The work of Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham has lived on for almost a century, and has laid the foundation for many teaching techniques and multisensory procedures still in use today. The idea of multisensory teaching has been studied and practiced by many theorists, educators, and researchers, and perfected over time. This week's Blog focuses on the deep teaching of the alphabet letters and sounds, and their written form, through the Language Triangle, as put forth by Anna Gillingham, in correspondence with her work with Dr. Orton.
Ms. Gillingham illustrates the Language Triangle as follows:
Teaching the alphabet letters deeply involves several steps before mastery can be achieved:
The Language Triangle focuses on three Associations:
Association 1 combines use of all three senses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactile):
*Associating symbol to name of letter
*Associating symbol with sound of letter
*Associating symbol and feel of letter when spoken and written
Association 2 focuses on auditory training for oral spelling:
The teacher says a letter sound and the student tells the name of the letter
Association 3 focuses on written spelling:
*Associating the symbol with the kinesthetic experience of writing it
*Associating the writing of the letter with the visual symbol
*Associating the sound of the letter with the feel of writing it
In The Gillingham Manual, Ms. Gillingham states that: "Every phonogram (representation of a sound) is presented through each association (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), and each association is linked and presented simultaneously. The individual pathway makes an imprint on the brain and thus strengthens the learning process".
The significance of Gillingham's Language Triangle is that it dissects and then re-assembles the multi-directional sensory pathways that can be stimulated. As teachers, I believe that we often tend to inadvertently and subconsciously focus on and teach through our own preferred sensory pathways, and skip those pathways with which we are less comfortable. Gillingham exposes the need to reinforce all available pathways - in a simultaneous manner - in order to awaken the brain, and create new connections.
Gillingham lays out specific procedures for each of the three Associations listed above in the Language Triangle, and provides some amount of scripted teacher verbiage. I will not include all of the steps in this Blog; however, I will discuss the important principles of the overall philosophy. The full set of procedures can be found in The Gillingham Manual, published by Educators Publishing Service.
Many simplified practices are in vogue today for teaching the alphabet in preschool, kindergarten, and even in non-structured remedial reading programs. Fads, such as "Letter of the Week", letters shaped like animals, letter people, and ipad apps for letter recognition, fail to teach the alphabet on a deep, sensory level.
The fact is, there is no replacement for deep sensory input. Children with reading issues require multi-level, multisensory, and multi-experience exposure, through explicit instruction, with the three associations of the Language Triangle, in order to master all of the layers and facets of the English orthographic alphabetic system. This very alphabetic system will be used by the student as the foundation for all written language tasks, and for reading itself. It must be solid and thoroughly processed.
All teachers of reading should know and master Gillingham's Language Triangle. It's just good teaching! Hopefully it will find its way into teacher preparation programs at colleges and universities, and will also be taught in stand-alone Orton Gillingham training programs.
Good teaching - good techniques - good knowledge of the science of reading - is the answer. The question is: Why are so many of our students struggling with literacy?
Jenelle Erickson Boyd, M.Ed., CDP, the Author of this BLOG, is a Certified Reading Specialist, a Certified Dyslexia Practitioner, a Certified Pre-3rd Grade Teacher, and a Certified Montessori Educator; an avid advocate of students with reading issues; a teacher trainer and school consultant; and a speaker at educational conferences. She is the Author of the Lil' Reading Scientists Literacy Solutions TM Orton Gillingham Curriculum. Jenelle can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Lil' Reading Scientists TM ORTON GILLINGHAM STORE here: https://www.lilreadingscientists.com/ to see our Multisensory Hard Goods Materials and our OG Digital Downloads!