Orton-Gillingham and Benchmark: Complementary Decoding Strategies
The Orton-Gillingham and Benchmark methods both use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues to teach children to decode and spell. Both methods provide sound-symbol cues to help a student recognize a word when several choices may be possible semantically or syntactically. Yet one method is synthetic and the other analytic. Orton-Gillingham is a synthetic approach in that letters and sounds are first taught in isolation before being blended into words and sentences. Benchmark, however, is a more analytic approach in that the student uses organized lists of key words to decode other words with similar sounds. A common sound, for example ick is imbedded in the key word kick. The key word, kick, then provides the stimulus for decoding other words based on the same sound.
At Craig the Orton and Benchmark methods complement each other. Phonics rules taught directly by teachers trained in Orton-Gillingham methods are reinforced in Benchmark lessons. Conversely, Benchmark key words are carefully chosen to help reinforce phonics rules such as hard and soft sounds. The sound-symbol relationships of Orton approaches may appeal more directly to the auditory learner whereas the color and shape-coded keywords of the Benchmark method are often more effective for visual learners. Taken together, the two approaches offer a comprehensive system of instruction in decoding and encoding (spelling) for Craig students.