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Have you just finished your OG training or you’re in the middle of a program? Then this series is for you!
I’ve spent the past month chatting with fellow Orton-Gillingham-trained teachers and compiled some tips for you to use right away. I’m going to break this up into several different posts as a series, so I don’t overwhelm anyone with too much information all at once.
Completing an Orton-Gillingham training program is not an easy undertaking. It’s a long process. You may have juggled teaching full-time with your OG practicum (as I did years ago when I trained), had a family to care for, or paid for it out of pocket. This may be happening while learning a highly effective approach to teaching children and adults how to read, which has a proven track record of success for over 75 years. You are to be commended! Passing on the legacy of Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham’s work to future generations is not to be taken lightly. We hold a great responsibility. “Keeping the fidelity of the research,” as one teacher told me when I queried, is critical. You took a gigantic step toward helping children and adults learn how to read successfully. I applaud you!
If you are anything like me, the training ended and your head was filled with TONS of new knowledge. It was exhausting! You needed a starting point. I had two, two-inch binders jammed packed with course handouts, articles, lesson plans, and activities I created. I had a whole new shelf of books on OG and dyslexia. But one resounding piece of advice rang true again and again and I couldn’t agree more: Organization is Key!
Years from now, after the training is over, you will still look through your training binder. Hopefully, you kept all your notes and handouts together and organized by class or session. But for now, newly trained teachers want to know how to put all of this new OG knowledge into action ASAP, and in a practical way. That’s where I come in. I’m going to share what has worked for me and what has worked for others.
Just finished your OG training? Keep in touch with the Together in Literacy Podcast, where we talk about literacy, dyslexia, and the connection to the social-emotional impact it has on our students, their families, and the educators who serve them.
Start by asking yourself these questions as we begin organizing teacher materials:
- Are you going into private practice and using your training to tutor? (If so, will you travel to students’ homes, have a workspace, or deliver instruction from far away using an online communication tool like Zoom?)
- Will you be using what you learned in your existing classroom?
- Did you become trained to help your own child at home?
I have heard from folks from all three categories. You’d be surprised at how many similarities we have regardless of the setting in which we are using the OG approach.
Whichever category you fall under, we’re going to accomplish two things:
- Getting you, the trained OG teacher/tutor, organized.
- Getting your students organized.
Sound good? Let’s dig in.
I’m going to keep asking you some guiding questions to help you reflect on your preferences for organizing teacher materials as you read this post. Feel free to take notes, use a note-taking app like Evernote or one of my new favs, Supernote, because you can do voice recordings, make lists, or even make a to-do list on the back of a grocery store receipt if your toddler stole your last pad of paper. That’s a true story… just DON’T LOSE THE LIST!
Getting Yourself Organized
Question One: How do you like to store materials?
This is important because it’s going to affect how easily you can put your fingertips on something. And when it comes to organizing teacher materials, you need to know where to look and be efficient. Getting to efficiency is challenging at first. It takes a LONG time to write lesson plans and gather the appropriate materials. You will get there! But be patient with yourself.
So, are you… A binder person?
Do you love hard copies of everything? Do you love your three-hole punch so much you gave it a name? Does the thought of opening a package of clear plastic sheet protectors, give you the warm fuzzies?
I get that. I’m a binder gal.
I love my tabbed sections. I love visually seeing a binder on the bookcase next to my desk and having the printed hard copy at my fingertips. Love binders. I love ’em so much, I make sure my students each have a binder because I want them to love using binders just as much as me. (I’ll share more on student binders in upcoming posts.)
If binders work for you, you’ll want to purchase several large, sturdy, 1-2 inch-sized binders with clear plastic overlays to slide in covers.
Why I use binders…
- Binders work well for organizing lessons by OG level. You can keep one for each level, or use one large one and have tabbed sections as I do. You can store copies of old lesson plans in them. They may work for future students with only some minor changes to tailor to another student’s needs. This kind of binder is one of my go-to’s when I am planning at home.
- Keep a binder to store hard copies of games, templates, and consumables. I laminate my generic game boards, templates like sorting, or word cards, and consumables like time sheets, and student recording sheets. I put it all in one binder with tabbed sections for each, including binder folders to hold multiple copies of the consumables. This is a binder I tend to travel with when I deliver instruction. I make sure to have my copies made. Bonus Tip: Place a sticky note on the last consumable (a master copy), and that is a reminder to make more copies.
- Use a binder for fluency and decodable passages. If you have printed out copies of passages to have your kids read at the end of an OG lesson, You’ll definitely need to keep them organized in a binder by order of the lesson introduced. If you need a copy of the OG order I follow, just email me at email@example.com. This area has always taken me a while at first because it takes precision. Tracking down just the right passage to match the lesson is so important. (I’ll share more materials for finding good passages in future posts.)
- Have a teaching binder to use whenever you teach a lesson. Check out, What’s In My OG Bag? for more tips.
- Keep a binder with all the assessment tools and checklists you regularly use. I have copies of pre and post-tests for all the OG levels, checklists, timesheets, and any other pertinent assessments I deem necessary for my instruction. A place to record fluency progress is one example of organizing teacher materials. Check out, Starting Orton-Gillingham: How To Find A Starting Point With This Approach for more tips.
Do you prefer something else…
Hanging file folder:
Do you love the look of hanging file folders in a crate or filing cabinet when organizing teacher materials? I totally get that. I admit I am not much of a hanging file folder person as I am a binder gal. But, I used to be a huge hanging file person when I had my own classroom. However, working out of my home, I find they take up too much room. And if you don’t go through them periodically, they collect dust.
