The following guest post was written by Elise Ballinger, M.Ed. Reading Specialist, Nativity School, a Certified Orton-Gillingham Teacher IMSLEC-Accredited Mayerson Academy Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Reading Program.
As a teacher, there are moments that stand out as “defining moments” in my career. I had my first, and perhaps most powerful, defining moment early in the year as a first-year teacher. As I excitedly launched into my teaching career, I found my excitement turning to discomfort when I realized that I had several struggling readers in my class. I didn’t know if their difficulties were due to dyslexia, poor instruction, or some other cause. What I did know is that I did not know how to address their needs. My Masters of Education program taught me that if children were engaged with literature in a meaningful way, they would learn how to read. I had binders full of ideas and resources for how to integrate literature into other subject areas, how to help students make connections between literature and their lives and how to coordinate literature circles. However, I did not have any resources for teaching students how to decode words on the page.
Fortunately, I have had many other, more positive, defining moments in my teaching career – many of which involved helping struggling readers become skilled readers. During my reading specialist training I enrolled in the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Reading Practicum at the Mayerson Academy. The Orton-Gillingham (OG) methodology for teaching reading uses a multisensory, systematic, and explicit approach to teaching phonics. While Orton-Gillingham was originally designed to be used with students with dyslexia, it has proven to be effective with all struggling readers and with all those beginning to learn to read.
OG has become one of the most powerful tools in my toolbox. The OG reading practicum increased my knowledge of the structured nature of the English language. Not only does OG improve decoding skills, it also has a positive impact on fluency and comprehension and increases students’ vocabulary by peeling back the layers of our language to reveal how English represents meaning with spe
lling. OG has allowed me to individualize instruction to meet student needs, and to leverage instruction to help students make great strides as readers.
Orton-Gillingham has provided me with such a powerful instructional tool that now I welcome the opportunity to work with struggling readers and those with dyslexia. I know that by using the OG methodology I can change their trajectory as readers. I can teach struggling readers the skills they need to become strong readers. Now the defining moments that I experience as a teacher center on celebrating student success. And that is powerful!
Mayerson Academy’s accredited Orton-Gillingham Reading Program is now also offered entirely online. For more information, contact Sonia Milrod, Mayerson Academy’s literacy professional development specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayerson Academy’s Orton-Gillingham Program is supported in part through funding from the Smale Family and Charles H. Dater Foundations.