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Most of the dyslexia laws in the United States require that teachers use evidence-based reading instruction and many teachers are turning towards an Orton-Gillingham approach. Orton-Gillingham includes evidence-based practices and teaching instruction. Here is an explanation on why and how  Orton-Gillingham includes evidence-based reading instruction.

What is Evidence-Based Reading Instruction?

Evidence-based reading instruction can be defined as a particular approach, a specific strategy, or an instructional method which has had a record of success. There is reliable, trustworthy, and valid evidence to suggest that when this instruction is used with a particular group of students, the students can be expected to make adequate gains in reading achievement. Sometimes the terms “research-based instruction” or “scientifically based research” can be used to express the same idea. The Orton-Gillingham approach falls into Evidence-Based Reading INSTRUCTION! The instruction (not the method) is evidence-based. Here is the research to back that up:

 The Five Major Components of Evidence-Based Reading Instruction 

The National Reading Panel (2000) has identified five essential components of reading instruction outlined as evidence-based strategies in the National Reading Panel’s report of 2000 and the National Early Literacy Panel Report of 2008Instructional support for students with dyslexia must include these core strategies and practices:  

1. Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Recognizing that words are comprised of individual sounds that can be blended together for reading and pulled apart or segmented for spelling is what the National Reading Panel refers to as phonemic awareness instruction. 

Phonemic awareness instruction helps all types of children improve reading. This includes normally developing readers, children at risk for future reading problems, disabled readers, preschoolers, kindergartners, 1st graders, children in 2nd – 6th grades who are disabled readers, children across various socioeconomic levels, and children learning to read in English as a Second Language. 

Phonemic awareness is a crucial skill for all those students learning to read and there is a greater emphasis for phonemic awareness in kindergarten and first grade.

Orton-Gillingham evidence-based reading instruction includes phonological and phonemic awareness.

2. Systematic Phonics Instruction 

Understanding that individual sounds are represented by letters or groups of letters and the ability to use those sounds to decode words is what the National Reading Panel refers to as systematic phonics instruction

Systematic phonics is taught in a planned sequence with the most common phonograms (sounds)  occurring at the beginning. Each phonogram is taught in isolation with repetition and enough time in between each phonogram for learning and mastery. It includes reviewing and integrating past lessons.

Reading and spelling are taught simultaneously. The systematic phonics will begin with the most basic levels of phonics and develop into the most advanced spelling rules and morphological concepts. Systematic phonics is a key component to reading.

Orton-Gillingham evidence-based reading instruction includes systematic phonics instruction with a very planned and logical sequence.

3. Reading Fluency Instruction

Reading text with sufficient speed and accuracy to support comprehension is what the National Reading Panel refers to as reading fluency instruction

The practice of developing fluency in children includes reading accuracy, reading rate, and reading expression. Accuracy is listed first because if a child cannot read accurately they will not develop reading fluency. Accurate reading is first developed through systematic phonics.

Instruction in reading fluency should include assisting students in developing their ability to use typical speech patterns and appropriate intonation while reading aloud. Teaching students to read fluently supports comprehension.

Orton-Gillingham evidence-based reading instruction includes reading fluency instruction. Students are taught to read words, sentences, and text fluently.

4. Vocabulary Instruction

Understanding of individual word meanings in a text is what the National Reading Panel refers to as vocabulary instruction

Reading comprehension depends heavily on vocabulary development. Teachers should develop student’s vocabulary knowledge through direct and indirect methods of teaching and students should be exposed to vocabulary both orally and through reading. 

Orton-Gillingham evidence-based reading instruction includes vocabulary instruction.  Students connect spelling instruction with vocabulary, affixes, and root/base words.

5. Comprehension Instruction

Understanding connected text as the ultimate goal of reading is what the National Reading Panel refers to as comprehension instruction. In carrying out its analysis of the research in reading comprehension, the National Reading Panel noted three predominant themes in the research on the development of reading comprehension skills:

  • Reading comprehension is a complex cognitive process that cannot be understood without a clear description of the role that vocabulary development and vocabulary instruction play in the understanding of what has been read. 
  • Reading comprehension is an active process that requires an intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text. 
  • The preparation of teachers to better equip students to develop and apply reading comprehension strategies to enhance understanding is intimately linked to students’ achievement in this area.

Orton-Gillingham evidence-based reading instruction includes comprehension instruction. Students connect text using comprehension strategies that include visualization, predicting, main idea, summarizing, and inferencing.

 Structured Literacy Means Four More Components!

Evidence based-reading instruction must include all 5 components mentioned above by the National Reading Panel. But…there are still 4 more components of evidence-based reading instruction in structured literacy! 

These 4 more components are…systematic, explicit, multisensory, and diagnostic instruction. The International Dyslexia Association refers to these additional 4 components as Structured Literacy Instruction.

Orton-Gillingham is a Structured Literacy Approach!

Systematic Instruction

A carefully planned sequence for instruction is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as systematic instruction.

This lesson plan is carefully thought out, strategic and designed before activities and lessons are developed. Lessons are built on previously taught information, starting with the most simple and progressing to more  complex concepts. Clear and concise student objectives are driven by ongoing assessment. Teachers will teach a new concept using a scope and sequence, review the newly learned concept, review previously learned concepts, then assess student learning before moving to a new concept. In Systematic Instruction:

  • Skills are broken down into component parts.
  • As specific skills are mastered, they are applied into meaningful text that students can read.
  • Students learn the elements or building blocks of more complex skills, such as how to divide a two or three syllable word to facilitate reading, or how to recognize prefixes and suffixes in multi-syllable words, before they are expected to read those words in content areas.

Instruction across all five components of reading is integrated and decoding skills are practiced in words, sentences, and passages working toward fluency. Vocabulary and comprehension instruction are integrated into each lesson.  

Explicit or Direct Instruction

Clearly teaching the skills to a student is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as explicit and direct instruction.

Research indicates that explicit or direct instruction is the most effective teaching approach for students with reading difficulties. Explicit instruction includes modeling, guided practice, and independent practice of the skill being taught.

I do, we do, you do.

Multisensory Instruction

The use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as multisensory instruction.

Links are consistently made between the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways in learning to read and spell. For example, when a student is shown the letter card b, the student says the letter b, then the keyword balloon, then the sound /b/ while writing a b in the air or while tracing the letter b on a bumpy surface.  

Diagnostic Teaching

The teaching method in which a student is observed and evaluated by the teacher for their skills and objectives and individualized instruction is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as diagnostic teaching.

That is instruction that meets a student’s needs. The instruction is based on careful and continuous assessment, both informally (for example, observation) and formally (for example, with standardized measures). The content presented must be mastered to the degree of automaticity. Automaticity is critical to freeing all the student’s attention and cognitive resources for comprehension and expression.

In Summary

Orton-Gillingham includes evidence-based reading instruction and is a Structured Literacy approach. 

Evidence-based reading instruction must include all 5 components outlined by the National Reading Panel. These 5 components are:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Systematic phonics
  • Fluency 
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension

Evidence based reading instruction to be defined as “Structured Literacy” outlined by the International Dyslexia Association must also include:

  • Systematic Instruction
  • Explicit or Direct Instruction
  • Multisensory Instruction
  • Diagnostic Teaching 

The PRIDE Reading Program

Thank you so much for reading my post today. You might also enjoy reading my previous posts:

What is Structured Literacy

Show me an Orton-Gillingham Lesson

The Science of Reading: What All Teachers Should Know


Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program. The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham, Structured Literacy curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.

>The PRIDE Reading Program<

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers, and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com

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