Orton Gillingham for All

Get Mixed, Blends & Digraphs

In my last post of the VCCCV syllable division pattern, or Ostrich words, I talked about blends and digraphs, and I said I would make my next post on these concepts so that Ostrich words will make more sense. That was three Mondays ago – I was out of town in Florida visiting my mom for the past two weeks. Even though I had good intentions of posting, it didn’t happen. But, now I’m back and ready to talk about Blends and Digraphs.

First, let’s cover blends.

Blends are consonants that when put together we can hear the pronunciation of each letter sound. For example, BL is “b,” “l” as in BLack. Or LM, is “l,” “m” as in caLM. There are even three letter blends. An example is SPL, “s,” “p,” “l” as in SPLash.

Pronunciation of these blends is important when teaching or learning blends. According to the class I took, there is a tendency to mispronounce “r-blends” and “l-blends.” For example, if the blend tr is pronounced “ter,” the word train would sound like “ter rain” with two syllables.  There is a similar problem with “l-blends” if gl is pronounced as “gul” and you have a word like glee. It can sound like “gull y” with two syllables.

Because it can be difficult to pronounce the letters in blends together, Gillingham did not teach blends as blends. She taught them as consonants that are blended together so that each sound is heard. This is the purpose of starting in OG teaching and learning to pronounce each letter sound and make sure it is correctly pronounced. When blends are taught, the correct individual sounds are already known and it is easier to understand how blends are just combinations of the two consonant letter sounds.

In my class, they taught blends with both real and nonsense words. Our teacher said words out loud and we had to spell them. This taught us to listen carefully to what was being said.

Some blends can be used in both the initial and final positions of words and others are limited to one location within a word. Three-letter blends are harder to learn than two-letter blends. Initial blends are easier to learn than final blends. It is recommended to start with two letter initial blends and move on from there.

Digraphs

Digraphs are different than blends in that we do not hear each letter sound. A consonant digraph is two written letters that do not say their usual sounds. A student must learn the “new” sound that each digraph makes and that it is considered to be one sound.

A little ditty I learned in class was called “The H Brothers.” It is to help with learning digraphs. It is meant for younger children – I use it to tutor second graders and I would use it on older children if I thought it would help.

The H Brothers Story

Shelby was saving money to buy gifts for his brothers.

For Whitney he bought a whistle.

For Charles he bought a cherry red choo choo train.

For Phinneas he bought a phone.

For Thaddeus who was taking sewing in school, he bought a thimble.

Whitney enjoyed blowing his whistle.

Charles pushed his train around saying the three sounds for ch, “ch,” “k” “sh,” “ch,” “k,” “sh”

Phinneas got on his phone and called his friend Phil.

Thaddeus did not like his thimble, stuck his tongue out and said “thhhhhhhhh.”

What do you think Shelby said? “Shhhhhhhhhh.”

Digraphs and Key Words:

Ch                           Chair/Christmas/Chef    “ch”/”k”/”sh      The chair of the Christmas chef.

Gh                          laugh                                     “f”

Ph                           phone                                   “f”

Sh                           shoe                                      “sh”

Th                           mother/thimble               “th” (voiced)/”th” (unvoiced)

Wh                         whistle                                 “hw”

It is important to often re-tell the meaning of a digraph and blend to students. It can be a difficult concept to remember.

Here are two worksheets on blends and digraphs. One to read and one to do. There is a book called, “How to Teach Spelling” that is helpful in teaching this concept as well. Pages 16 and 17.

Bl Dig Sheet Bl Dig worksheet

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Let’s Divide Those Words!

What makes OG (Orton Gillingham) so special is the way it teaches the English language in broken down parts then re-assembles them into a whole; meaning that by the time one is older (or for an adult, towards the end of the learning sequence), one can see English from a broad perspective.

A major component to help gain the overall perspective is REVLOC. In some circles they use CLOVER, but where I took the course, they call it REVLOC and soon I will reveal why.

First, let me break down the answer to what REVLOC actually is. Each letter stands for a syllable type. Each syllable in a word is broken down and categorized by rules, making it easier to pronounce a word when one follows the rules of that syllable. Of course, there are always exceptions and that is where sight words and memorization have their place.

