What makes Orton-Gillingham based instruction so effective?
One of the reasons Orton-Gillingham (OG) instruction is so effective is that it is individualized to the student. Many students with specific reading disorders (dyslexia or oral and written language disorder) really struggle in several areas targeted in a structured literacy lesson. It is important for the interventionist to zero-in on the areas specifically that are causing the most difficulty for each individual student. The necessary components of a structured literacy/OG-based lesson include:
This is a fancy word, but really all words are made of sounds - phonology is "the study of sounds". It's recognizing that words come apart (e.g., "cat" can be broken into /k/ /a/ /t/) and can be put back together (e.g., /j/ /u/ /m/ /p/ makes the word jump). You can manipulate sounds to create rhymes or you can manipulate them in more complex ways to create pig latin for example.
Another fancy way of indicating that every letter in our language produces a sound. We need to study letters and letter groups (e.g., ch, dge, tion, qu) to understand the sound that correlates to each letter pattern. We need to be able to see the letters and produce the sound for reading. We need to hear the sounds and produce the letters for spelling.
We all remember practicing dividing words into syllables. We typically remember clapping or banging them out on our desks (SAT - UR - DAY). However, most of us never recognized the importance of this task. All words are made up of syllables. Syllables are word parts with one vowel sound. The number of vowel sounds in a word will tell us how many syllables we have. There are 6 different syllable types in the English language: closed, open, vowel-consonant-e, r-controlled vowels, vowel pairs, and stable final syllables. Being able to identify each of the six syllable types will help us to break words into smaller parts which supports stronger reading and it helps to predict the vowel sound which supports stronger spelling.
Again, another complicated word which means "the study of change". Morphemes carry meaning in our words and are comprised of prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Understanding how to identify these morphemes helps us to:
1. Read the word more fluently
2. Spell the word more accurately
3. Determine the meaning of the word more effectively
Syntax helps us to understand how our language is put together from a grammatical perspective. Our most simple sentence structure includes a subject (who or what) and a predicate (did what). At the most basic level students need to understand this structure. It helps to support comprehension but also - when we divide our sentences up by grammatical unit, it helps to promote reading fluency. In essence, we scoop or divide sentences by grammatical unit to support the natural flow of the sentence. This is also a necessary evil in writing grammatically correct sentences.
Last, but most certainly not least, semantics is the recognition of how words come together to tell a story. It's the entire point of reading and yet, so often in structured literacy or OG-based programs this piece is left off or not done justice. In a child with more "pure-form" dyslexia - semantics may come naturally, and perhaps it doesn't need to be explicitly instructed, but for many struggling readers comprehension does not come easily. It is of paramount importance that we are making sure our children/students are making the connections we feel should come automatically, because often we are assuming incorrectly.