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
Here I am teaching my student Tamar with Arm Tapping. First, she stands up and holds the Orton-Gillingham Red Word in her non writing hand. With her writing hand she taps once for each letter down her arm. Then she will read the word again while sliding her hand from her shoulder to her wrist. She will do this 3 times.
2. Finger Sliding
Next, Tamar will hold the Orton-Gillingham Red Word with her non writing hand. With her writing hand, she will slide her pointer finger under the word while she reads it at the same time. She will do this 3 times.
3. Finger Tracing
After that, Tamar will lay the Orton-Gillingham Red Word on a flat surface and will trace the letters while she spells the word at the same time. Then she will slide her finger under the word while she reads the word. She will do this 3 times.
Then, Tamar will grab a red marker and a whiteboard. She will write the Orton-Gillingham Red Word (saying the letters aloud as she writes them) and will underline the word as she reads it. She will do this 3 times. I then follow up by asking her to give me 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:
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 email@example.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com