So here is what each letter actually stands for.

R       R-controlled
E       Magic E
V      Vowel Team
L      Consonant + le
O     Open
C     Closed

They are not taught in this order, but are listed in this order because one “trumps” the other in how you would pronounce a word. R-controlled is always used as the rule over closed, as in the word War. You would not try to “close that in,” rather you would use the R-controlled pronunciation rule.

The order REVLOC is taught to students is:

Examples
Closed syllables                       cat, lip, stop, pump, shrimp
Magic E syllables                     bike, cake, Luke, Pete, poke
Open syllables                         go, he, she, hi, me
R-controlled syllables            car, fork, fern, bird, fur, merry, tarry, earth
Consonant +le syllables        bubble, maple, marble, steeple
Vowel Team syllables             boat, bee, eight, ceiling, monkey

A closed syllable is one where a vowel is closed in by two consonants. As in lip.

Magic E syllable is one where the e makes a vowel say its name (it makes the vowel long). As in, bike.

An open syllable is a vowel that is not closed in by consonants. As in, he. In a multisyllabic word an example would be o pen (O is open syllable, PEN is closed syllable).

R-controlled syllables have the bossy-r in control of the syllable. As in, fork.

Consonant + le syllables have at its end a Consonant + le pattern. As in bubble. The syllable division is bub ble (BUB = closed, BLE = Cons+le). The b must be doubled to keep the sound of the first u short. Otherwise it would be buble and the u would be long (BU is open B+LE is consonant+le).

Vowel Team syllables have just that, a vowel team. A word like bee would not be an open syllable, because it has the double ee. It is considered a vowel team and marked as such when dividing. As in, monkey (MON is closed, key is vowel team because the ey is a vowel team).

REVLOC makes it easier for people to pronounce words because there are rules associated with each syllable type. Once a person learns that seeing a closed syllable usually means the vowel will be short, it opens them up to something predictable about that syllable. Particularly when someone has not seen a word before, this can come in handy.

In the course I took, we spent a lot of time dividing up words into syllables and categorizing each syllable into REVLOC. Every time I did these exercises I found that even the words that appear as sight words have rules in many cases. Like he, she, make, etc.

Let me know if I am not being clear here. Some of these concepts can be challenging. In the future I will go through each syllable type with a single, in-depth posts.

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Orton Gillingham for All

I spent a year taking a course on the Orton Gillingham (OG) method of teaching reading and spelling. I took the class at The Schenck School, a school specifically for dyslexic children. My teacher was a dynamic woman named Rosalie Davis. She was hands down the best teacher I have ever encountered. Or, was it that what she was teaching was so enchanting? I think the answer is both.

What makes OG a special method for teaching kids to read and spell is that it is multi-sensory. What that means is, students of OG are taught to see, hear and feel each element of the language. Students are required to see it and say it, then say it and write it. The method starts with the most basic part of the language, the letter sounds, and builds from there. At the end of the course I took, I felt I had a complete knowledge of the English language.

The completeness came from multiple layers of learning. I was taught letters and letter combinations, correct letter pronunciation, and the best order for the letters to be taught. And it wasn’t in the same order as the Alphabet Song. I also learned a way to divide words into syllable types. This made word pronunciation much easier because there were rules associated with each syllable type. I was taught spelling rules, plural rules, and doubling rules which made it easier to read and spell words. I learned a ton about where English words came from, how they relate to other languages, and how to break down a word to discover its meaning just by knowing the parts.

Most of all, I was given a tool to teach others how to learn the language as well. I became a tutor of Orton Gillingham. I love words. I always have and taking this course made me love words more. I have created this platform because I believe in the Orton Gillingham method for teaching English. I think all people could benefit from this information, not just dyslexic kids. Although, it is amazing what it can do for someone dyslexic.

Kids and adults alike can benefit from Orton Gillingham. Please do not use this site as a substitute for tutoring. There is nothing like one on one treatment for someone struggling and a website like this will not compensate. But if you want to learn some rules and information about English that can help with learning, this is your site.

Thanks for visiting!

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