The Orton-Gillingham Lesson

Step 1: Review with Phonogram Cards

Using Phonogram Cards or Sound Cards the student is drilled with skills he/she has already learned. This is a quick step. Phonogram Drill Cards are usually separated by color. For example the vowels might be green, the consonants might be white, the suffixes might be blue, etc. Before each new lesson, students are required to review these phonogram cards. Reviewing them over and over again, week after week, month after month, helps the kids remember them over time.

 Step 2: Introduce a New Skill

Every new phonogram, sound, syllable type, or spelling pattern will need explicit instruction and multisensory teaching methods to help the concepts “stick.”

This means the students will see it (visual), hear it (auditory), and move with it (kinesthetic).

Students are also asked to trace, skywrite, use arm tapping, write on their palms and paper, build words with letter tiles, write on textured material, and use other multisensory activities to help learn the new concept.  

 Step 3: Blending Drill

The Blending Drill in the Orton-Gillingham lesson is when the student practices reading nonsense words. Nonsense words force the students to use decoding and not memorization skills. 

The phonogram cards are separated into three piles on a table top. The vowels are put in the middle of the pile. The student points to each phonogram card from left to right and blends the sounds into a nonsense word. The teacher keeps flipping the cards from the different columns to make different combinations. 

Step 4: Red Words 

Red Words or Sight Words are those words that cannot be sounded out phonetically and do not follow any particular phonemic rule.  

These words must be memorized. In an Orton-Gillingham lesson, the Red Words are also taught using multisensory techniques. These activities might include Arm Tapping, Finger Sliding, and Finger Tracing.

red words gif

Step 5: Reading Words, Sentences, and Text

In each Orton-Gillingham lesson, students are asked to begin reading words, then read sentences, and finally read a decodable text. 


Students are asked to underline, link, divide, and box letters and letter combinations, suffixes, and prefixes. Students will identify vowel sounds and letters and other concepts when reading and learning new words.


Students are asked to read sentences utilizing their newly learned concept and practice already learned concepts. They might read these silently to themselves and then again aloud with the teacher. Comprehension questions are also often used in this step. 


Finally, students are asked to read a story or text. The reading passages in Orton-Gillingham lessons are always controlled and only contain sounds and concepts that the student has already learned. 

Semantics and vocabulary development are a continual process throughout the entire reading of the passage. Students are also asked to visualize, use prior knowledge, use context clues, and other reading comprehension strategies.  

Step 6: Writing

Students are asked to write sounds, words, and sentences that are dictated by the teacher in each Orton-Gillingham lesson.  

It typically begins with the teacher dictating a word and the student will repeat the word. The student then uses either finger tapping, sound segmenting, or palm writing while saying the word aloud.   

The student will follow up by writing the words down on a sheet of paper and then asked to read the words back.

Watch a Sample Orton-Gillingham Lesson in Action!