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Our school-wide, Orton-Gillingham based instructional approach combines multisensory activities with structured, personalized lessons to meet students where they are and help them connect with the concepts they may struggle to grasp.
Everything we do at Lawrence is rooted in Orton-Gillingham based, multisensory instruction. Our highly-structured approach uses sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help students understand and make the connection between what numbers or letters/sounds represent. And even beyond language and math, we require that lessons in all subjects, K–6 & 7–12, are presented in at least two modalities: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile, or even smell and taste-related activities.
Our commitment to this style of teaching is rooted in decades of research on how students with learning differences best retain information. Through engaging multisensory activities, Lawrence students collect information, make connections between new information and things they already know, learn to work through problems, and use nonverbal problem-solving skills.
Multisensory instruction was originally designed in 1935 by leading psychologists and researchers Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. They pioneered a program to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching connections between letters and sounds, along with systematic, layered phonics, and multisensory activities. This structured approach helped students break reading and spelling down into small steps and then build on their knowledge step by step. Students were required to master one skill before moving on to the next. Their philosophy was to strongly emphasize the how and why behind our language in order to help students identify consistent rules and patterns so they could eventually decode words independently.
As schools around the globe found great success with the multisensory techniques introduced by Orton and Gillingham, many well-known language curriculums were developed based on their philosophy. Their techniques have even proven very effective in the instruction of mathematics and other subjects. Today, multisensory instruction is considered the gold standard for students with learning differences.
Multisensory activities can be found in literally every classroom at Lawrence School. Some examples of multisensory teaching techniques at the Lower School, include:
Examples of multisensory teaching techniques at Upper Campus still require the use of different modalities, but look quite different:
Our signature language arts curriculum CodeBreakers, was developed more than 25 years ago by Lawrence School faculty. We use this program school-wide to improve literacy—students in our Lower School spend the entire morning learning to read, write, and spell, while Middle and High Schoolers benefit from CodeBreakers during intervention period if necessary. CodeBreakers uses multisensory techniques to teach the rules of the English language and phonics in a step-by-step, explicit process. Each concept systematically builds upon another. Phonetic segmentation is stressed throughout each lesson giving students exposure to a “part to whole” strategy. Using the curriculum, teachers are able to take students through all the speech sounds and syllable types one by one. Our goal is to get students away from the guessing game.
In education, one size clearly does not fit all.
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