Living Our Mission in the Middle School
By Joanne Nimmo, Head of Middle & Upper School Tutoring and Jenny Talentino, 6th Grade ELA Teacher
Carroll educators are constantly assessing and considering new approaches and strategies to ensure we fulfill our mission to give each student what they need to succeed academically. This rings true even at the core of Carroll’s academic program—Orton-Gillingham tutoring.
In our Middle School this year, we added Advanced Orton-Gillingham (AOG) into our focus area offerings. Focus area classes are designed to give students additional skills support in an area where they are struggling. For many students, this is an Orton-Gillingham (OG) tutorial, but there are also focus areas geared towards writing, reading, comprehension, and math.
Until this year, we offered a fluency focus class that concentrated on rate, accuracy, and expression skills. Students who had solidified some of their skills at the early levels of OG but who needed to build fluency were placed in this focus area class. The English Language Arts (ELA) and Tutoring teams realized that, for some students, there was a gap in their understanding of higher level OG, even though they felt comfortable reading, and were reading at a relatively good rate.
AOG has been created to use the structured, multisensory and prescriptive approach to teach a more advanced OG for students ready to move from a phonemic approach (sound symbols) to a morphological approach (word parts). The morphological approach ties to what students are learning in their ELA classes and to how we teach structured word analysis: vocabulary, prefixes, suffixes, recombining forms, etc.
We also put a great deal of thought into how we prepare students for more challenging vocabulary and text as they progress through school. Down the road, they will need the skills to decode content-specific and sophisticated vocabulary they’ll encounter in higher level education courses. Through AOG, students learn Latin roots and work with prefixes and suffixes to change the meaning of words—which helps them to uncover those word meanings when encountered in complex text.
“In the AOG class, students are learning the underlying structure of language, which is important for comprehension whether you’re in sixth, seventh or throughout life. They are acquiring strategies for when they encounter unknown words, so they’ll have a whole arsenal of ways to understand that word.”
Stephanie Crement, ELA-Humanities Co-Department Head and Advanced OG Teacher
Though AOG goes back to the core of OG, it is not a rigidly structured course. As with all of our classes, and most notably in tutorials and focus areas, the OG practitioner assesses the students daily and adjusts lessons as they progress and master skills. That means the AOG class may start to incorporate more writing or comprehension to meet the needs of the students as the year unfolds. The OG piece is always there—but how much of it is emphasized is determined by what the students need.
“I’m definitely seeing progress in skills development with my Advanced OG students, without question. The other positive outcome of this new class is deeper collaboration among AOG teachers and tutors, who share their expertise and ideas for developing lessons; and deeper collaboration with other content-area teachers.”
Jenny Talentino, 6th Grade ELA Teacher and AOG Tutor
This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection 22-23: Living our mission every day as an inclusive community of learners
- Carroll Connection 2022-23