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Effective methods for teaching students with dyslexia

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

In the 1930s Samuel T. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, established the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching students with dyslexia. This approach involved high quality instruction with an explicit approach to teaching the sounds of letters in isolation before they are blended to form words.

Sayeski et al. identified several distinguishing features of the approach.

  • Direct, systematic and cumulative lessons including reading, spelling and new concept instruction.

  • Cognitive explanations such as teaching phonics rules.

  • Diagnostic methods based on how the student performs in a current lesson.

  • Linguistics based instruction such as word families, blending and handwriting.

  • Multi sensory engagement such as teaching the sound, visualising and writing the letter, forming the letter with play dough or another tactile material.

Other researchers have suggested that the explicit approach to teaching literacy is the most effective technique to use with struggling learners. The Orton-Gillingham method combines explicit teaching with multi sensory techniques to teach literacy skills and although it was designed in the 1930s is still used and recommended by educators today.

The Orton Gillingham approach breaks language down into the smallest parts, and makes sure children understanding before moving on. Then it shows them how to build the sounds back up again into words. Children move from one step to the next as they master each level of language skills.

There are numerous books on this model which include series of lessons that can be used at home.


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