On Wednesday, September 21st, our Kindergarten and First Grade Teachers alongside several of our teachers who instruct multi-age small groups began a year-long journey toward earning Orton-Gillingham Certification.
What exactly is Orton-Gillingham?
An APPROACH that prepares a teacher to individualize instruction to meet the specific needs of a learner.
The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a multi-sensory approach to teaching phonics: reading words, spelling words, writing words, and being able to fluently decode words to ensure reading comprehension. In non edu-speak, this means that our teachers are learning how to understand and share rules to reading and spelling with our students in a way that best fits their learning style: as visual learners (who learn best when they see the information – often writing paired with a picture or symbol); auditory learners (who learn best when they hear information – again often paired with some kind of visual symbol or “trick” explained in words), and kinesthetic learners (who learn best by doing, moving, and engaging muscle memory).
Professional learning for our teachers in explicit phonics instruction is in direct alignment with our Superintendent’s Priority: Simplify the foundations of learning to prepare for innovation.
Who is conducting the training?
We are working with REAP: Reading is Essential for All People, a group passionate about helping educators receive the best training possible.
Our instructor, Joan Gerken, is an Orton-Gillingham fellow, advisor, and master teacher. Joan is providing the research, the background to the methodology, and the theory behind the OG Approach. We are fortunate, also, to have Lisa Glickman, Literacy Coach, provide practical application and coaching for our teachers so they can use the knowledge immediately with their students.
What happens during training?
Simulations, direct instruction, guided practice, and time to collaborate/practice!
Our own Katie Walker led one simulation – where participants tried decoding and comprehending a passage that was in a difficult font and appeared to be written backwards. This gave us the understanding of how students feel when they exert so much effort on physically trying to read the words. For many, the meaning was lost in the effort exerted to just read each word.
Lisa Glickman led a group through a simulation to understand how new or struggling writers feel. I can personally say that I found it frustrating – and interesting – as our successful and smart staff began to employ techniques we see with students in the classroom. Adults had verbal outbursts, began joking around, were off task, cheated, and gave up. This insight to how some of our students feel when presented with difficult tasks was invaluable!
Joan Gerken led a group through a simulation with advanced vocabulary – that was written so that it was difficult for participants to read. We experienced what a reading group feels like when early learners are exerting effort to decode words – and the true theme of the story is lost. We also learned about Elkonin Boxes and how this strategy can help with reading and spelling – and increase reading comprehension.
Is this a big deal?
Our teachers receiving exemplary training on Orton-Gillingham Methodology is a HUGE DEAL! Our school is working not only to apply this approach to benefit struggling learners, but also to ensure DIFFERENTIATION in our K/1 classrooms in regard to reading and spelling. The gift of reading is a gift that lasts a person an entire lifetime – and if we can work to ensure that all Mt. Bethel students are reading at or above grade level by the end of fifth grade – through exemplary reading instruction – we have helped charter a course for success for each of our Buccaneers!
Why is this happening at such a large scale at Mt. Bethel and not other schools?
Through the support of our Foundation! Our Foundation is providing funding – and this would not be possible without the donations our parents make during The Patron Drive! Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me or any of our Mt. Bethel Foundation Trustees if you have any questions about how each dollar you donate impacts students.