After teaching elementary school for seven years, I heard about a reading program called Reading Horizons from a friend. I was able to attend a one-day training that was close to my house to see what the program was all about. Personally, I liked my district's phonemic awareness program, so I came into the training skeptical and resistant. Once I saw Reading Horizons, I was astounded. For me, it was the dictation process and marking system that blew me away.
The dictation process employs an Orton-Gillingham technique that engages multiple modalities of learning styles in a short amount of time, making the information at hand novel to the brain. The teacher says or spells a word twice while giving hand motions, and the student repeats the word or spelling of the word also giving hand motions. Then the student writes the word. Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities are being used all at once for many types of learning styles. While the student is writing, the teacher will give the student all of the meanings of the word plus a context sentence. It is powerful, especially for developing vocabulary.
Before I became a certified trainer, I picked up a Title I Reading position at a charter school. During that time, my emphasis was third grade. I would pull communication arts and math reading groups. I walked in one Monday morning and asked the teacher what she wanted me to do that day. She had me pull a student who had missed his spelling words on Friday. I took the student into the hallway and gave him his spelling words just as I had when I was a classroom teacher, i.e., say the word twice and give a context sentence.
I watched over the student's shoulder as he completed his 15 spelling words. Of that 15, he was going to miss seven of them. I stopped him when he was done and asked him if he would mind going back over the words, repeating them twice after I said the words twice. He said sure—he was just glad to be out of class! The first word was recess. I said, "Recess, recess." He said, "Resuss, resuss." Consequently, that is how he had spelled it. I looked at him and said, "No, it is actually reCESS." He said, "Recess? Well...when'd they change that?"
We went over all of his words in that manner even without employing the arm movements. Still, the results were amazing. He went from missing almost seven words to missing only three of his list of 15 spelling words.
The power of a student having the ability to match his or her sounds to those of the teacher is paramount for deep learning and understanding to take place in the brain. Using this Orton-Gillingham technique can boost not only spelling scores in a classroom, but the self-esteem of students as they own words with their own voice.