The Orton-Gillingham approach teaches the structure of language and combines auditory (hearing and speaking), visual (seeing and perceiving), and kinesthetic (touch and movement) senses in teaching students. Learners move step by step from simple to more complex material in a sequential, logical manner that enables them to master important literacy skills.

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The content of an Orton-Gillingham based multisensory structured language education (MSLE) approach - also referred to as Structured Literacy -  presents these components of literacy:

  • Phonology and phonological awareness: The study of sounds and how they work within their environment
  • Sound-symbol association: Understanding the relationship between sounds and symbols in reading comprehension
  • Syllable instruction: Understanding the units of oral and or written language
  • Morphology: The study of how morphemes (the smallest unit of meaning in a language (prefixes, suffixes, roots, etc.) are combined to form words
  • Syntax: The principles that dictate the sequence and function of words
  • Semantics: The aspect of language concerned with meaning

A multisensory language education approach is taught in an explicit, systematic and sequential manner, to activate and engage learning to emphasize discovery and understanding.   Teacher modeling is used as well as step-by-step prompts, direct questioning, and individualization.

The principles of Orton-Gillingham:

  • Simultaneous, Multisensory: Teaching is done using all learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory and kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning.
  • Systematic and Cumulative: Organization of materials follows the logical order of the language.  Material is presented  with the easiest and most basic elements first and progresses methodically to more difficult materials. Concepts are taught systematically.
  • Direct: All concepts are directly taught with continual student-teacher interaction.
  • Diagnostic: Continual assessment of the student’s needs is performed to ensure that content is mastered to the degree of automaticity before proceeding.
  • Synthetic and Analytic: Synthetic instruction presents the parts of the language and then teaches how the parts work together to form a whole. Analytic instruction presents the whole and teaches how this can be broken down into its component parts.

Reprinted with permission from Everyone Reading

Dyslexic students need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language—the sounds and the letters which represent them—and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their hands, eyes, ears and voices working together for the conscious organization and the retention of their learning.
— Margaret Rawson, founding member of International Dyslexia Association