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Crossing a Finish Line

Completing any big task is exciting. The thrill of putting one’s entire effort into crossing a finish line and then stepping across it feels priceless. Adrenalin surges and euphoria reigns at that moment. Graduating out of tutoring by checking off the final item in six levels of the Orton Gillingham approach phonemes and concepts to be presented feels like the completion of a marathon for both the student and the tutor. Parents join in celebrating, and everyone savors the moment.

Two to three years is the average amount of time for taking a dyslexic student from lesson one to the final lesson, four hundred and fifteen items later. A common mantra among O-G tutors came from Miss Anna Gillingham, “Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you must.” This guiding principle of teaching explains why some students finish quickly, and some take more time to master and automatically use the 415 items taught throughout tutoring lessons.

The Orton-Gillingham approach to tutoring teaches students how to learn.

In addition to learning phonograms, syllable types, Latin and Greek connectives, O-G tutoring students also learn how to learn. A set of ten principles for teaching guide the tutor as he or she presents each lesson. Big ideas for teaching such as, “Teach the student as he or she is.” point the tutor to individualize the lesson presentations she is writing for each student instead of relying on pre-written, generalized lessons from a program. Another of the guiding principles leads the tutor to establish a growth mindset at the tutoring table from lesson one. That means mistakes are a normal part of learning, not a failure to be ashamed of. Every lesson trains students to become metacognitive learners who self-regulate and select tools or strategies to solve problems.

In the life of the dyslexic student, weaving the guiding principles for teaching into every lesson results in strong, independent learners who understand how they best acquire knowledge. The innate creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that characterizes most dyslexic students are allowed to take their rightful place as a key components of strategies for tackling academic tasks that will face the student in the years ahead. In a very real way, learning letter sounds and syllable division are the map, but learning how to learn is the compass.

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