Reading difficulties are the most common cause of academic failure and underachievement.  Learning to read and write is not natural or easy for many- if not most- students, especially those with dyslexia and related language problems.  Oral language is hard wired into our brains but written language has to be acquired through instruction.  Although dyslexia and related reading and language problems may originate with neurobiological differences, they are mainly treated with skilled teaching.

What is the nature of effective instruction for students at risk? The methods supported by research are those that are explicit, systematic, cumulative, and multisensory, in that they integrate listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The content of effective instruction emphasizes the structure of language, including the speech sound system (phonology), the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of words (morphology), meaning relationships among words and their referents (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse. The strategies emphasize planning, organization, attention to task, critical thinking, and self‐management. *

The Orton-Gillingham approach addresses all of these components. While all such aspects of teaching are essential for students with dyslexia, these strategies also enhance the potential of all students.

Teaching reading effectively, especially to students experiencing difficulty, requires considerable knowledge and skill. Many studies have shown that students’ gains are predicted by the interaction between teacher knowledge and amount of explicit instruction students received.  Even a “good program” cannot replace teacher knowledge.  According to Piasta et al. (SSE, 2009) “more code instruction by teachers with low levels of knowledge did not produce student gains”, therefore even highly scripted core curricular “cannot replace the expert teaching of highly knowledgeable teachers”.   Teachers who undertake training in the Orton-Gillingham approach are given both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to provide effective instruction in reading and writing.

* excerpt from the International Dyslexia Association – Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading – Executive Summary

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