Adventures in Orton-Gillingham, Part 1

One of the things I did for myself this summer was to enroll in an Orton-Gillingham Comprehensive training. I’d been trained at a previous school in Lindamood Bell and found that systematic phonics instruction really helped my students, particularly those whose first or primary language was not English.

While the intensity of this training can’t be minimized, it was something life-changing. I feel so strongly that this approach to phonics will push my struggling readers to greater success.

Why shouldn’t it? Orton-Gillingham incorporates all three learning modalities – visual, auditory, and kineshetic. And how is most direct instruction delivered? If you said auditorially, you would be correct.  Just by re-thinking how much of a lesson is delivered in each modality and adjusting has got to help.

My first goal for the new school year has been to convince my administrators and coaches of implementing OG with my safety net readers in place of the district-preferred LLI (Fountas Pinnell). Thankfully Orton Gillingham has a built-in data collection process so that the request for collecting data as proof of the program’s effectiveness with my students will be natural.

Yesterday, our second day of school, I taught the students the routine for learning red words, or high frequency, irregularly decoded words. Today I’ll target my safety net readers and administer the OG Level 1 test as a baseline.

We are on our way toward what I know will be effective instruction for kids who really, really need to make sense of the print in front of them.

Begin…. at the beginning

It rained last Thursday. Which isn’t really news-worthy unless you are a teacher with just a few weeks left of summer break.

A rainy day is usually the impetus for me to start readying my classroom for the first day of school.  This year I am a bit more behind the eight ball than usual as I physically moved spaces. So lots of my stuff is not where I might have put it last spring.

Here’s what I walked in to:

_DSC0001Which, of course, isn’t bad. Just not how I envisioned our classroom workspace.

Even in the new classroom, I will have a ceiling mounted projector, and therefore, the need to have the projector, Mobi teacher unit and document camera connected to wall drops just to the left out of the frame. Having several classroom work areas – a rug for large group gathering, desks for individual, and for technology viewing, places where smaller groups can work … all are considerations.  As I don’t sit at my desk during the school day, that item can be pushed out of the way. We have a somewhat large classroom library and many math manipulative materials that need to be accessed regularly.  It’s a lot to consider when setting up space that feels uncluttered and open.

So with all of that in mind, I’ve sketched out the plan for our classroom space.

2013-08-11 18-31-16

What She Said….

I recently read this post from Germantown Avenue Parents’ blog. Those behavior management tools – like the mentioned stoplight? Do they really help kids get behaviors on track?

In my school, we are required to hang a pocket chart. Each child has an assigned number and flips cards through a series of colors – green to yellow to blue to purple to indicate the kind of day they are having.

Who are we kidding with the numbered pockets?  It takes kids about an hour to know who is who.

While I agree with giving students a visual reminder of their behavior accountability, I dislike having behaviors displayed publicly. Besides taking up valuable bulletin board space, it seems self-defeating.  And disrespectful.  Would you want YOUR bad day posted for all to see? Me either.

What’s a solution to this dilemma? I have a small, portable pocket chart that served the same purpose as the bulletin board display, but in a less public way. For my more challenging students, I maintain a periodic behavior chart which gets reviewed daily (or hourly sometimes). And for the status of the class – we can still hang out our class sign indicating our classroom community is having a ‘great day’, ‘not-so-great day’, or ‘wish we could do-over’ day.

We can still help students get behaviors back on track. We just don’t need to do it publicly.