Hey, Orton Gillingham, Where Do I Start?

Where do we start?

One question I think many tutors and teachers have when beginning Orton Gillingham as a teaching approach with students is, Where do I start?

It’s a very reasonable question!

My answer would be, start at the beginning. The reason for starting at the beginning is that Orton Gillingham is a sequential and cumulative approach – each part of the Scope & Sequence builds on the next. If you skip something, you may not realize a student doesn’t know it. Even an older student.

For example, if you do not start at the beginning by pulling your consonant reading deck from your jewel box and at least going through the deck with a new student (or even a classroom of kids), you might never know they don’t know that s makes a “s” and a “z” sound (sound reading). Or, that the long a sound can be made eight different ways (a_e (ape), a (baby), ai (rain), ay (say), eigh (eight), ea (steak), ei (veil), and ey (they)) (sound spelling).

I didn’t know until I took an Orton Gillingham class as an adult!

Working with a student

You may move very rapidly at the beginning through the Scope & Sequence or through a Sound-Dictation Checklist, where a student can check off sounds and a see progress made as they learn each sound. Once you get to an area where the student is learning new and more grade appropriate information, you know it’s time to slow down.

When I say that you start at the beginning, I mean start with your deck and show the student the cards, m, a, s, f, b – ask each sound the letters make. It’s easy to incorporate a few letters into each lesson plan and still cover something a student needs to know that may be more advanced.

For example, if a student has a specific sight word list, cover the list, but also cover the letters/letter combinations that help with the identification.


You can also use formal and informal assessments to find out how much a student knows or to know where any weaknesses may be.


The more formal assessment I am familiar with (and have used) is Gallistel-Ellis assessment. This test is in-depth and measures coding skills in reading and spelling. It measures recognition of sounds and if a student can spell using the sounds. It includes sounds, reading and spelling.

The test covers different categories of phonics in spelling and reading, including (but not limited to): syllables (closed, silent e, r-controlled, -cle), words with C&G, -dge and tch, simple suffixes, and multi-syllable words. There is also a summary sheet to keep up with the scoring.

I found this assessment to be very good to know where a student was on the Scope & Sequence and it did not take long to administer.

Another assessment is called Cool Tools, and was recommended in the course I took. It’s from the Florida Department of Education. This assessment covers phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Here is a link: https://bit.ly/3jCqwiO


You can also do an informal Phonological Awareness Assessment. You can get a free chart of informal phonological assessment exercises in the OGforALL Workbook Store.

This is a simple form, and it does not go into specific rules, but you could incorporate words into the assessment to find out if a student knows specific rules.

How do you determine success?

No matter the age of the student, making sure the information is learned at a 95% success rate in each area of the Scope & Sequence is important.

Even if lessons on the easy stuff go fast, it’s important to incorporate it into the curriculum to make sure the foundation is a sturdy one. The aim is to build a well-rounded, complete Orton Gillingham student – a student who will understand the English language in depth and wholly.

The result? Orton Gillingham students get the opportunity to love the English language. To see the whole and its working parts. They will see how we arrived at the language we have today, and be confident when reading and spelling because they were given the right tools – from you!

Want more? Visit the OGforALL workbook store!

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