6 Best Orton Gillingham Approach Based Manipulatives

Last Updated on October 7, 2023 by Editorial Team

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Multisensory learning offers a source of respite to people who struggle with learning difficulties. This approach employs board games, manipulatives, worksheets, and activities that prove easier to wield than struggling to read from a book. One of the widely recognized ways of imparting reading skills that employ multisensory learning is the Orton Gillingham approach. This approach employed sight, vision, and kinesthetics to help struggling readers establish connections between letters and sounds, and develop the ability to read.

To apply OG methods, multisensory manipulatives are to be employed. Let’s understand the utility of these manipulatives before going through the list.

OG manipulatives: Demystifying their role in building literacy skills

Reading is a well-orchestrated process that needs to be built step-by-step. That is why we are taught alphabets first and then moved to words. Orton Gillingham’s approach ensures that children suitably comprehend all fundamentals of reading and build exceptional comprehension skills. Also, it takes care of the in-borne learning paces of differently-abled students and moves to the higher level only when the basics are mastered. OG manipulatives are designed to keep all learning processes in mind. These manipulatives serve objectives such as:

  • Mastering sound of letters
  • Understanding onset and rimes, and know about word families
  • Difference between decodable and codable words (red and green words)
  • Understand word morphology
  • Learning decoding (phonics) and encoding (spelling) of words
  • Eventually, reading and writing fluently

We have curated here the list of learning-oriented manipulatives used as classroom and homeschooling interventions based on the Orton Gillingham approach. Let’s take a look:

List of orton gillingham manipulatives for reading beginners

1. Coogam Magnetic Letters

Coogam Magnetic Letters

Orton Gillingham approach is a cumulative and prescriptive one. Teachers identify the proficiency level and accordingly modify the teaching methods. Coogam Magnetic letters offer the correct solution to start the word learning process if the words pose a problem to reading strugglers. By touching the magnetic letters and placing them on the board, children are familiarized with the shape of words. They can build their word-making skills by doing word sort activities with these magnetic letters.

The other uses of these magnetic letters are familiarization with spelling skills, sight word training, and word formation. This manipulative offers ease of teaching patterns in spellings. Once a demonstration is given, kids can try forming spellings on their own and build knowledge of newer words. In addition, the availability of lower and upper case letters teaches the difference between their shapes and regular practice helps shape retention in mind for longer.

2. Sight Words Flash Cards

Sight Words Flash Cards

After attaining mastery in alphabets and trying their various spellings, the kids need familiarizing with sight words. These words are learned by sight and no coding-decoding rule works on them. Hence, practicing is the sole way of internalizing sight words. Sight word flashcards support the learning objectives of kids who learn by doing rather than writing or reading. In Orton Gillingham approach, the sight words are represented as ‘red words’. Building up the proficiency level in these red words becomes pain-free with this manipulative.

One of the essential procedures recommended in Orton Gillingham approach is assessing the skills before moving on to a more complex concept. There are 5 rings provided in this manipulative set to differentiate best-learned words from those requiring more practice. Learners can find the extent of practice required and the number of sight words mastered and choose repetitions accordingly.

3. Swap a Sight Word Game

Swap a Sight Word Game

Another way to learn and check sight word reading fluency is offered by this swat a sight word game. Proper color-coding is done to offer level-appropriate challenge of recognizing sight words to little children. For example, Blue for preschoolers, Red for primary level, Green, orange, and purple for first, second and third grade respectively. This game employs auditory and tactile learning to help children build their repertoire of sight words and check proficiency levels too.

Swat a sight word game is based on Orton Gillingham approach and can be quite instrumental in building sentence-formation skills. Since the game is designed choosing all 220 Dolch words, learners are fully prepared to move to the next level of literacy skills. You can expect an increase in recognition ability, motivation to learn and engage students in learning with added concentration by including gamified activities like this.

4. Guided reading strips

Guided reading strips

Visual stress is one of the reasons for difficulty in reading, the fact explored by Tiffany and James in a study on the effect of colored overlays and their role in helping dyslexics. This reading support is helpful in alleviating the visual stress and helps beginners as well as strugglers to transition smoothly to fluent readers. The ultimate aim of using manipulatives is to build curiosity towards reading. This reading support strengthens the curiosity further and cashes it to encourage children to develop a habit of reading.

Orton Gillingham approach aims at making children confident readers and spellers. This manipulative helps in the ultimate stage of gaining literacy skills and supports kids’ enthusiasm to read bigger passages and build comprehension skills.

5. Alphabets set for letter formation

Education Toys for Kids Alphabet Cards Set, Helps With Proper Stroke Letter Formation, Supplemental Learning Tool for Kids, Educational, Engaging and Fun by Wikki Stix

Early language learners or preschoolers don’t have a well-defined grip on pencils. Those with learning difficulties may need supplementary support to build writing ease. This letter card manipulative is designed to offer a constructive way of forming letters. The wikki sticks made of hand-knitting yarn suit the soft grip and the arrows direct the kid to understand the stroke sequence.

It is an effective support to scaffold writing skills in little kids. Ample repetitions are possible to do with reusable sticks, allowing kids to train minds to remember the correct stroke. Also, both upper case and lower case letters are provided in cards for easy differentiation. Gradual and steady learning is the crux of the OG approach, and this manipulative offers exactly that to the writing beginners.

6. Junior Learning Spelligator

Junior Learning Spelligator, Multicolor, Model:JL100, 10.4 H x 3.1 L x 10.4 W

Spelling skills can find a leap when kids have mastered phonemic awareness. This manipulative offers a visual and tactile approach to mastering phonemes. The simple act of decoding words becomes playful when the plastic chips containing consonants, vowels, and digraphs are given to the child to form words on the alligator’s back. Use it as a challenge to throw to children and announce a winner who makes maximum number of words. The better engagement quotient possible to achieve with this gamified manipulative goes in sync with the objectives of applying the OG approach.

Incremental build-up of word formation, phoneme positioning, and making words need a prescriptive and personalized approach. This intervention tool offers direct learning and informs clearly the way and the reason behind word morphology.

How to conduct a session with Orton Gillingham approach?

A typical Orton Gillingham session is about an hour long. Since it is of a scaffolding nature, it builds literacy skills gradually, yet sustainably. It involves the following lesson pattern:

  • Review of the previous skill learned
  • New skill introduced, usually a sound or a letter
  • Picture cards employed for showing application of letter; kids asked to decode word
  • Inclusion of red words (sight words) using multisensory activities
  • Formation of spellings or sentences
  • Assessment may include simple activities like underlining suffixes/prefixes in words, making sentences using cards, or spell out words learned, etc.

The overall process actually builds the memory and boosts concept recall. Kids identify their proficiency level and engage deeper in strengthening skills as the activities offer them a collaborative environment to learn.


Orton Gillingham approach proved to be a breakthrough in inclusive education research. The use of manipulatives replacing the books opened the floodgate of opportunities to learn and acquire skills. The impactful multisensory approach helps work the way around learning difficulties and boost literacy skills among children with different learning abilities. However, the playful approach should not turn out to be too deviating from the learning process, that aspect needs review and analysis rather frequently.

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