The Kildonan Orton-Gillingham Difference

Have you ever tried to ski a black diamond without any instruction? Have you ever tried to make a soup without a good broth underneath? Faking your way through the kitchen and hoping it will be edible…

Kildonan’s Orton-Gillingham approach looks to bridge the gap between compensating and building the underlying skills to succeed consistently.

It’s the difference between slamming down a mountain or learning to carve and turn with skill and precision. And while it might sound bold to ski down a mountain on your own without ever having learned a thing, in the realm of academics the more courageous move is to make the commitment to build underlying skills.

Marvelwood has an outstanding program for building organizational skills and executive functioning, and now with the addition of the Kildonan Orton-Gillingham Intensive, we have the means to significantly build underlying reading and writing fundamentals.

The Kildonan O-G intensive is all about digging deep and addressing the vulnerabilities which surround dyslexia. The breadth and depth of the Orton-Gillingham approach is such that it is effective for a wide variety of learners. The work is as varied as each unique student as the approach is highly individualized, but here is some of the language training you might see :

Phonemic Awareness: When we see a student working on an advanced phonemic awareness task (Ex. say sphinx without the /f/ (sinks) or say gland but instead of /l/ say /r/ (grand)) they are working to build the sequencing which supports orthographic mapping and a wider sight word vocabulary, yielding greater reading fluency and comprehension. They are working on the underlying sound level which supports skilled reading.

Advanced Phonics: When a student is courageous enough to take the time to learn how to dissect the phonetics of words like propitious and infectious, the rewards are great. The next time an unknown word comes along, they will have a few more strategies to employ. They learn the building blocks of 6 syllable types, patterns of syllabication, and advanced phonics including Latin and Greek word parts. Cumulatively, the work of learning the structure of our language builds a solid foundation for highly skilled critical reading and writing

Written expression: When we teach writing explicitly–sentence and paragraph structure, we build reading comprehension, too. The Kildonan Orton-Gillingham difference is going back to sentence structure even while you work on essays to make your building blocks more stable, varied, and colorful. When a student is taught explicitly how to craft better sentences, they are all the more able to dissect sentences so they can understand that novel from English class or solve that math word problem.

Vocabulary: When an Orton-Gillingham practitioner works explicitly with a student to expand their idea of word meaning beyond a concrete block, sometimes using playful exercises such as those suggested by Isabel Beck in her book, Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction, they free up the student to understand nuanced differences in word meaning and multiple meanings.

Here is how we might expand understanding of the word impending: We would teach the Latin root pend which means to hang for decoding and encoding. If our student misused impending as a verb, we might create a playful exercise in which the task is to match the adjective impending with an array of noun images, such as impending departure, impending doom, impending collision, and rank the results in terms of personal preference. Such an activity yields rich discussion and a deeper understanding of word meaning.

Working on the structure of our language in this intensive manner is a commitment. It takes courage to take a few steps back in order to move forward with greater confidence. The goal is always to elevate reading and writing skills so they are commensurate with the innate intelligence our students display so readily in their understanding, speech, and listening comprehension. We know our dyslexic students are more than bright, and we work to unlock their full potential–that is the Kildonan Orton-Gillingham difference!