Orton Gillingham Principles

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Orton Gillingham is an approach and not a program. It is a systematic approach to teaching literacy to individuals for whom reading, writing, and spelling do not come easily. Many of these individuals have dyslexia, but many others can benefit from the Structured Literacy approach as well. In the hands of a well-trained Orton tutor, the approach is comprehensive, flexible, and individualized. And while each student’s lesson will be unique to her needs, every good lesson shares the same Orton Gillingham principles.

Principles of the Orton Gillingham Approach:

  • Individualized– Based on comprehensive literacy assessments, Orton Gillingham teachers plan individualized lessons based on the student’s needs. While there is a general scope and sequence, there is no set order of skills.  Each child’s path will differ slightly depending on what skills he masters and how long it takes him to master other skills. 
  • Diagnostic and Prescriptive– The teacher plans each lesson for the student based on errors from previous lessons. The teacher takes notes as the student progresses through a lesson noting and immediately addressing any errors.
Example of Prescriptive and Diagnostic notes on an Orton Gillingham Lesson plan
Example of Prescriptive and Diagnostic notes on an Orton Gillingham Lesson plan
  • Systematic– Concepts move from simple to more complex. For example, teachers directly teach the sound-symbol relationships, syllables, syllable division rules (for multi-syllabic words), spelling rules, morphemes, etc. 
Orton Gillingham Mama's Orton Gillingham scope and sequence
Orton Gillingham Mama’s Sequence
  • Sequential and Cumulative– Orton teachers include skills from previously taught material in every lesson.  Students with dyslexia often need multiple repetitions of a skill before they master it.  A well-trained tutor tracks student errors and weaves in those skills as review as needed. The information taught also builds upon previously taught material. This ensures that almost every word or syllable type the student encounters is one that he is capable of decoding or spelling. 
  • Explicit Instruction– All skills are explicitly and directly taught to the student. A student should not be expected to know information that has not been explicitly taught to him. After direct instruction of a skill, the teacher scaffolds the instruction so that the student eventually reads or spells the skills independently and with automaticity. 
  • Multisensory– The Orton Gillingham approach utilizes visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic pathways simultaneously to learn content.  This supports retention and retrieval of information. Multisensory techniques are used throughout an Orton Gillingham lesson. These may include tracing letters while saying the sound, swopping syllables, coding vowels, charting, tracking while reading, highlighting spelling patterns, and more.
Multisensory technique of phoneme blending with a rope
  • Structured Literacy– The teacher presents information in an ordered manner that merges together previously taught material and new information.  This does not just consist of phonics, but rather the full breadth of our language.  This includes (but is not limited to):

Phonemic awareness



-Spelling patterns


-Written Expression




If you are interested in learning how get trained as an Orton Gillingham tutor, I encourage you to read more here.

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