The Windward language arts curriculum is a highly structured and sequenced program based upon the work of the late Dr. Samuel Orton, a neurologist, and Dr. Anna Gillingham, a psychologist. An Orton-Gillingham method of teaching reading, handwriting, and spelling is designed for learning disabled students unable to learn to read or write adequately with conventional teaching methods. Despite their often above-average intelligence, these children require a special methodology if they are to achieve academic success.
Orton-Gillingham training begins by teaching the sounds the letters represent and then immediately using them to build meaningful words and sentences. The higher levels of a multisensory sequence focus on multisyllabic words and the study of Greek and Latin roots and affixes. The basic sound/letter associations are introduced by having students see and write each letter while they say and hear each sound, in what is called a multisensory approach. Multisensory teaching uses all sensory modalities to help students remember the basic phonetic principles needed for fluent reading.
At Windward, reading, spelling and writing are taught in one integrated lesson, so each aspect of written language reinforces the other. This is very different from conventional instruction in which phonics (sound/letter associations), reading, writing and spelling are taught as separate subjects. The reading component of an Orton-Gillingham lesson places heavy emphasis on accurate word decoding (sounding out words) and comprehension. Reading comprehension skills include summarizing, paraphrasing, predicting, and making inferences. Spelling is taught through daily dictations in which students practice encoding spoken language.
Our teachers are specially trained in multisensory techniques, and the approach is available to all students. The instruction is carefully individualized, so each student can progress at his or her own optimal rate. We believe the structure and sequence of the program help not only to improve basic skills but also to organize the students’ general ways of learning. Its step-by-step progression leads to an increased sense of mastery and self-esteem.
A multisensory program can be beneficial to any student. To the learning disabled, it is essential.