In August, all lower division faculty participated in a workshop focused on the Orton-Gillingham method: an approach to teaching literacy based on a comprehensive body of research that has revealed how we learn to read. The workshop, created by the Institute for Multi-sensory Education (IMSE), was directed by Amy Gulley, a dyslexia specialist.

Its main goal was to demonstrate the power of structured literacy, an umbrella term that refers to the most effective, powerful methods for helping all students develop literacy skills and become better readers. For years, educators mainly applied plans like Orton-Gillingham to students who struggled to read. However, research shows that these methods are effective for readers of all skill levels and abilities, and that they can be incorporated into every classroom.

“Structured literacy programs—which include Orton-Gillingham methodology—provide a multisensory and building block approach to reading,” explains Kate Bitter, dean of the lower division. “By providing this training to our lower division faculty, we are helping to ensure that we meet the needs of each student by individualizing their instruction based on the science of reading.”

Orton-Gillingham is a particularly fitting approach to literacy education at Stevenson because it allows students to work at their own speed and to receive guidance from teachers only as needed. Each new skill they learn provides the foundation for learning the next one. Thus, many students achieve mastery without any significant intervention from their teacher, and the experience is empowering for them.

Orton-Gillingham also emphasizes multisensory learning. Teachers are encouraged to combine sight, hearing, touch, and movement into everyday instruction. Students learn by seeing a word, saying it out loud, sounding it out, and writing it down. This approach converts reading–traditionally a silent and still activity–into something that is active and engaging.

Kate is excited about what she and her colleagues learned in the workshop. “The training went exceptionally well. Faculty now feel empowered by an in-depth understanding of these important and powerful methodologies.”

This workshop was sponsored by the family of a lower division student, continuing a long tradition of donors supporting professional development at Stevenson, and it would not have been possible without their support.