Taming the Fly-aways: Weaving Review into Orton-Gillingham Tutoring

Thursday, March 9, 2017



As a teacher and tutor using the Orton-Gillingham approach, I am always looking for ways to improve my instruction. Meeting with other teachers and tutors online has truly been a valuable experience when it comes to planning my Orton-Gillingham lessons. Did you know I run a private Facebook book for trained O.G. teachers and tutors? It's a vibrant, supportive and very active group. Members come to share ideas, wisdom and advice. If you are trained and interested in joining, feel free to email me at  theliteracynest@gmail.com

Today I have Sarah from Magic Moments Tutoring in Maine to share some absolutely FABULOUS and PRACTICAL tips that you can implement in your Orton-Gillingham lessons or other reading interventions right away. Please feel free to comment or ask questions at the end of the post. Thank you, Sarah for writing such a valuable post for both me and my readers! :)



Taming the Fly-aways: Weaving Review into Orton-Gillingham Tutoring



For students with dyslexia, reading can be compared to juggling with many balls in the air at once, but for those teaching children with dyslexia, I think a better analogy is French braiding. As we add new bits of learning (the new pieces of hair) to their reading system (the braid), we must constantly:  hold the pieces, keep appropriate tension, smooth and incorporate the hair and catch any fly-away pieces to create a well-structured, solid, sturdy system for processing print.

One of the challenges for an Orton-Gillingham tutor or parent is building in adequate review for our students. Children with dyslexia benefit from frequent revision of past learning and often particularly struggle with the retrieval of specialized vocabulary. The gift of knowing our students so well can also be a double-edged sword, making it tricky to see their review needs clearly.

Typically, I build review into my lesson in four places; First, during the phoneme card drill at the beginning of the lesson; Secondly, immediately before introducing the new concept; Third, when time allows, I include a brief review activity; And finally, as part of the day’s reading lists and SOS.

I frequently build in review during the phoneme card drill, simply through the use of deliberate questioning. By giving students the necessary language, they are able to concentrate on the concept and showing their understanding (or need for further review) rather than word retrieval.

Some examples would be:

“Is this a consonant or a vowel?”
“How many letters do you see? How many sounds? Do you remember what that’s called?” I am always ready to provide a hint or the word digraph if necessary.
“Where would you find this sound in a syllable?”
“Is that sound long, short or something else?”
“These are prefixes. Do they come at the beginning of the word or the end?”
“Where would we find this added to a word? What do we call that?”


In just a few extra seconds, a tutor is able to assess areas in need of review and refresh the child’s learning.

This same type of questioning technique can also be applied very effectively to spelling rules, particularly if, like me, you have a terrible poker face. When a student makes a tricky spelling decision, such as the use of tch in the word stitch, and particularly if they self-corrected, hesitated or showed uncertainty, it is a golden opportunity for learning. I find it helpful to follow up with a question such as “Why is it spelled tch?” If they are able to tell you, it provides you with some certainty about their proficiency. If they are not, you are still able to praise their correct choice while reinforcing the spelling generalization. “Yes. It does look right, AND the /ch/ sound is immediately after a short vowel.”

The second major opportunity for review is immediately before introducing the day’s new concept. I make a decision about what to review based not only on the individual’s strengths and needs, but also on the type of new concept being introduced. If I am introducing a new prefix, I may have the student mark and read one or two words with prefixes, base words and suffixes. If I am introducing a new type of syllable division, I may have the student divide several words using the types of syllable division we’ve already practiced. For a new spelling generalization, I may have the child practice or explain a previous related spelling rule or make a list of the ways they know to spell a particular phoneme. For a new syllable type, you might have a student generate a word for each of the syllable types studied so far, or identify which syllable type a small group of target words are.

One of my students’ favorite activities is also one of the most challenging. I write a couple of sentences on the board and have the student divide and mark all the syllables. You can have students locate and mark a particular phoneme or mark prefixes, suffixes, and base words as well. You can easily adjust the length of the sentences to suit individual students. Students find it really exciting and motivating to see so many things they have learned all in one place. It is a great opportunity for them to synthesize their learning and frequently exposes weaknesses that may be harder to detect in isolated word work.



Frequently, either before dictation or before diving into our day’s reading, I will take a few minutes to work on something a little bit extra. This makes our third review opportunity. One day it may be learned words, another day may have a fluency focus, still another day we may work on practicing and reviewing one of our spelling generalizations. There are lots of ways to do so, but here are some of my favorites. Have the student segment the sounds using the manipulative of your choice (pennies, gems, tiles, legos, or unifix cubes), make two of these manipulatives marked with the spelling options such as –ge and –dge. Dry erase stickers, masking tape, correction tape are all ways to make this marking temporary. As the student sounds out the word using one item for each sound, they need to choose the correct spelling choice. This makes them rely not just on how the word looks visually, but also on the sounds involved.



Another fun idea is to make a fortune teller/cootie catcher. For each flap that opens up have a spelling choice such as k or ck? stu___ . This also makes a great exit ticket from a lesson. For directions and a free k/ck spelling choice cootie catcher, visit http://www.magicmomentstutoring.com/blog/cootie-catcher.  After making just one or two, the process comes right back to you from grade school.

Another great review activity for spelling rules is a game somewhat like Blackjack. The first step is to have the student pick a number. You can offer a range that matches the time frame you have available. Have the student roll a die and keep a running total. For each roll of the die, they have to solve a word using the spelling rule. You can do this orally, as a fill in the blank or a writing activity. When the students get close to their target number, you can ask if they want to get closer without going over or stop. Even teenagers get excited when they land exactly on their number.

The final place I incorporate review, the word lists for reading and SOS, is probably the most familiar, and frequently the most time consuming to plan. No two review lists for different students are ever quite the same. While you might use almost the same list each time you teach oa, no two children have exactly the same pattern of review needs. When I design a review list in reading, I look at the most recent lesson plan for two things. What was the most recent concept I covered and what words did they struggle with reading in their last lesson? In my review list, I like to provide a few examples of recent learning and then use the student’s errors to inform the rest of my choices. For example, if a child had difficulty with the r-controlled syllables, I will make a point to weave words with r-controlled syllables throughout the lesson, in single syllable words, as part of multisyllabic words, and with and without suffixes. Our SOS functions in much the same way. I look for areas of difficulty, places where the child may have had difficulty segmenting sounds, differentiating vowels or applying a spelling generalization and put words with similar patterns and challenges into our review words for SOS.

By making regular review a part of your lesson routine, it is possible to tame the fly-aways, create a solid braid with your student, and keep the momentum moving forward. 


Bio: Sarah Rimkunas is a Literacy Specialist and a Certified Dyslexia Practitioner. With more than 13 years of experience in public schools under her belt, Sarah opened Magic Moments Tutoring in 2014 and has been busy tutoring ever since. Sarah lives in beautiful Southern Maine with her husband and two daughters ages 5 and 15. www.magicmomentstutoring.com

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