Orton Gillingham Explained

Dr. Samuel T. Orton (1897–1948) was a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist who was particularly interested in the causes of reading failure and related language-processing difficulties. Anna Gillingham (1878–1963) was an educator and psychologist who had a deep understanding of language. Encouraged by Dr. Orton, Gillingham published her first set of instructional materials in the mid-1930s (Gillingham & Stillman, 1936).

Given their mutual interest in the structure of language and how this structure is internalised by individuals in order for reading to occur, Orton and Gillingham worked to create an approach to reading that:

(a) explicitly taught students elements of language (e.g., phonology, syllabification, morphology)

(b) facilitated students’ automaticity in applying this knowledge to the decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) of language.

Thus, their approach to reading instruction was based on breaking down the components of language into individual and overlapping skills and then creating instructional activities designed to promote mastery and automaticity of those skills for students with dyslexia.

An Orton Gillingham (OG) approach has been variously described as language based, multisensory, flexible, cognitive, systematic, explicit, and cumulative. Given the extensive training required, OG practitioners are best described as professionals with a deep understanding of language who are skilled in the delivery of specific OG-based techniques required to systematically teach struggling individuals to read.

Therefore, although the day-to-day implementation of OG will vary slightly from practitioner to practitioner, OG instruction will reflect a similar structure, include a consistent nomenclature, and possess features that will be constant across all implementations. In short, it is easy to identify OG, if one knows what to look for – see table below.


All the information above has been taken directly from the the article, ‘Orton Gillingham – Who, What and How’ by Kristin L. Sayeski, Gentry A. Earle, Rosalie Davis, and Josie Calamar which can be found on Research Gate click here .

We have also uploaded the PDF for your convenience and it can be found below.

IDA Early Fact Sheet  

Orton Gillingham (OG) based and/or Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) Approach Fact sheet 

This is an early fact sheet from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) with a nice simple explanation of Orton Gillingham (OG) based and/or Multisensory Structured Language (MSL). Although this term has been updated to Structured Literacy the information is the same.

It is important to see the core elements of how to teach a dyslexic child has NOT changed. They message we want to get across is, is yes there has been some improvements to practice for literacy but the core skills taught and how we teach them are still the same.

Fact Sheet 

Effective Reading Instruction for Students with Dyslexia

Structured Literacy 

This is the new fact sheet that is now on on International Dyslexia Association website

Fact Sheet