Free Consultation

Orton-Gillingham Method of Teaching Reading

Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham
The Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading was developed by Anna Gillingham and is based on the theoretical work of the American neurologist Samuel Orton.

Orton cultivated a special interest in dyslexic children. He believed that weak associative power was central to these children’s difficulties, stemming from incomplete suppression of the nondominant cerebral hemisphere. Gillingham translated these theories into a highly structured reading method that stresses the repeated association of individual phonemes with their sound, name, and cursive formation.

Initially, individual letters are taught using drill cards and a carefully structured question-answer format focused on the letter sound (introduced by key words), the letter name, and the letter formation (first traced, then copied, and finally written from memory). After mastering all these aspects of the first group of letters (a, b, h, i, j, k, m, p, t), the student is taught to blend them into simple consonant-vowel-consonant words (e.g., map, hit, Tim). Instruction then focuses on the spelling of these same simple words, again in a structured format that requires repeating the word, naming and simultaneously writing the letters, and reading the word after it is written.

The similarly structured introduction of subsequent single letters, blends (e.g., st, cl, tr) and other letter combinations (e.g., sh, ea, tion) is meticulously sequenced. Later stages in the sequence include sentence and story writing, syllabication, dictionary skills, and advanced spelling rules.

Often referred to as a multisensory approach, the Orton-Gillingham method is one of several reading methods that emphasizes the phonetic regularities of English in its instructional sequence. It differs from other code-emphasis approaches by teaching letter sounds in isolation and requiring a considerable amount of individual letter blending (e.g., m-a-p = map). Its instructional format is highly repetitious. Within this method the teacher repeatedly combines reading with writing activities and relies heavily on drill techniques. The instructional materials include phoneme drill cards, phonetically regular word cards, syllable concept cards, little stories, and a detailed manual.

Studies have found that students taught by this method for two years demonstrated signicantly higher reading recognition and comprehension than control counterparts.

While Edublox’s live online reading program is aligned with the Orton-Gillingham approach, it offers three additional aspects to struggling readers:

Edublox develops cognitive skills

The word “cognition” is defined as “the act or process of knowing”. Cognitive skills therefore refer to those skills that make it possible for us to know. They have more to do with the mechanisms of how we learn, rather than with any actual knowledge.

Cognitive psychology has now linked many cognitive skills to reading disabilities: verbal fluency; attention and executive functions; phonological and phonemic awareness, visuo-spatial abilities; processing speed and rapid naming; short-term memory; visual short-term memory and visual long-term memory for details; and auditory working memory. These cognitive functions can be developed and improved with practice.

Edublox aims at developing the above-mentioned cognitive skills or functions.

Edublox’s live online reading program develops the brain’s visual word form area, in addition to the sounding out area

Research shows that a network of brain regions is involved in learning to read, one specifically in sounding out words, and another in seeing words as pictures. The picture area is the visual word form area or visual dictionary, and allows for fast and efficient word recognition.

Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center (2016) rediscovered that skilled readers can recognize words at lightning fast speed when they read because the word has been placed in a sort of visual dictionary. This function of the brain was already identified by James Hinshelwood in 1917 and is known as the visual word form area, and operates separately from an area that processes the sounds of written words.

Glezer and her coauthors tested word recognition in 27 volunteers in two different experiments using fMRI. They were able to see that words that were different, but sound the same, like ‘hare’ and ‘hair’ activate different neurons, akin to accessing different entries in a dictionary’s catalogue. If the sounds of the word had influence in this part of the brain we would expect to see that they activate the same or similar neurons, but this was not the case — ‘hair’ and ‘hare’ looked just as different as ‘hair’ and ‘soup’. In addition, the researchers found a different distinct region that was sensitive to the sounds, where ‘hair’ and ‘hare’ did look the same. The researchers thus showed that the brain has regions that specialize in doing each of the components of reading: one region is doing the visual piece and the other is doing the sound out piece.

Both brain areas must be trained in the teaching of reading, and Edublox’s Live Tutoring program aims at doing just that.

It’s also the HOW

Considering that teaching reading is ultimately an educational matter, we should not overlook that there are certain learning principles involved. It’s not just the WHAT of teaching that matters, it’s also the HOW, and for that reason all Edublox programs are based on fundamental and universal learning principles.

Book a free consultation to discuss your child’s learning needs, followed by a free lesson.

© Edublox
Helping Children Read. Learn. Achieve.

Video: Susan’s story of helping her daughter catch up

Meet Susan, Vivienne's mom. Vivienne was adopted from China at age 5½. This video is about Susan helping her 11-year-old daughter catch up on her development delays. They started with the Edublox program 13 weeks ago. This is her story. Continue Reading

Susan, Vivienne's mom February 22, 2021

<< Prev
Next >>


Georgetown University Medical Center (2016, June 9). In the brain, one area sees familiar words as pictures, another sounds out words. Retrieved July 15, 2019 from

Hinshelwood, J. (1917). Congenital word blindness. London: Lewis.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on whatsapp