The Amazing Impact of Orton Gillingham!

Every night before I go to sleep, I marvel at the amazing impact that The Orton Gillingham Approach has had on my students! I love to see their positive self-esteem growing over time, and their confidence in reading and spelling soar. Teaching with The Orton Gillingham Approach every day makes it clear to me that what I am doing is truly making a difference for children who struggle with literacy skills.

Teaching Phonological and Phonemic Awareness:

Many students lack the skills of phonological and phonemic awareness. They can't identify rhyming words orally. They have difficulty saying multi-syllable words. They struggle with identifying the first or the final sound in a word. Instruction in the discipline of phonological and phonemic awareness is a gift that many children never benefit from. These students who lack this foundational skill to hear and play with language sometimes struggle throughout their entire lives with literacy related tasks. And yet, a mere 20 hours of intense remediation has the potential to profoundly change their abilities, and their lives.

Teaching the Alphabetic Principle:

Knowledge of the alphabetic principle is critical to learning an alphabetic language, such as English. However, so many students in today's schools lack this knowledge, or understand it on a shallow level, thus impeding their ability to decode unknown words. The most important gift that I can give to my students is teaching them HOW reading works - that letters make sounds, sounds make syllables, and syllables make words. Students currently being taught to read through The Balanced Literacy Approach don't rely on the alphabetic principle, and instead largely use visual memory and guessing strategies to figure out words in context. To read and spell well in English, which is an alphabetic language, students need to understand the code, which we call the Alphabetic Principle.

Teaching Segmenting and Blending:

After learning the alphabetic principle, students are ready to master segmenting (for writing and spelling) and blending (for reading). Students need to learn how to orally take sounds in words apart, and how to blend them together. For spelling purposes, students need to be able to hear the individual phonemes in a word, and figure out how to sequence them, both orally and with the use of graphemes. For reading purposes, students need to know how to deconstruct the graphemes into individual sound bytes, and then blend them together. Reading and spelling, merely by use of visual memory, leaves room for a large margin of error. The human brain cannot memorize every word in our language. It's impossible!

Teaching Reading with the Use of Controlled Text:

Controlled text is specially designed text which exactly matches the student's reading level. Controlled text includes sentences or passages of words for which all skills have been taught. Controlled text never includes words with new skills that have yet to be taught. Therefore, the student is highly successful when reading controlled text, which helps to build fluency skills, provides leveled practicing, and boosts the student's confidence. The use of controlled text is an extremely beneficial tool in the reading teacher's toolbox!


Teaching the 6 Syllable Types:

Inherent in The Orton Gillingham Approach is the teaching of the 6 syllable types of the English language. Students learn the 6 syllable types, into which 80% of the English language can be classified. Learning the syllable types aids students in knowing how to sound the vowels in words. Syllable types are merely consistent patterns of spellings which control the sound of the vowel. Knowing the syllable types provides students with a structured understanding of the regularities in our language. As students begin to recognize the patterns in words, they can then predict what sound the vowel will make, and thus, can easily attempt the pronunciation. In reverse fashion, students can use their knowledge of the syllable types to spell conventionally and accurately.

Teaching the 12 Syllable Division Rules:

The foundation of the English language is the alphabet sounds. Alphabet sounds make syllables, and syllables make words. During the reading process, students decode the words into syllables, and then into individual sounds. During the spelling process, students construct words, one syllable at a time, from the sounds of the alphabet. When students are taught the 12 syllable division rules, they are able to use the logic inherent in the rules to read and spell words with more than one syllable. The syllable division rules bring clarity and consistency to our language, during literacy learning and acquisition.

Teaching Morphology:

Teaching word origins and word parts, such as suffixes and prefixes, opens up a whole new world to students who struggle with literacy skills. For these students, the impact of teaching morphology helps to bring order and understanding to the English language, and provides them with an organizational structure upon which to utilize critical thinking skills to make sense of our written (and spoken) communication. Once students understand the meanings of prefixes and suffixes, and start to learn about the origin of word parts, their comprehension, as well as their decoding skills grow, in leaps and bounds.

Teaching a Structured, Sequential, and Cumulative Curriculum through Explicit Instruction:

The Orton Gillingham Approach teaches literacy skills thoroughly and deeply, always to the point of student mastery. Diagnostic teaching is the force which drives decision making for each individual student. The structured scope and sequence begins at the easiest point and continually progresses up through the continuum of the more difficult and complex language skills. Each new layer of information has a cumulative effect on the student's knowledge and skills. All of this magic occurs through explicit instruction. Skills and concepts are boldly taught, and nothing is left to chance. For instance, students are not left to infer that vowels in a CVCe pattern have long vowel sounds. All teaching occurs explicitly, with no room for misunderstanding or interpretation.

The Orton Gillingham Approach is highly effective for all students - abled or disabled or differently abled. The succinct delivery of instruction, and the carefully planned sequence of introduction never ceases to amaze me - day after day. And, WOW! What a difference it makes!


Jenelle Erickson Boyd, M.Ed, Author of this blog, is a Certified Reading Specialist, a Certified Dyslexia Practitioner, and an avid advocate for students with reading issues. She is the Author of The Lil' Reading Scientists TM Orton Gillingham Curriculum, and is a conference speaker and teacher trainer. To contact her, please email her at


To view The Lil' Reading Scientists TM curriculum, please visit, or see the Lil' Reading Scientists Store, at Teachers Pay Teachers.