What is MSL and Orton-Gillingham?

Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) adheres to what is called the ‘synthetic’ approach to teaching phonics. This means words are tackled in small parts so that over time, students become fluent in connecting sounds (phonemes) and letters (graphemes) to make a word, rather than guessing it by sight.

MSL follows the planned, structured and explicit teaching of reading and writing as originally developed by Dr Samuel Orton, Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman. It involves the use of auditory, visual and kinaesthetic (VAK) learning to help strengthen memory. According to the Australian Dyslexia Association, multisensory Orton-Gillingham practices have remained, “the gold standard for the treatment and remediation of dyslexia.”

A multisensory approach involves the explicit and direct teaching of the ‘Big 5’:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

Through decoding (reading by pulling words apart) and encoding (spelling by putting words back together), students are able to learn the foundational rules of their language over a period of time. MSL recognises the need for people with dyslexia and lower literacy capabilities to learn reading and writing through the support of cumulative, explicit instruction at their own pace. 

At MELEM, we do not diagnose dyslexia (as this is usually done by a psychologist). However, we do provide evidence-based interventions. If you would like to know more about diagnosing dyslexia or any other specific learning difficulty (SLD) , we suggest you visit the SPELD NSW website.

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