What is Structured Literacy?

If you have done any research about dyslexia, you have already heard the term “Orton-Gillingham.” You may be wondering what that is and how it is related to another buzz word in the field of dyslexia, “Structured Literacy.”

Research supports teaching dyslexic learners using an Orton-Gillingham approach. Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist,  and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, created a way to establish new neural pathways for efficient reading by breaking down every element of the English language all the way down to its smallest sound, the phoneme. The inability to hear each and every sound within a word is the primary weakness for a dyslexic learner. The Orton-Gillingham approach uses multisensory instruction which means seeing, hearing, and touching all at once. After strengthening the ability to make sense of how sounds and words are related (phonemic awareness skills), the method goes on to teach the seven types of syllables along with spelling rules in a very logical and systematic way. Intense practice establishes the habits which allow dyslexic learners to read by sounding out and to spell by applying easy-to-remember spelling rules. The ability to read and spell by sounding out, not by the extremely hard work of memorizing what a word looks like, is essential to learning to read with speed, accuracy, and understanding.

The International Dyslexia Association has penned a new term to describe this type of instruction. Here’s why… Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham created the Orton-Gillingham method which was then promoted by an organization called the Orton-Gillingham Associates. Other organizations with different names,  started using this same method, and it was still referred to as the Orton-Gillingham method. It’s like asking for a “Kleenex” rather than a tissue, even when the name brand is something else. To clear up this confusion the Orton-Gillingham method is now being referred to as “Structured Literacy”, and if you find that even more confusing, you are not alone!

For an excellent infographic explaining Structured Literacy created by Carolyn D. Cowan, Ed. M. for the International Dyslexia Association please click here.