Training Teachers to Level the Literacy Gap

Brain Images
By Courtney Hamner

OpenDoors partnered with Camp Spring Creek, and ACS to train 10 more teachers at the elementary level in the Orton-Gillingham approach through a 35-hour training session held over two weekends in March.  These dedicated teachers went above and beyond to show their commitment to the students in our community when they gave up two weekends in a row, which would have normally been spent relaxing with family and friends, to help students in their classrooms who struggle with the written language.  This brings the total number of teachers trained in the Orton-Gillingham method through this on-going partnership to 18!  These teachers will reach approximately 360 students per year as they go through the course of their careers.

The Orton-Gillingham approach was developed in the 1930s by a neurologist, Samuel Orton, and educator, Anna Gillingham.  Initially, it was developed using conventional wisdom of the time on the workings of the brain and has since been confirmed using MRI images.  These pictures show how children access language in different areas of their brain.

The above scans were taken while both a dyslexic and non-dyslexic person listened to sentences being read aloud and deciphered their meanings. The areas of greatest activity are shown in orange and yellow.  (University of Southern California).

Orton-Gillingham was developed to help students who are dyslexic and has since been shown to be a great tool for non-dyslexic students as well.  Students who do not have much exposure to literature prior to entering Kindergarten may lack the pre-literacy skills of their peers who were read to from birth to 5 years.  Orton-Gillingham offers direct and explicit instruction, systematically building an association between sounds and symbols and helps to close that gap between students who gained pre-literacy skills prior to entering Kindergarten and those who did not.

These trainings give our elementary school teachers an additional tool to use when faced with students who struggle to learn to read, write and spell.  The training joins together seamlessly with WILSON Fundations®, one of the multi-sensory, structured curricula currently being used at the elementary level in Asheville City Schools.  Next up for the teachers is 5 observations in a classroom setting to ensure that the teachers understand and can use what was presented at the training in their classrooms, followed by an additional 35-hour training in September, if funding can be secured, to further develop their ability to use the Orton-Gillingham approach with those students who are not reading on grade-level.

Please visit OpenDoors to contribute to this and other fundamental program work.