December 17, 2018 / by LiteracyUntangled

The Orton Gillingham Approach: What is it?

The Orton Gillingham Approach: What is it?

In the 1930’s, Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham developed a language based approach to reading instruction, now commonly known as the Orton Gillingham Approach. It was originally designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching them the connections between sounds and letters. 

Through direct instruction, the Orton Gillingham Approach teaches students how to decode words into phonemes, morphemes, and syllables. Encoding is also explicitly taught – the use of learnedphonemes, morphemes, and syllables to build, spell, and write words. The Orton Gillingham Approach also focuses on syntax (the arrangement of words and phrases) and semantics (the meaning of words and phrases).

Key Components and Principles

There are a few universal aspects to the Orton Gillingham Approach:

Diagnostic & Prescriptive:The instructor diagnosis a student’s specific strengths and needs and crafts a lesson plan based upon those needs. This is an ongoing process as the instructor carefully monitors a student’s progress and adjusts their lesson plans based upon their observations and assessments.

Direct and Explicit:All material is taught through direct instruction and practiced. No content is discussed or assumed to be known unless previously taught and mastered.

Systematic & Structured:Lessons follow a structure format, they are taught in the exact same way every time. This allows students to focus on what is being taught and not the method. New information is connected to information previously learned.

Sequential & Cumulative:Lessons follow a consistent sequence and use specific steps, moving from simple to more complex. Each step builds upon the previous step.

Multisensory:Instruction uses all of the sensory pathways (eyes, mouth, hands, and motion) at the same time in order enhance and reinforce memory and learning.

Cognitive:Students learn the rules of language and spelling. When applying these rules, they remember and think instead of guessing.

Individualized:Each student learns at a different pace; students only move from one step to the next when they are ready. 

Nowadays, Orton Gillingham is a highly structured, multisensory approach, widely used with beginning and struggling readers. 


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