Orton Gillingham: How does it fit with the Science of Reading?

Orton-Gillingham is the Science of Reading in action.

Dyslexic 0rton-Gillingham student reading

Photo by Josh Applegate / Unsplash

The Science of Reading is based on research that provides evidence-based best practices for teaching foundational literacy skills. These practices use systematic, explicit, and phonics-based instruction.

Let's unpack those terms: systematic instruction builds one concept upon another in a logical manner: The OG scope and sequence starts with the simplest, most common concepts in our language like short vowels and moves forward with progressively more complex and less common concepts like silent letters (gnome, autumn).

Explicit instruction leaves no linguistic stone unturned. Most of us can absorb the rules of our language effortlessly - those with learning differences cannot. For example, until I took my OG training, I never realized that the suffix -ed has three different sounds: /id/ as in the word dusted, /t/ as in the word scratched, and /d/ as in the word spilled. OG practitioners break such concepts down step by step and demonstrate the differences along with the reasons for them. Most students learn only that -ed is a suffix that indicates past tense.

Phonics-based instruction means, quite simply, that we teach the sounds of our language in connection with the symbols: phonos meant sound in ancient Greek. By incorporating all these qualities, OG embodies the Science of Reading, making OG particularly beneficial for students with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.

What other approaches are out there? The Whole Language method emphasizes the importance of meaning and context in reading, assuming that children will learn to read naturally by being exposed to rich, meaningful language. Many children can learn this way and this is the way I learned myself, but about 1 in 5 learners will not gain literacy skills simply by being exposed to language and using context rather than decoding skills to identify words. Like many teachers, I wasn't informed of that fact before I entered the classroom, which is why I started Mindguide Learning and chose OG as our method.

Orton-Gillingham's emphasis on teaching rules and patterns in a systematic way ensures that our students understand the underlying structure of the language and can apply this knowledge to both reading and writing. Now that you understand the principles of the Science of Reading and how Orton-Gillingham covers all the bases, you know where to turn if you have concerns about your child's progress in language learning.