Collin Danielson

Why Orton Gillingham?

Lower School Teacher, Collin Danielson

All our Lower School teachers are trained in using the Orton-Gillingham approach in teaching reading and spelling. As a Lower School teacher (and proud 2006 alumnus of McLean School) for the last six years, I’ve seen first hand how Orton-Gillingham can help all learners become well-rounded readers. Orton-Gillingham was first designed to help struggling readers, especially those with dyslexia, by explicitly teaching phonics (the connections between letters and sounds). So why is it a technique that we use with all our Lower School students? Because it works! It is rewarding to watch how Orton-Gillingham empowers students and instills confidence in all types of learners. Here are three reasons that a literacy program based on Orton-Gillingham is a best practice for all.

Orton-Gillingham is Explicit, Structured, Sequential, and Uses Regular Assessments

Our team of expert educators are able to screen and then provide intervention and remediation, when appropriate, to help students improve and progress. Regardless of how quickly a student progresses, the Orton-Gillingham approach allows for a more customized and personal teaching plan. Even when mastery is reached, students will continue to circle back to previously learned skills. It’s never a ‘one and done’ lesson – teachers utilizing Orton-Gillingham will ensure that lessons build on each other and that students are making connections from past lessons to current ones.

We know that all students can benefit from teaching that is explicit in nature and by using regular assessments (informal and formal) our teachers can be sure students get what they need to be successful. And that’s important for everyone.

Orton-Gillingham is Multisensory 

A key tenet of Orton-Gillingham is that it is multisensory. This means that reading instruction engages all of a student’s senses to help learning – including seeing, feeling, hearing and moving – which ultimately then improves retention. The multisensory component of this approach offers a far more robust experience for students.  And, that students actually enjoy! No matter whether a student is diagnosed with dyslexia, or is a reading whiz, we know a multisensory approach is best. For many of the kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2 students I’ve taught, the highlight of small group reading instruction is when each student “writes” in sand to help them learn letter-sound correspondence. The sand is multicolored and enables students to practice writing, without traditional paper and pencil. Who doesn’t love a pretend trip to the beach!

Orton-Gillingham is Research Based

By employing research based practices, we’re confident in the instruction we’re delivering and that our efforts will support student learning and achievement. While it’s important to have flexibility and creativity to craft lessons that meet the needs of our learners, it’s equally important for skilled teachers to have a toolbox to rely on. That toolbox includes Orton-Gillingham – an approach that’s backed by research that shows its efficacy. By using Orton-Gillingham as a part of reading instruction for all students, regardless of a diagnosis of dyslexia, we’re ensuring we have the greatest likelihood of positively impacting student learning and growth.

Collin Danielson, Lower School Teacher