Orton Gillingham Vs Montessori Method: ELI5 The Difference

Imagine a lively education arena where different methods and approaches battle it out for the title of the ultimate student champion. In this thrilling showdown, we have two formidable contenders entering the ring: the Orton Gillingham Method and the Montessori Method. These contrasting approaches bring their own unique strategies and philosophies to address the diverse needs of students.

 It’s a clash of pedagogical titans, each aiming to deliver a knockout educational experience. So, grab your popcorn and get ready to witness a captivating comparative analysis that explores the strengths, weaknesses, and secret techniques of these two powerhouse methods. Let the duel begin, where the Orton Gillingham Method and the Montessori Method compete for the crown of student success!

Orton Gillingham and Montessori method: Addressing the needs of diverse learners

Orton Gillingham and Montessori are two distinct educational approaches that have been proven effective in helping learners develop important skills and knowledge. The Orton Gillingham Method and the Montessori Method are both renowned for their ability to address the diverse needs of students, albeit through different approaches.

Developed by Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham, the Orton Gillingham Method came into the limelight in the 20th century. The Orton Gillingham Method, originally developed to support individuals with dyslexia, is highly individualized and personalized. Many Orton Gillingham quotes suggest how it is a structured, multisensory approach to teaching literacy skills, particularly for students with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.

Teachers using this method assess each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles to tailor instruction accordingly. By understanding the specific needs of each learner, teachers can provide targeted interventions and strategies to address challenges and build upon strengths. The method’s multisensory techniques engage multiple senses, allowing students to make connections between language sounds, symbols, and meaning.

This approach benefits diverse learners, including those with different learning preferences or processing styles. Additionally, the structured and sequential nature of the Orton Gillingham Method ensures that students progress through concepts at their own pace, providing them with a solid foundation in literacy skills.

On the other hand, as per Maria Montessori’s quotes,  the Montessori Method focuses on creating a prepared environment that caters to the diverse needs of students. This approach is used in both early childhood and elementary education settings. The classroom is designed to accommodate different learning styles and abilities, offering a wide range of materials and activities.

Students have the freedom to choose materials and engage in activities that align with their interests and developmental levels. This child-centered approach allows students to work at their own pace, receiving individualized guidance from teachers. The Montessori Method also encourages multi-age groupings, enabling students to interact with peers of different abilities. This arrangement promotes collaboration, mentorship, and peer learning, allowing students to benefit from the diverse experiences and skills of their classmates.

In summary, the Orton Gillingham Method addresses the diverse needs of students through individualized instruction, multisensory techniques, and structured progression. Meanwhile, the Montessori Method meets the needs of diverse learners by providing a prepared environment, individualized progress, and multi-age groupings.

Both methods emphasize the importance of recognizing and accommodating the unique abilities, learning styles, and developmental levels of each student, promoting inclusive education and fostering optimal learning experiences. Additionally, both methods value hands-on learning and use concrete experiences to help students understand abstract concepts.

The goals and objectives of the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods: A comparative analysis

The Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods are both educational approaches that have unique goals and objectives. While the Orton Gillingham method primarily focuses on teaching individuals with dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities, the Montessori method aims to foster holistic development and independent learning in children. Let’s delve into a comparative analysis of their goals and objectives:

1. Orton Gillingham method:


The primary goal of the Orton Gillingham method is to provide effective instruction to individuals with specific learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia. It aims to help students develop strong reading, writing, spelling, and language skills.


a. Provide systematic and explicit instruction: The method emphasizes breaking down language skills into smaller, manageable parts and providing step-by-step instruction to ensure mastery.

b. Address individual needs: The Orton Gillingham approach recognizes that each learner has unique strengths and weaknesses, and it tailors instruction to meet individual needs.

c. Multi-sensory instruction: The method incorporates various senses, such as sight, sound, touch, and movement, to enhance learning and memory retention.

d. Structured and sequential learning: Instruction follows a structured and sequential order, moving from basic skills to more complex concepts, and building a strong foundation.

e. Continuous assessment: Regular assessment is conducted to monitor progress, identify areas of difficulty, and adapt instruction accordingly.

