to apply it.
Because of Orton-Gillingham's success with dyslexic students, there are
now adaptations of this model utilized by teachers, paraprofessionals,
tutors and parents alike. Wilson Language Systems is a derivative of
Orton-Gillingham’s multisensory approach to teaching reading.