CMDS Faculty to Train in Orton-Gillingham Approach

by Alissa Abercrombie

The Language Arts curriculum CMDS teaches – Core Knowledge Language Arts – emphasizes the connections between phonics, vocabulary, experience and comprehension. Since one of the most effective methods to convey these connections is the Orton-Gillingham approach, our school is investing in an exciting and rigorous professional development plan that will further equip our CMDS students and teachers.

CMDS Curriculum Director Alissa Abercrombie

All PK-3rd Grade teachers, along with more than 10 other CMDS faculty members, will take the Orton-Gillingham Level 1 Training course, beginning in just a few weeks.

This will set CMDS apart from other schools and provide an even stronger academic foundation for our students. The Orton-Gillingham approach is powerful – both in the success it has shown, and also in the way it boosts the confidence of students and their foundation and love of reading.

Did you know there are 26 letters in the alphabet, but 44 different phonemes? That means each letter in the alphabet can make more than one sound. Take “S” for example. It makes a “z” sound at the end of a word, such as plays. But in the word snake, it makes the “s” sound.

Then you have letter “C.” It also makes the “s” sound, as in cent. Or you can put “ce” together in a word like chance and you get the “s” sound again.

For most children, the code of phonics and breaking down words into bits comes naturally. For others, we must “break” the code and explicitly teach it.

The Orton-Gillingham method breaks the code. It teaches children how to read using a multi-sensory technique. Using sight, hearing, touch and movement, this approach enables students to connect an abstract concept (phonemes) with letters and words.

Here’s a classroom example of the Orton-Gillingham approach in action: A teacher introduces a letter with a visual card or picture representing the letter shape. Students then say the name and produce the sound the letter makes. Then they practice making the letter in shaving cream or sand or use their hand to “write” the letter in the air.

Orton-Gillingham puts a strong emphasis on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind reading. This method enables students to make connections between reading, spelling, writing and oral language. It is a step-by-step approach based on how the English language is learned.

Mastering skills before moving onto the next is key. This approach is not a program, but rather a flexible, repetitive, individualized technique used to meet the needs of all learners. It is sequential, moving from concrete to abstract and simple to complex.

Math, Technology and More on the Professional Development Front

In addition to the Orton-Gillingham professional development training, CMDS has other progressive plans this fall and spring:

  • Four teachers are attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Chicago to research a new math curriculum for 3rd-6th Grade for the 2018-19 school year.
  • Two 2nd grade teachers are attending the “Get Your Teach On” conference in New Orleans which focuses on reading, writing and math workshops.
  • Two JK teachers are attending the Tennessee Conference for Pre-Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten in Nashville to learn innovative ideas for our youngest students when it comes to pre-literacy and math concepts.
  • Our technology director, Kim Moon, is going to the Google Tech Summit in Las Vegas to discover more ways to use the G Suite for Education apps and bring best practices in educational technology back to CMDS.

We encourage CMDS students to be life-long learners. As teachers and leaders at CMDS, we must model this mantra and continue to bring fresh, current and inspiring ideas and methods to our school, students and families.

Alissa Abercrombie is the Director of Curriculum at Christ Methodist Day School.

Christ Methodist Day School opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. Come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.


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