Orton-Gillingham Reading Approach

Angela, Cara, Wendi


It's an approach (not a program, method, system, or technique)!

from www.ortonacademy.or/approach.php:

"Orton-Gillingham is an instructional approach intended primarily for use with persons who have difficulty with reading, spelling, and writing of the sort associated with dyslexia...[it is] language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible."


Samuel Torrey Orton (1879-1948) and Anna Gillingham (1878-1963)

Orton: neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, studying reading and language processing difficulties. In 1920s, studied children who fit the current description of students with dyslexia.

Gillingham: educator and psychologist who worked with Orton to train other teachers and publish (with Bessie Stillman) the Orton-Gillingham manual: Remedial Training for Children with Specific Disability in Reading, Spelling, and Penmanship in 1935. Updated regularly, now known as The Gillingham Manual.

The Orton-Gillingham approach is considered to be the first to use the multi-sensory approach to teaching reading to students with disabilities like dyslexia.

Student Use

For whom is this designed?

  • Students with dyslexia
  • Most commonly associated with 1:1 instruction
  • Because it is an approach (not a method), has the flexibility to be used with small groups or entire classooms

Description of Approach

Critial Characteristics

  • Personalized

Adapted for individual learners

  • Multisensory

Uses sight (visual processing), hearing (auditory processing), and touch and kinesthestetic (tactile-kinesthetic processing) activities to engage the whole brain and body in learning

  • Diagnostic and Prescriptive

Instructor continually monitors progress (diagnostic) and designs future lessons to address areas of weakness (prescriptive)

  • Direct Instruction

To ensure student knows what is being taught and why

  • Systematic Phonics

Begins with simple phoneme/grapheme recognition

  • Applied Linguistics

From decoding and encoding to syllabic and grammatic structures. Continually integrates reading with spelling and writing

  • Linguistic Competence

Word order, sentence structure, meaning of words and phrases

  • Systematic and Structured

Information presented in a planned, logical way

  • Sequential, Incremental, and Cumulative

Students master content before moving forward, continual review of previously-learned material

  • Continuous Feedback and Positive Reinforcement

Builds students' self-confidence

  • Cognitive Approach

Students taught reasons for learning new strategies

  • Emotionally Sound

"providing the experience of success"

Typical lessons last 45-60 minutes and have 7 components:

  1. Review of letters already known
  2. Introduction of new sound
  3. Individual words to read out loud (uses new and review sounds)
  4. Student writes new sounds from teacher's dictation
  5. Student writes new and review words (using only taught sounds)
  6. Dictation of controlled-text sentences
  7. Oral reading from controlled text

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Many training/certification programs to ensure fidelity
  • Systematic
  • Confidence-building
  • Personalized design to meet needs of individual students


  • No set materials
  • Lesson planning can be labor-intensive
  • While research has been done on the efficacy of reading systems based on the Orton-Gillingham approach (Wilson, Project Read, etc.), lack of empirical studies on Orton-Gillingham approach itself

Hey! Here's a sample lesson!

Any questions?

Thank you for your time and attention!