I prefer to limit myself to 1-2 crates with hanging file folders at the max. Right now, I have two, which hold hard copies of games already assembled in large or medium-sized Ziploc bags, and another for storing student files. I have found streamlining is so important.
Be sure to keep the files organized by order of the lesson they are taught here, too. It is time-consuming enough to write lesson plans and find the right materials for them. Trust me. You do not have time to be searching all over!
Hanging files work well for storing student records. You’ll need to keep hard copies of student work to show progress and this is a good place to hang onto them.
Do you prefer to store files electronically and print as you go? I find myself moving towards fewer hard copies stored as the years go by. I plan on Sundays or Mondays, depending on my schedule. I’ll print materials as needed from my printer/copier all in one. Then I just file what I printed in my traveling teacher binder.
Why I like this.
- If space is a premium when organizing teacher materials, printing as you go works really well.
- Less leftover, loose copies hanging around. The loose leftovers drive me a little bonkers. If I don’t either dispose of them or file them promptly, they hang out in my traveling binder WAY too long. Then I can’t close the binder without things falling out, and that’s a problem. If I am done with a lesson, and I know I won’t need the extra copies I made for another kiddo for a while, why hold onto them? Just make enough copies for that session. It’s a bit greener that way too, don’t you think?
Clear Plastic Bins
You will end up either making and/or playing a lot of games for review. Some are as simple as a game of concentration on some index cards, while others involve game boards and pieces. I’m not crazy about creating or playing games that require a lot of pieces and assemblage. I try to keep my boards simple with minimal cutting. Storing them in large Ziploc bags and then in clear plastic tubs and bins has really helped me.
Organizing Your Physical Space
- Do you have a classroom?
- Office space for private practice?
- Are you working from home?
OG materials tend to take up a bit of space, which is why I like going paperless for certain things, and printing as I go. You’ll need a sturdy bookcase for storing binders, books, and materials. You may want a small filing cabinet, or just use crates.
Consider a place for your office supplies and multisensory materials. Things like sticky notes, velcro, index cards, highlighters, rewards and incentives, tongue depressors, dry-erase materials, dice, sand trays, play dough, and others need proper storage solutions. You can use clear plastic-covered containers, which travel well when needed, or purchase one large storage compartment cabinet like the one recommended by a fellow OG teacher shown below.
The key to organizing teacher materials is to find a system that works for you and keep it streamlined.
Whether you are traveling to deliver instruction or not, EVERYTHING needs to be within arm’s reach. Take out the necessary materials you want to use for that day’s lesson, but when they are out, try not to clutter up the workspace for you and the student. It becomes too distracting.
When you’re done using something, place it out of sight, and move on to the next portion of the lesson. For instance, as soon as I am done with my deck of phonogram cards, I promptly place them back into their storage container. If I left even one out, I know it would eventually be misplaced. Transitions are quick.
If you have a classroom or office space where students come to you, consider hanging or displaying a clear schedule of routines, all phonogram charts, syllable types and division posters, rules and expectations, charts with prefixes, suffixes, and roots, and some inspirational posters. Your students may need a lot of building up in the self-esteem department. I know mine do when they first start coming to me.
Keep things orderly, but upbeat and positive! If you travel to deliver instruction and don’t have a physical home base, some recommend purchasing a bag on wheels like this one.
Some teachers love pushing a wheelie cart with labeled canvas bags for their students. Inside the bags are books and other necessary supplies for that day.
If you made the decision to begin a private practice, you may be wondering how to get the word to families. How do you find students to work with?
Many teachers find word of mouth to be the most effective way to find new students, but here are some other suggestions:
- Former students or their siblings
- Create professional business cards and flyers to leave or display at libraries, coffee shops, schools, community bulletin boards, small businesses, or even at a pediatrician’s office (Just ask permission first.)
- Let your local SpEd department know of your services. Many families ask for names that way.
- Run an ad in a local newspaper or online. I’ve seen ads placed on Craig’s List for OG tutors.
- Create a blog, website, or business page on Facebook and other social media (Twitter, Linked In)
- Let local parenting groups, or even child psychologists know about your services.
You’re learning a lot about building your business, but I know the most important part of building your dream tutoring business is finding new students! Click here to access the Get Clients Masterclass Bundle! from Tutor Success Academy!
While you are advertising your business, consider your tutoring policies, including attendance and payment for services and expectations. This needs to be VERY clear for the families you work with. OG tutoring is a large investment both in the time and money spent. It requires a great deal of commitment on behalf of the teacher/tutor and the student.
Looking for even more tips for starting your own private practice? Read: Tips for Starting Your Own Orton-Gillingham Private Tutoring Business
Did you know… the Literacy Nest connects parents to private Orton-Gillingham tutors?
Using the Tutor Finder Directory, parents can search a database of OG-trained tutors.
- Parents can easily search by country (the US and Canada), State, and City.
- You can customize your profile to include: your picture, location, rate, and what you’re available for.
- Parents can contact you directly based on your preference: phone or email.
- You can feature a bio, as well as your experience, education, and Orton-Gillingham training information.
- Add your website and additional social media accounts where you can be followed!
If you are a teacher or tutor trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach, add your name to the tutor finder: Orton-Gillingham Tutor Directory
Thank you for stopping by today!