By guest blogger, Marian Hodge
You may have heard this term used in your child’s school or by other parents and wondered, what in the world is that? Orton-Gillingham (or O-G) is a highly effective and well-known learning approach. O-G uses a specific set of guidelines and principles to teach children (mainly PreK-4th grade) the most basic fundamentals of reading and writing. Orton-Gillingham is different from other approaches because of its multi-sensory aspect. Engaging all of the senses simultaneously is the key to the effectiveness of O-G. By opening more pathways for information to reach the brain, the chance for that information to be imbedded in memory is greatly increased.
O-G is proven to work extremely well for children who have ADD, ADHD, or Dyslexia, but it is also a wonderful intervention tool for children who are struggling to keep up with their grade level. The Fletcher School in Charlotte uses O-G as an instructional method, and many private schools recommend that children who are falling behind learn this approach through private tutoring. In tutoring sessions, children are taught (or retaught) the building blocks of the English language beginning with in-depth phonics, phonological awareness, and English grammar rules. Private O-G tutoring gives your child one-on-one instruction that they may not be able to get in a classroom full of children.
Some of the things you can expect your child to learn from O-G are:
-The study of sounds and how they work (phonology)
-The correspondence of sounds to letters (phonological awareness)
-The six syllable types and syllable division rules
-Word order or Semantics
-Morphology (ex. How prefixes, roots, and suffixes are combined to make words)
Orton-Gillingham has its own proven sequence, which follows the logical order of the English language. Each bit of new information a child learns builds on the one before it. The goal of this way of learning is that a child becomes a master of the English language. He or she is able to recall concepts automatically. Think of when you learned your multiplication tables and after much repetition you did not have to multiply, only to recall the answer to the fact. This is the same idea with O-G… that a student will not only know how to read or spell, but understand why words are spelled and sound the way they do. For example, the method teaches rules about why letters and letter combinations make certain sounds in the English language. If someone asked you “what letters make the /k/ sound?” a student of Orton-Gillingham would easily answer “c, k, ck, ch, que”.
The Orton-Gillingham method is different because it is:
-Structured and fast paced: working with a child on the same fact for 30 minutes is not going to make them learn it any more than if they learn it effectively for 2 minutes. O-G moves quickly through small sequences of information and children are able to stay engaged and enjoy the process of learning.
-Multi-sensory: the delivery of information must be simultaneously Tactile, Kinesthetic, Visual, and Auditory. An activity may involve tracing a letter with a finger through sand while repeating the letter sound and watching the instructors’ mouth to see how the sound is formed.
-Personalized: after an initial screening to determine where your child needs to begin, a lesson plan will be prepared for your child for each session. A teacher or tutor continually assesses your child’s needs and taper lessons and activities specifically for your child.
-Guided Discovery: an O-G tutor or teacher is trained to teach the child to arrive at knowledge on his or her own. Guidance and questioning are used to help a child to realize that they know the answer.
I have seen the “Aha” look on many a child’s face, and I love being able to really make a difference and see children realize that they are smart and they can learn. My younger sister, Amanda, was in the fourth grade before one teacher realized that she really could not read. She was always a good student with good grades, and she is extremely intelligent… so what she was doing was memorizing words. What happened around fourth grade is that the words became more complex, and she could not keep up and continue to retain so many sight words in her memory. She became frustrated with schoolwork and became very emotional, and of course her teacher and my parents were concerned. After taking Amanda to an O-G tutor, it was determined that she really had no foundations or knowledge of phonemic awareness (sound/letter relationship). With hard work, thankfully a tutor was able to intervene and work with her diligently to catch up. She is now a graduate of Clemson University and teaches special needs students in Raleigh. I know she and my parents were so grateful that someone noticed her needs and that she was falling behind. There are many children who unfortunately slip through the cracks, and after elementary school there is a much slimmer chance of effective intervention.
To be able to be trained in Orton-Gillingham and have the tools and foundation to help just one child is what made me decide to choose a career working as a tutor for children who need this instruction. This past summer, I was able to study under a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and a group of certified O-G instructors. In order to become trained, one must hold a college degree and be accepted into, and complete, a rigorous training course. It has been a big career change from working as a Patient Coordinator in Dental for the past few years, but I have always had a desire to work with children in an educational capacity. I am now doing what I love and am so glad to be able to have this opportunity to educate and make a difference!
Marian Hodge is a Charlotte-based Orton-Gillingham trained tutor. She graduated with Honors from Clemson University. For more information on the Orton-Gillingham approach and Marian’s services, visit her web site at www.marianhodgetutoring.com.