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Orton-Gillingham red words are those words that cannot be sounded out phonetically and do not follow any particular phonemic rule. They are red because the students need to stop (like a stop sign) and think about them. They are also called “unfair” words because they just need to be memorized.

For students to read fluently, they need to be able to recognize and read sight words quickly since these words make up about 50% of the words they will encounter when reading a story. Since so many students struggle with actually being able to memorize these sight words, using a multi-sensory approach will help them tremendously.

Here is the sequence of how I teach the Orton-Gillingham Red Words – and you can also watch me teaching it on a video at the bottom of this post.

1. Arm Tapping

First, have your student stand up and hold the Orton-Gillingham Red Word in their non writing hand.

Next, with their writing hand, your student will tap once for each letter down his or her arm.

Finally, your student will read the word again while sliding his or her hand from the shoulder to the wrist.  Have them do this 3 times.

2. Finger Sliding

Next, your student will hold the Orton-Gillingham Red Word with their non writing hand. With their writing hand, they will slide their pointer finger under the word while they read it at the same time. They will do this 3 times.


3. Finger Tracing

After that, your student will lay the Orton-Gillingham Red Word on a flat surface and will trace the letters while he or she spells the word at the same time. Then they will slide their finger under the word while they read the word.  They will do this 3 times.

4. Writing

Your student will use a red marker and a whiteboard. 

You will have your student write the Orton-Gillingham Red Words (saying the letters aloud as they write them) and will underline the word as they read it.  Have your student do this 3 times. 

You can follow up by asking your student to give you the word in a sentence.

Sound Confusing? Well it’s not. It is really easy to teach and really effective. Try it a couple times and let me know how it turned out.


Here is a video of me teaching
the Orton-Gillingham Red Words:

Thank you for reading my post today.  You might also enjoy reading my previous post on this topic:

My Favorite Sight Word Activities


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


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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