2. Montessori Method:


The Montessori method aims to nurture the overall development of children, fostering independence, self-motivation, and a love for learning. It seeks to cultivate well-rounded individuals who are capable of critical thinking, problem-solving, and social interaction.


a. Individualized education: Montessori education recognizes and respects the unique developmental needs and interests of each child. It provides individualized instruction, allowing children to progress at their own pace.

hands on learning

b. Hands-on learning: The method emphasizes the use of concrete materials and experiential learning, allowing children to explore and discover concepts through hands-on activities.

c. Self-directed learning: Montessori classrooms encourage children to take ownership of their learning, making choices and setting goals independently, while teachers serve as guides and facilitators.

d. Holistic development: The method focuses on developing various aspects of a child, including intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development.

e. Mixed-age classrooms: Montessori classrooms often have mixed-age groups, which promote peer learning, collaboration, and the development of leadership skills.

In conclusion, while the Orton Gillingham method aims to address specific learning disabilities and develop strong foundational language skills, the Montessori method focuses on holistic development and fostering independent, self-directed learners. Both approaches have their distinct goals and objectives, tailored to meet the specific needs and objectives of their respective educational contexts.

Differentiated instruction in Orton Gillingham and Montessori method: meeting the needs of all learners

Both the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods incorporate different elements of instruction to support the needs of all learners. 

Orton Gillingham:

  •   Phonemic awareness: The Orton Gillingham method uses a variety of multisensory activities to help students recognize and manipulate individual sounds in words, which is an essential skill for reading and writing. For example, students might use letter tiles to build words, then manipulate the tiles to change the sounds. Furthermore, there are a few OG-based reading programs that can prove to be beneficial for the kids. 
  •  Structured language instruction: Orton Gillingham breaks down the English language into its component parts, teaching students the rules and patterns that govern its structure.
  •  Multisensory instruction: Orton Gillingham’s instruction engages multiple senses to help students process and retain information. For example, students might trace letters in sand or draw letters in shaving cream to help reinforce their learning.


  • Emergent literacy: Montessori emphasizes the importance of developing a love of language and reading from an early age, through activities such as storytelling, singing, and poetry.
  • Individualized Lesson Plans: Montessori teachers observe and assess each learner’s progress and interests. Based on these observations, teachers provide individualized guidance, present new materials, and offer extensions to match learners’ needs and abilities. Teachers adapt their instruction to meet the unique learning styles and readiness of each learner.
  •  Sensorial exploration: Montessori encourages children to explore the world around them using their senses, which helps build their understanding of language and the written word. For example, children might use sandpaper letters to explore the shapes and sounds of different letters, or trace letters in salt or rice.

Orton Gillingham and Montessori use different methods to teach reading, writing, and spelling rules. Orton Gillingham focuses on structured, multisensory instruction to teach literacy skills, while Montessori emphasizes emergent literacy, self-directed learning, and sensorial exploration.

How the Orton Gillingham method supports literacy development: Benefits and challenges

The Orton Gillingham Method is a highly structured and explicit approach to teaching literacy skills, particularly for individuals with dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities. This method offers several benefits in supporting literacy development. Here are some key ways in which the Orton Gillingham Method benefits learners:

1. Systematic and Sequential Instruction:

The Orton Gillingham Method provides a systematic and sequential approach to teaching literacy skills. It breaks down language skills into smaller, manageable parts and presents them in a logical order. This structured approach ensures that learners develop a strong foundation in phonemic awareness, phonics, decoding, spelling, and reading comprehension skills.

mutisensory instructions

2. Multisensory Instruction:

The Orton Gillingham Method employs a multisensory approach to instruction, integrating visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile elements. Learners engage multiple senses simultaneously to enhance learning and memory retention. The use of multisensory techniques, such as tracing letters in sand or tapping out syllables, helps solidify the connection between sounds and symbols, improving reading and spelling skills.

3. Individualized Instruction:

The Orton Gillingham Method recognizes that learners with dyslexia or specific learning disabilities have unique strengths and weaknesses. It emphasizes individualized instruction tailored to meet the specific needs of each learner. By assessing learners’ strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, teachers can personalize instruction and address specific difficulties, ensuring that learners receive targeted support.

4. Explicit and Direct Instruction:

The Orton Gillingham Method provides explicit and direct instruction, leaving no room for guessing or assuming knowledge. Concepts are taught explicitly and thoroughly, ensuring that learners understand the underlying rules and patterns of language. This approach helps learners build a strong foundation and develop a deep understanding of language structure and usage.

5. Continuous Assessment and Progress Monitoring:

The Orton Gillingham Method employs continuous assessment and progress monitoring to track learners’ progress and adjust instruction accordingly. Regular assessment allows teachers to identify areas of difficulty, address gaps in knowledge, and modify instruction as needed. This ongoing feedback loop ensures that learners receive targeted and individualized support to overcome challenges and make steady progress.

6. Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem:

By providing structured and individualized instruction, the Orton Gillingham Method helps learners with dyslexia develop self-confidence and improve their self-esteem. As learners experience success through targeted instruction, their confidence in their literacy skills grows. They become more motivated to engage with reading and writing, leading to improved overall academic performance and a positive attitude toward learning.

7. Transferable Skills:

The skills taught in the Orton Gillingham Method, such as phonemic awareness, decoding, and spelling strategies, are transferable to various reading and writing contexts. Learners develop strategies and techniques that can be applied across different texts, genres, and subject areas. This empowers learners to become independent readers and writers, capable of tackling a wide range of literacy tasks.

While the Orton Gillingham Method is highly effective in supporting literacy development, it also presents some challenges. Here are a few challenges associated with implementing the 

  • Time-intensive: The Orton Gillingham Method requires significant time and effort for planning and implementation. High levels of customization and attention to detail can be time-consuming for educators, especially in larger classroom settings.
  • Specialized training: Effective implementation of the Orton Gillingham Method requires specialized training for teachers. Educators need to develop a deep understanding of the method’s principles, techniques, and strategies. Acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to implement the method with fidelity may require additional professional development and ongoing support.
  • Limited availability of trained professionals: Finding teachers who are trained in the Orton Gillingham Method can be challenging. The specialized training required for effective implementation is not widely available, which can limit the accessibility of the method to students who would benefit from it.
  • Individualized instruction: The Orton Gillingham Method’s focus on individualized instruction can present logistical challenges in a classroom setting with a diverse range of learners. Providing personalized instruction to each student can be demanding, especially when class sizes are large and resources are limited. Balancing the needs of individual learners with the demands of a group setting requires careful planning and organization.
  • Sustaining implementation fidelity: Consistently implementing the Orton Gillingham Method with fidelity can be challenging, particularly when there is staff turnover or a lack of ongoing support and supervision. Ensuring that educators receive ongoing support, professional development, and opportunities for collaboration can help sustain implementation fidelity.
  • Integration with other curriculum areas: While the Orton Gillingham Method primarily focuses on literacy development, integrating it seamlessly with other curriculum areas can be a challenge. Finding ways to connect the method’s techniques and strategies with other subjects, such as science or social studies, requires thoughtful planning and coordination among teachers.

The Montessori Method and the whole child: Opportunities and risks

Summarized below are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of the Montessori method:


  • Individualized learning: The Montessori Method recognizes and respects the unique developmental needs, interests, and abilities of each child. It provides a personalized learning experience, allowing students to progress at their own pace and explore subjects of interest. This individualized approach promotes a love for learning, intrinsic motivation, and a sense of empowerment.
  • Holistic development: The Montessori Method focuses on the holistic development of the child, encompassing intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth. The curriculum includes not only academic subjects but also practical life skills, sensorial experiences, cultural studies, and the development of social skills and empathy. This comprehensive approach fosters well-rounded individuals who are prepared for various aspects of life.
  • Prepared environment: Montessori classrooms are carefully designed environments that are rich in age-appropriate materials and activities. These environments encourage exploration, independence, and self-discovery. The materials are meticulously chosen to promote sensory experiences, problem-solving, and the development of fine motor skills. The prepared environment supports concentration, self-discipline, and the development of executive functions.
  • Hands-on learning and concrete experiences: The Montessori Method emphasizes hands-on learning experiences through the use of specially designed materials. These materials allow children to manipulate, explore, and engage with abstract concepts in a concrete manner. By actively engaging with the materials, children develop a deeper understanding of concepts and enhance their critical thinking skills.
  • Mixed-age classrooms and peer learning: Montessori classrooms typically have mixed-age groups, where children of different ages learn together. This arrangement promotes collaboration, cooperation, and peer learning. Younger children have the opportunity to learn from older ones, while older children reinforce their knowledge by mentoring younger peers. Mixed-age classrooms foster a sense of community, empathy, and social skills development.
  • Respect for individuality and freedom within limits: The Montessori approach respects the individuality of each child and allows freedom within appropriate boundaries. Children are given the freedom to choose their work, engage in uninterrupted learning, and make decisions. However, this freedom is balanced with clear guidelines and limits that ensure a safe and respectful learning environment.


  • Limited emphasis on structured academic instruction: Montessori education tends to prioritize individual exploration and self-directed learning over structured academic instruction. While this approach fosters creativity and independent thinking, it may not adequately prepare students for standardized tests or traditional academic settings that require more structured learning experiences.
  • Potential for gaps in knowledge: The Montessori Method allows children to pursue their interests and choose activities independently. While this promotes individualized learning, there is a possibility that some essential subjects or concepts may be overlooked if they are not actively pursued by the child or addressed in the curriculum. Consequently, there may be gaps in certain areas of knowledge.
  • Varied implementation and consistency: The Montessori Method is not standardized, and there can be significant variation in its implementation across different schools and classrooms. The quality and fidelity of the Montessori approach can vary, leading to inconsistencies in the educational experience for students. It is essential to research and choose Montessori schools carefully to ensure they align with your educational goals.
  • Limited emphasis on traditional assessment: Montessori education places less emphasis on traditional forms of assessment, such as tests and grades, and focuses more on qualitative observations and developmental milestones. While this approach offers a comprehensive view of a child’s progress, it may present challenges when transitioning to educational systems that rely heavily on traditional assessments.
  • Teacher training and expertise: Effective implementation of the Montessori Method relies heavily on well-trained and knowledgeable teachers who understand the philosophy and methodology. However, not all Montessori teachers may receive comprehensive training, leading to inconsistencies in the quality of instruction and implementation.
  • Limited availability and accessibility: Montessori education may not be as widely available or accessible as traditional educational options, particularly in certain regions or socioeconomic contexts. Limited availability can restrict parents’ choices or make it challenging to enroll their children in a Montessori program.

Comparative analysis of the techniques used in the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods

Orton Gillingham and Montessori teaching methods have different philosophies and goals, there are some similarities and differences in the techniques and strategies used in each approach.

Individualized Learning


  • Multisensory Instruction: Both the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods emphasize the importance of engaging multiple senses in the learning process. They recognize that incorporating visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile experiences can enhance understanding and retention of concepts. Both methods utilize materials and activities that encourage hands-on exploration and manipulation to support multisensory learning.
  • Individualized Learning: Both methods recognize the value of tailoring instruction to the individual needs and interests of learners. The Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods prioritize providing personalized learning experiences that meet each learner’s unique developmental level and pace. They aim to create environments where children can progress at their own speed and engage in activities that match their abilities and interests.
  • Hands-On Learning: Both methods promote hands-on learning experiences as a means to deepen understanding and develop skills. They provide materials and activities that allow children to manipulate objects, engage in sensory experiences, and actively participate in their learning. This hands-on approach encourages active engagement, exploration, and discovery, facilitating meaningful learning experiences.
  • Multi-Age Grouping: Both the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods utilize mixed-age groupings in their educational settings. This approach allows children to interact and learn from peers of different ages. It promotes collaboration, socialization, and the development of empathy and leadership skills. By engaging with children of various ages, learners can benefit from shared experiences and learn from each other.


Orton Gillingham is often compared with other methods like Lindamood Bell, Wilson reading approach, and Barton reading program; however, here are the few differences it has from the Montessori method:

  • Emphasis on Specific Learning Disabilities: The Orton Gillingham Method is specifically designed to support individuals with dyslexia or specific learning disabilities in reading, writing, and spelling. Its multisensory techniques are tailored to address the specific challenges faced by these learners. On the other hand, while the Montessori Method also employs multisensory techniques, its focus is broader, encompassing the overall development of the child across various areas, rather than targeting specific learning disabilities.
  • Systematic Instruction vs. Child-Led Exploration: The Orton Gillingham Method employs a highly structured and systematic approach to teaching literacy skills. It follows a predetermined sequence of instruction, ensuring that learners progress through concepts in a logical and sequential manner. In contrast, the Montessori Method emphasizes child-led exploration and discovery. While multisensory materials are used, the order and timing of their introduction may be more flexible, allowing children to follow their interests and engage in activities of their choice.
  • Direct Instruction vs. Prepared Environment: In the Orton Gillingham Method, the teacher plays a central role in delivering direct and explicit instruction. They guide the learner through structured lessons, introducing concepts and providing targeted feedback. In contrast, the Montessori Method emphasizes creating a prepared environment that fosters independent exploration and self-directed learning. While teachers are present to support and guide children, the emphasis is on facilitating their independent discovery and mastery of skills.
  • Language-Specific vs. Multidisciplinary Application: The Orton Gillingham Method focuses primarily on the development of language and literacy skills. Its multisensory techniques are specifically designed to teach phonics, decoding, spelling, and reading comprehension. In contrast, the Montessori Method’s multisensory techniques are applied across various subjects and activities, including practical life skills, sensorial experiences, mathematics, cultural studies, and social skills development. The multisensory approach in Montessori is integrated into a broader curriculum rather than being language-specific.

