The craft of teaching literacy has become increasingly complex. The Orton-Gillingham Approach is one method that has delivered consistent results through a multisensory and structured way to teach literacy.
Due to the prescriptive nature of the program, instructors hoping to abide by this approach must use a script and implement specific actions sequentially when teaching literacy. This is exactly why ALLMemphis, an organization aimed at combating the literacy crisis in Memphis, Tenn., utilizes video coaching to implement the Orton-Gillingham Approach for their literacy coaches and teachers they mentor.
“Orton-Gillingham and the ALLMemphis approach is incredibly scripted, so it requires an exact alignment with the training that we provide to make sure that the metrics that we’ve outlined are followed,” says Clifford Stockton, Senior Program Specialist of Engagement at ALLMemphis.
We sat down with Cliff as well as Carl Schneider, the Director of School Support at ALLMemphis, to learn how they are utilizing video observation to support their teachers’ professional learning.
Many educators may not be familiar with the Orton-Gillingham approach. Can you tell us a bit about one aspect of it?
Carl: Part of the approach is that it’s multisensory. This means we expect teachers and students to be tracing letters in the air with their hands or touching their throats to feel a vibration. Some teachers find difficulty with conceptualizing what that looks like.
Therefore, viewing a video of a teacher performing these actions is extremely helpful. Also, if they are making an error when they utilize this approach, we encourage them to watch their own video and review our feedback.
Can you provide some detail about how ALLMemphis uses video to support the literacy coaches and teachers that you work with?
Clifford: We use Edthena as a platform to record, monitor, and actually score our coaches on how well they’re implementing our ALLMemphis approach in the classroom. Orton-Gillingham is an extremely structured literacy approach.
It is really important that instruction is emotionally sound. This means that we never ask students to do something that we haven’t explicitly taught them how to do in advance. Consequently, our literacy coaches have to make sure that the metrics that we’ve outlined are followed exactly by the teachers they mentor.
Carl: We require two video observations per month from each of our teachers. Within those observations, we use Leveled Indicators to monitor how well teachers are being faithful to our script. Edthena allows us to capture those observations and provide specific and nuanced feedback in a way that would otherwise not be possible logistically in person.
What do you do with the classroom videos after a coaching cycle?
Carl: Now that we have used Edthena for over a year, we have collected a bank of exemplar videos.
Instead of having a teacher pretend there’s a group of students in front of them when implementing our curriculum, we can actually show, realtime, what our curriculum looks like when you have 25 students. We can demonstrate what it looks like when you’re a first-year teacher, or the differences between a classroom’s response to our approach in October versus May.
Being able to illustrate that level of growth with these video exemplars has been really exciting.
Do you have any bits of advice for an organization beginning to use Edthena?
Clifford: We found it really important to have logistical training sessions with not just our literacy coaches but also our teachers and senior leaders before we began to utilize Edthena. It’s important to designate time for your people to be exposed to video in order for things to be fluid. That way everyone has the at-bats to go ahead and start rolling week one.
Carl: The feature that allows you to watch a video at speed and a half is so helpful. I think there were times last year when we were watching up to 20 videos in a week. Being able to watch them at this increased speed saves a lot of time and you are still able to capture the quality of the instruction.