Orton-Spalding Method for All Learners
English Reading, Spelling & Writing Language Arts
Dr. Samuel Orton, a famous neurologist, isolated the 70 most used phonograms, the “Phonics Codes”, of the English language. A “phonogram” is either one letter or a set combination of letters which represent one or more single ‘voiced’ sounds in a given word. The phonograms are the 26 alphabet letters and 46 multi-letter teams consisting of 2-4 letters. Each phonogram has 1-6 single sounds.
The English alphabet is a sound/symbol system. It contains 26 letters that singly and in combination represent the 45 sounds heard in English speech. The 70 Orton Phonograms represent the common spelling patterns of the 45 sounds. With these phonograms and the 29 simple Spalding spelling rules, 93-97% of the English language is phonetically accurate.
How Do Voiced Sounds Work?
All letters and letter-combinations say a single “voiced” sound. Reading is saying single “voiced” sounds in rapid succession. When the phonograms are taught there is simply no need to teach the single “voiced” sounds of hundreds of blends (br=/b/+/r/) and endless word families (at, bat, cat). These spelling patterns are quickly and easily learned with the phonograms and spelling words.
The phonograms are taught explicitly. Explicit phonics moves from the smallest part to the whole. Students first learn the phonograms (letters and combinations of letters) and their sounds. They then build and recombine them into syllables and words.
All of the sounds of each phonogram are learned at once and filed in the computer brain in one folder for easy recall. All of the sounds of the phonograms must be known from the beginning for reading and writing of common words (“all” says the 3rd sound of the letter “a”; “by” says the 2nd vowel sound of the letter “y”; “do” says the 4th sound of the letter “o”).
All letters and letter-combinations say a single “voiced” sound. Reading is saying single “voiced” sounds in rapid succession. @yesphonics Click to tweet
Why We Don’t Teach the Alpahbet Letter “Names” First
One of my writers, Griffin Johnson, recently penned a blog on why teachers and parents shouldn’t teach the alphabet letter “names” first–essentially that means to not teach, “A, B, C, D” etc.. You can read why it’s so critical to teach the phonogram sounds first in our previous blog Teaching the Alphabet First: Debunking a Myth. Teaching the names of the letters first is confusing and non-productive. We don’t talk, read or spell by saying and thinking names of letters. A most important skill is correct pronunciation in clear, distinct speech. The phonograms are a direct aid to this.
Four Revolutionary Educators
I think it’s important to talk about some of the most brilliant educators of our time who cemented explicit phonics as a viable and effective way to teach children how to read, write and spell effectively. We use combine their methods and add our signature Mnemonic Phonic Technique in our Express Programs.
Leonard P. Ayres was a successful teacher, school administrator, statistician, researcher and director of the Department of Education. Dr. Ayres ferreted out the thousand words in most common use in the everyday world and has by numerous tests arranged these in the order of increasing difficulty, marking off the points at which each successive grade could use the spelling list. Teaching spelling with the words sequenced by use frequency, the way the language works, is important for a complete education.
Romalda Spalding was a teacher and a student of Dr. Orton. She discovered that her learning disabled students, using Orton’s methods, were learning to read better than her other students. Using Orton’s methods and phonograms, an Extended Ayer’s Spelling Word List, 29 simple spelling rules and word markings, she developed the highly successful multi-sensory, phonetic language arts method known as the “Spalding Method”, set forth in the teachers textbook “The Writing Road to Reading” which is designed for all students. The multi-sensory method is taught by seeing, hearing, and saying the phonograms and spelling words while writing them from dictation.
A Big Thank You!
And here, I have to give a big shout out to my former primary school teacher, Mrs. Zier–without her, I doubt I would have the skills necessary to read effectively, nor would I have the love of reading that I have today.
Jean Zier, a long time Spalding Method teacher and curriculum director in an award winning Montana public school, developed, integrated and school tested the concept of illustrations with captions that depict the sound sequence of the phonogram. For fast, accurate and fluent reading it is vital to know the phonogram sounds in the order of use frequency. The “key words” of the caption, an easy-to-learn mnemonic device, gives the sound sequence of the phonogram which is easily and quickly learned never to be forgotten.
What Can Students Expect from Explicit Phonics and Ayres Spelling List?
In the first 5 weeks the students learn 56 phonograms and 150 of the most commonly used words in the order of use frequency the way the language works. Potential reading abilities now include hundreds of words which are made up of the same spelling patterns. All students not neurologically impaired will start reading literature of their age-interest which educates and develops a love of reading.
Today, more than ever, kids need an effective way to learn how to read. As I point out in one of my videos, three quarters of children who interact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and there are roughly anywhere from 30-45 million illiterate adults in the United States. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to our kids in the future–let’s teach them phonics.
For my new readers, you can subscribe to the YesPhonics blog and my YouTube channel for more homeschool and classroom advice—and try our Mnemonic Phonic Technique for free to learn the 72 sounds of English, it’s especially practical for ESL students trying to learn English.
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