Can the two methods be integrated together?

It is possible to integrate Orton Gillingham and Montessori teaching methods to create a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction that combines the benefits of both methods.

Integrating the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods involves combining their respective strengths to create a comprehensive and inclusive educational approach. By doing so, you can provide a well-rounded learning experience that addresses individual needs while promoting holistic development.

One way to integrate these methods is by incorporating multi-sensory instruction. Both the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods emphasize the use of multi-sensory techniques to enhance learning. By integrating multi-sensory activities into the Montessori environment, you can support the development of language skills, particularly for children with specific learning disabilities. This can involve incorporating tactile materials, visual aids, and auditory cues into language and literacy activities.

Another aspect to consider is individualized instruction. The individualized approach of the Montessori method can be combined with the tailored instruction of the Orton Gillingham method. Teachers can assess each child’s specific needs and provide targeted interventions within the Montessori framework. This ensures that students receive instruction and support that is tailored to their unique strengths and areas of challenge.

The structured and sequential learning nature of the Orton Gillingham method can also be integrated into the Montessori curriculum. By ensuring that language and literacy activities follow a logical progression, you can support the systematic development of skills while maintaining the child-centered approach of Montessori. This may involve mapping out a sequential plan for teaching phonics, decoding, spelling, and other language skills within the Montessori framework.

Adapting or supplementing Montessori materials to specifically target language and literacy skills is another way to integrate these methods. For example, sandpaper letters or movable alphabets can be used to support phonemic awareness and spelling activities. By incorporating such materials into the Montessori environment, you provide concrete and hands-on experiences that reinforce language skills.

The Montessori approach of mixed-age classrooms and peer learning can also be integrated to create an inclusive environment where children with different abilities support and learn from one another. This cooperative learning setting can benefit students with specific learning disabilities by providing opportunities for social interaction, collaboration, and modeling of skills. The mixed-age classroom can foster a sense of community and encourage empathy and understanding among students.

Integrating the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods requires careful planning, collaboration between teachers, and a deep understanding of the principles and practices of both approaches. It is important to consider the specific needs of each student and tailor the integration accordingly. By blending the strengths of the Orton Gillingham and Montessori methods, you can create a rich and inclusive learning environment that addresses individual needs while promoting holistic development.

Summarized below is a table comparing the two methods:

MethodOrton-Gillingham (OG)Montessori
FocusRemediation of reading and writing difficulties, particularly dyslexiaA highly trained specialist who provides individualized instruction
PhilosophyMultisensory, structured, sequential, and cumulativeHands-on, child-centered, and self-directed
Teacher RoleA facilitator who guides the child’s exploration and learningMontessori materials are designed to promote hands-on exploration and learning
CurriculumPhonics-based, emphasizing sound-symbol relationships and decoding skillsIntegrated, emphasizing real-life experiences and hands-on activities
MaterialsMulti-sensory, systematic, and explicit instructional materialsA prepared environment that encourages independence, exploration, and discovery
Learning EnvironmentStructured and focused on remediation, typically in a one-on-one or small group settingPrepared environment that encourages independence, exploration, and discovery
Student OutcomesImproved reading and writing skills, particularly for students with dyslexia or other reading difficultiesWell-rounded individuals who are independent, self-directed, and curious learners


In conclusion, Orton Gillingham and Montessori’s teaching methods have different philosophies and goals, but both methods offer unique benefits for literacy instruction. the Orton Gillingham Method and the Montessori Method demonstrate their effectiveness in addressing the diverse needs of students, albeit through distinct approaches. 

The Orton Gillingham Method, with its individualized instruction, multisensory techniques, and structured progression, provides targeted support for learners with dyslexia and specific learning disabilities. On the other hand, the Montessori Method’s child-centered approach, prepared environment, and emphasis on freedom within limits cater to the diverse learning styles and interests of students.

While these methods have their unique strengths, it is important to recognize that no single approach fits all students perfectly. Educators and parents can benefit from exploring the principles and techniques of both methods, adapting and integrating them to suit the specific needs of their students. By embracing the individuality of each learner and fostering inclusive environments, we can ensure that all students receive the support, guidance, and opportunities they need to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

In the end, the ultimate goal is to provide an enriching and empowering educational experience that equips students with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to become lifelong learners. Whether through the personalized and multisensory approach of the Orton Gillingham Method or the child-centered and independent learning of the Montessori Method, both methods contribute to creating a foundation for student success and nurturing a love for learning that lasts a lifetime.

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