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The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking: Explicit Phonics with Handwriting Instructions Review by Heather W. Allen

The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking: The Phonemes and Graphemes of Correct English Spelling
By: Myrna McCulloch
The Riggs Institute
4185 S. W. 102nd Avenue
Beaverton, Oregon 97005

The Riggs Institute, and specifically Myrna McCulloch, has developed an "Orton-based" language arts method of instruction for teaching writing, spelling, reading and thinking. Dr. Samuel T. Orton was a neuropathologist who studied the functioning of the human brain in learning language skills many years ago. Dr. Orton developed the first successful combined phonics, classical direct and Socratic multi-sensory instructional approach to re-establishing language-skill memory in brain-damaged World War I veterans. Following his preliminary research, he collaborated with Romalda Spalding to develop an "Orton-based" primary level method of instruction in writing, spelling, reading and thinking for "normal" children. Their work, The Writing Road to Reading (1957), was Orton's final recommendations, both to prevent and correct learning disorders, and having the potential to establish high literacy in virtually all primary children. Orton was against the potentially discriminatory and damaging effects of "look-say" whole -word memorization-type reading programs.

That said, the Riggs Institute revised the "Orton" phonograms in 1999 and brought them into closer compliance with contemporary dictionaries, the earlier Webster-Oxford collaboration for correct spelling and syllabication, and the Riggs Institute's extensive collection of early orthography texts.

The result of this research is the materials necessary to teach:

-"Explicit" phonics with initial letter formation
-The alphabetic principle
-Phonemic & graphemic awareness
-Correct spelling with 47 rules
-Fluent oral and silent reading
-Oral and print comprehension
-Pronunciation & speech
-Creative & organizational composition
-Auditory/visual/verbal/motor cognitive development, and
-Attention, discrimination, association and memory

This phonetic system can be learned by all ages and virtually all ability levels and includes a set of cards and an accompanying CD.

I like the multi-sensory emphasis of this system and the focus on the auditory presentation of materials, rather then relying on printed worksheets. Research shows that up to one-third of the children, who are not visual learners and are forced to learn by the "look-say" whole-word memorization-type reading programs, experience great difficulty learning to read with visual materials. This program takes these results into consideration, hence the multi-sensory approach.

This system looks like a good, sound, phonetic system that might be useful in your school setting. The instructions provided seem clear, concise, and easy to follow. The materials themselves are straightforward, simple to present, and I feel most teachers, following the Riggs system, will have success in teaching their children to write, spell, read and think. I would recommend the Riggs Institute's Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking.

-- Product Review by: Heather W. Allen, TOS Senior Analyst, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine