Can you get Orton-Gillingham tutoring online?

March, 2020 update: I have created a new website including a growing collection of videos for tutors about how to set up reading tutoring online. Check it out here: http://deeprootslearn.com/videos-for-tutors/

I also have a Facebook group. Please join for more information about getting started as an online reading tutor. https://www.facebook.com/groups/194704258484350/

Getting trained in Orton-Gillingham has totally changed the way I look at students and reading. Explicit, diagnostic, teaching in phonics makes an enormous difference in how students learn. But when I became an online tutor, I had to figure out if I could still do Orton-Gillingham tutoring online. Now that I have figured it out, I won’t go back to in-person meetings for O-G!

When I first became an Orton-Gillingham tutor, I found it really difficult to quickly manage all the materials I need in a lesson. Working with students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities who were reading below grade level (and often exhausted from a frustrating day of school), I knew it was really important to use their time wisely. I also worked with some younger students who had difficulty sustaining attention for an intense one-hour Orton-Gillingham reading lesson. Then I became an online reading and writing tutor. I have developed my set of tools so I can do Orton Gillingham tutoring online. And the results have been fantastic!

The key thing that makes an Orton-Gillingham lesson work is that the teaching should be should be systematic and based on a student’s mastery of earlier skills. That means that when I first start working with a student with dyslexia or a specific learning disability in reading, I use informal assessments to figure out what they need. Then I use my lessons to systematically fill those skill gaps. So if an older reader still doesn’t automatically use the right short vowel sounds, we have to go back to the short vowel sounds. 

Sometimes those materials can look really young because they are designed for students who are learning to read in first grade. What I can do in the online setting is quickly reformat and redesign materials to make them more appealing to older readers. For example, I can insert images to go with our vowel sound practice in the reader’s notebook that are not the traditional cartoony phonics images. I can also engage students in choosing their own visuals with a quick Google image search so that they can build their notebook along with me.

Another reason that I love doing Orton-Gillingham tutoring online is that it gives me so much flexibility within the lesson. Sometimes during in-person lessons, I find that a student doesn’t understand a vocabulary word we’re discussing or has trouble with a particular sound. In an in-person lesson I usually have to make a note of that and remember to review it in our next meeting. During an online Orton Gillingham lesson I can open a new tab in my browser and do a quick search for pictures of the thing we’re discussing. I can quickly give the student a visual of an emu or the city of Dallas to help them form a mental image to go along with the new words they are reading and learning. This strategy of using pictures as well as text as a context for learning vocabulary has been shown by research to help students remember words better and for longer.

And maybe the best thing about Orton-Gillingham tutoring online is that the student and I need very few specialized materials. For the multi-sensory part of the lesson, it does help for a child to have some physical materials in front of them. They definitely need paper and a pencil and it also helps to have some kind of textured surface, which can be as simple as salt poured in a baking sheet or a rough towel on which to trace their letters. Other than that, I supply everything and put it right up on the screen. I can use ebooks that I borrow from the library or get from Kindle. I can create word lists in a Google doc and share them right on my screen. I can create activities like word building and word sorts using Google Slides. And we have all of the free online reading games available to students online to choose from for reinforcements. (I really like some from fun4thebrain.com.) With my youngest students I usually build in a game break in the middle of the lesson, something like sight words or typing to reinforce their skills but give them a break from the challenging new content. Some of my older students don’t take a break at all during the lesson, while others ask if we can save the last 5 minutes for something they want to share with me, either a piece of work from school or a funny YouTube video.

What I do my Orton-Gillingham tutoring online, I’m also able to see more students in a day. For in-person tutoring there is travel time between the students and also time to set up and break down all my materials. By doing Orton-Gillingham tutoring and that way I am able to maximize the number of students I can help!

If you’re interested in seeing what an online Orton-Gillingham lesson would be like for your child, please contact me today. I offer a free 30-minute consultation where I can assess the student and demonstrate some of the fun tools that we use.

Does Orton-Gillingham tutoring work online?

28 thoughts on “Can you get Orton-Gillingham tutoring online?”

    1. Hi Judy,

      I use Zoom for video conferencing. I like it because my students can be on computers or tablets and I can screen share and put all the lesson materials on the screen for them.

      Do you tutor online?

  1. Making the right choice of the Online Tutor however can be difficult. Considering that the websites offering these services are not the swanky big banner sites, it is difficult to gauge the prowess of the tutor at the first instance. It is advisable to go over the credentials and experience of the tutor. However before finally selecting a tutor, the student must ask for a Free Demo Session. Nearly all the tutors offer the introductory demo session so that they can interact with the student. This provides a good opportunity to the student to gauge the tutor first hand and if found suitable, he can interact with the tutor to finalize his schedule.

    1. Good point, Zoe. I always offer a free demo lesson. It gives me and the student a chance to see if online tutoring is a good fit.

  2. Hi Beth,

    Would you be willing to make a Youtube tutorial or post a sample 5 minute lesson on your website of how’d you set up your session? I’m about to go out on maternity leave and will also be focusing on providing private tutoring. However, I’ve usually tutored in the home. Would love to see your spin on OG and how you organize yourself for an online session.

    Thanks!
    Mary

    1. Hi Mary, I’m actually looking at ways to share that information and starting to put together some resources for tutors. I made the switch to online tutoring when my son was a baby and it was the best thing! Sometimes, when my 2nd baby was tiny and sleepy, I could even have her lying in the bassinet near me while I met with a student (and someone would take her when she woke up). It was great! I’ll let you know when I have some resources available. Congratulations!

      Beth

      1. How did you make your video screen stay with you in zoom? When I’ve done it before, the video goes away when I enter google docs. I don’t know if that’s user error or if it is because i’m on an iPad.

      2. Thanks! Since our Dyslexia Center in Cleveland shut down when schools did, we have been trying to figure out if OG would work online! We would hate for our students to fall behind during this social distancing, because who knows how long it will last. I’m looking forward to watching your video.

        Mary

  3. Thank you so much for sharing! I am currently looking into starting OG online as well. I would also be very interested in seeing a youtube video on how you do a lesson and incorporate and organize.

    THANKS!

  4. Beth, I have been an OG tutor for 19 years tutoring privately in the local schools and libraries in my area. At age 69, I am very interested in learning how you have made online tutoring workable, especially at this unprecedented time.

    Thank you for your resource lists.

    sandy@readingalternatives.com

    1. Hi Sandra, I’m in the process of developing a new website, including a video series that should answer some of your questions. Please check out the videos here.On that page, you can also join my email list for future updates. http://deeprootslearn.com/videos-for-tutors/

      I have also started a Facebook group for teachers tutoring reading (specifically OG) online. Please join us if you’re looking for more help! https://www.facebook.com/groups/194704258484350/

    1. Hi Sydney,

      I trained in person through a Children’s Dyslexia Center in my city. They are available in lots of US cities. I can’t specifically recommend any other programs. Sorry about that.

      Beth

      1. That’s ok, I am looking at a few, might as well take the opportunity now while I am at home! I just LOVE your website!

  5. Thank you, Beth. With Covid-19 we have been scrambling to find and utilize literacy programs to use on line. It seems such a waste to have so many OG resources at school and not be using them at this time. I truly appreciate your expertise in showing that indeed it is possible to use these familiar and very beneficial materials through an on line platform.
    Thank you for your generosity in sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading, Alicia! I have a lot more content at deeprootslearn.com, if you’re looking for more ideas!

  6. Does anyone know a good way to get started in online tutoring? I recently became certified for my job (Special ed humanities teacher at a high school), but also looking to tutor outside of the classroom. Thank you!

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