Guest blogger: Elise Ballinger, M.Ed. Reading Specialist, Nativity School
Certified Orton-Gillingham Teacher, IMSLEC-Accredited Mayerson Academy,Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Reading Program
I recently started working with a student who was experiencing significant difficulties recalling the sounds that are represented by letters. I quickly realized that my student was not having the “typical” difficulties that beginning readers often have. I wondered if my student might have dyslexia or another learning disability. What really caught my attention was that if I showed my student a letter he could not remember the sound for the letter. However, if I told him the name of the letter he could immediately tell me the sound. And it was evident that my student was acutely aware of his struggles. When he couldn’t recall the sound for a letter he would put his head in his hands and shake his head.
I have to admit, I was a bit daunted by the task ahead of me, and I was unsure about the best intervention to use with this student. Of course I thought about using the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach to teaching reading, but I wasn’t sure that was the right approach for this situation. As I reflected on all the interventions available to me, I kept coming back to OG. I knew that the explicit, multisensory approach to teaching phonics used in the OG method has a powerful impact on learners with diverse needs. However, I was skeptical that OG would work in this unique case. As I weighed my options, I kept hearing the words of my OG mentor teacher in my head. She always said, “Trust the process.”
I decided to follow those words of wisdom. I started using OG with my student. Any time he could not remember the sound for a letter, I asked him to trace the letter while saying the sound. This multi-sensory repetition helped cement the connection between the letter and the sound. We have been doing OG together for about ten weeks and OG is working its magic once again! Now my student accurately recalls letter sounds about 90% of the time! This is a dramatic change from where he started in January! And instead of working with his head in his hands, he has a twinkle in his eyes and he says with confidence, “I know this!”
My mentor’s words of wisdom were spot-on. I knew from the start what to do to help my student. I just needed to use OG and to trust the process!
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 email@example.com.
Mayerson Academy’s Orton-Gillingham Program is supported in part through funding from the Smale Family and Charles H. Dater Foundations.