Sunday, March 9, 2014

Orton Gilligham's Red Words

So excited to be your next stop on the Bright Ideas Blog Hop!

One of the many things that I absolutely love about our school is all of the Reading support through the awesome programs that our district has purchased as well as our fabulous reading support teachers themselves.

The district has purchased a lot of great programs with one of them being my favorite and in my eyes the most effective with our not only first graders but students from K-4.  This program is called Orton Gillingham and my favorite part of the program is Red Words.

A red word is a word that you can NOT sounds out, otherwise known as a sight word but Orton himself has come up with a list of words that are considered Red Words and are categorized into 5 different levels.

In my classroom, we do a word a day and let me tell you, this has made a world of difference for every single speller.

Here is a quick run down with a couple pictures to encourage you that adopting a Red Words regimen is worth every second of setup and execution.

We store our Red Word materials at our table's organizing system seen in the 'My Classroom' tab on my blog or below.  In their Red Word's drawer are the following materials, Red Word book, screen, red crayon, and pencil.  The screen is from the local craft store or you can buy them online on Amazon.

Red Word Materials

Here are the steps to arm tapping a red word:

1. Write the word on the board for all of your students to see.

2. Students will extend their arm that they do NOT write with and will tap with the hand they write with.
3. They will look at the word and tap starting at their shoulder and tap their arm down to their wrist for each letter in the word and then slide their arm from the shoulder to their wrist blending the world and saying it as they do it.  They will tap the word three times.
4.  After tapping, they will open to a new page.  They will put their screen under page and write the word 3 times in red crayon on the top line.

This is usually what the book looks like with the screen sticking out:

5. After arm tapping, they remove the screen.  On the next line, in pencil they will write the words three times.
6.  Finally, they will write a sentence using the word on the remaining two lines.  We encourage our students to write 7 up sentences meaning they have to have 7 or more words in their sentences.  {If nothing else from visiting my page you take this, I promise this alone motivates and sets a guideline for students when writing.}

The final product looks like this:

This is a quick run down of how easy and quick it is to implement Orton Gillingham Red Words into any classroom to help not only teach them these non-decodable words but to remember them.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  I am trying to finalize the whole process via video and but it on YouTube and will update this post as soon as I do. 

Next up on this fun little blog hop is Courtney over at Teaching in Paradise. Courtney's postis  about how to expand you classroom library on a teacher budget!!!  Click on her button to check it out!


  1. I like this idea! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Such a great idea! I've never seen this but will definitely use! Thanks for sharing!
    Peace, Love, and First Grade

  3. Hi! I love your Red Word notebooks! Where did you get those?

    - Charlotte

  4. This is our red word strategy (IMSE Orton-Gillingham). We came up with the word lists, not Orton. :). Your steps are pretty close. The students should write the word one time with the screen under it before arm tapping. They should hold the paper in their offhand and look at the letters as they arm tap three times. Then continue with finger tracing. Also, you described the steps for arm tapping for a right handed student. Left handed students should start at their wrist and tap up to their shoulder. They should always tap left to right. Thanks for sharing! Happy tapping!
    Director of Professional Development at IMSE OG

  5. Wouldn't it be better to teach words like this by their sounds rather than by pure memorization? Your example word ("only") is highly phonetic.

  6. Wouldn't it be better to teach words like this by their sounds rather than by pure memorization? Your example word ("only") is highly phonetic.

    1. Hi, W. P. G., you raise a great point. I'm a CALT who works in private practice with children who are severely dyslexic. I agree with your thought, it is always more therapeutic for the dyslexic learner to start with phonology and emphasize what is dependable. Here is an example of what has worked very well for my students for several years. A lesson to teach the word "said" would sound something like this. Please hold up your fist, repeat "fed." Good unblend "fed." Unblend led, unblend ted. (Notice, these are minimal word pairs with said.) These words have the same vowel sound, what is it? Now please look at these words. Their sounds are spelled in the most expected way, they are regular. Now please unblend "said." What is its vowel sound? Good. Is it the same as fed, led, and Ted? All right, here comes the puzzler. I'll show the word said and your challenge is to find what is unexpected. They look and put their finger under the ai. Great! Now circle it. So, tell us again, what is the most frequent spelling of the (e) sound? IF they ask, I explain that a very long time ago, this word was pronounced with the sounds of a long a and a short i. In some places it still is, we call that an accent or a dialect. In most places, now it is pronounced with a short e sound though it is still spelled the ancient way. Then they trace it 3 times. Next, they look at it on a pink 3 by 5 card as long as they like. When ready, they turn the card face down and write said from visual memory. Then they check their work. This is repeated three times. Next we turn to the short e page in their spelling notebook and find the word said at the bottom under Exceptions. They underline or highlight it. Finally, they practice reading it in sentences.
      The students enjoy finding what's unexpected very much plus this approach emphasizes the regular spelling of the sound. When they are writing sentences from dictation, all the irregular words are written down for them to copy as needed. Irregular words are included in reading but not in spelling for dyslexic students until they are near the end of the therapy program. I hope you find this helpful. God bless you as you teach.

  7. "Only" is not phonetic.. if it were, we would say "on-ly." Red words are essentially sight words and must be memorized.

  8. The letter 'o' on its own is the most common way to spell the phoneme /oa/. It's more than four times as common as the spelling 'o_e'.
    All you have to do is teach your students that 'o' is one of several ways to spell the phoneme /oa/ along with 'o_e' 'ow' 'oa' 'oe' and a few others.

  9. Is it possible to get a copy of the blank paper??


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