It can be a challenge when talking about dyslexia and the parts of an Orton-Gillingham lesson to avoid using a lot of technical language and jargon. Many times, parents seeking tutoring services have been told their child should receive Orton-Gillingham instruction or sometimes a specific O-G based program, without really getting much guidance on what that means.
To help them better understand Orton-Gillingham tutoring, I will often touch on a couple of different points.
The origins of O-G: Talking to parents about Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham and their discovery and development of techniques that work particularly well for students with language-based learning disabilities is a good foundation. Without sounding like a history textbook, it is helpful to know that Orton-Gillingham methods have a lot of research and evidence backing up their efficacy.
The difference between a program and the Orton-Gillingham approach: Many parents are confused because they may have heard of one or more of the popular Orton-Gillingham based programs that are widely used in special education. One of these programs may be mentioned by name in recommendations from psychological testing or may be offered to their child at school when the recommendations say Orton Gillingham. They often wonder where OG or one of these other programs fits in. I like to help parents understand the difference between a program that is Orton Gillingham based, with its own scope and sequence, areas which it gives increased emphasis or areas that it may not address and what is sometimes referred to as “straight OG”. I like to help them understand that regardless of which is used, they want there to be certain characteristics in place.
What multi-sensory instruction means: Multi-sensory is an example of a buzz word that parents may hear, but never really have explained to them. Giving a brief overview of what multi-sensory teaching looks like and the way in which using multiple senses gives students multiple pathways for learning and retrieval. Using this language triangle poster may help.
The way in which Orton-Gillingham instruction is individualized: Several of the key principles of Orton Gillingham instruction being diagnostic, prescriptive and flexible can really be summed up by explaining that the lessons are individually designed for each child. Pacing, review, word choices and even the precise sequence of lessons is decided on the basis of the child’s performance and response to instruction.
The way in which Orton-Gillingham is systematic, sequential and explicit: Many parents, teachers and kids believe that English is crazy. While this may seem to be true at first, scratching the surface and engaging in a deep understanding of the language reveals much order and logic. Unlocking this order and logic for students systematically through carefully designed lessons leads students to become extremely informed about the inner workings of the English language. While this expertise comes from needing to learn about reading and writing in a different way, it can also be tremendously helpful to boosting a student’s concept of themselves as a smart and capable learner.
What a typical OG lesson includes: Giving parents a little overview of a lesson can help to show ways in which the lesson includes phonics, phonological awareness, and morphology. It can demonstrate the work that happens both on decoding and encoding as well as teaching spelling generalizations. I like to explain the importance of using controlled text as well as eventually using uncontrolled text. I also like to talk about how sight words, comprehension, vocabulary or other cognitive training may be woven into their instructional program.
Teacher training: I think one of the most important things for parents to understand is what sort of training they should expect from a highly qualified Orton-Gillingham instructor. In cases where a student is receiving an Orton-Gillingham based program at school, but not making a lot of progress, helping parents to see the ways in which the intensity, individualization or level of instructor training may be issues can help parents to find and secure instruction to better meet the needs of their child.
This is a lot of information for anyone, let alone someone without a background in education. A picture is worth 1000 words and sitting in on an Orton Gillingham lesson and seeing their child at work is often hugely helpful for parents to understand a bit more about OG instruction.
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