Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through sixth grade St. Johns Classical Academy will use the Orton Based Program – The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking— a multi-sensory, brain-based approach to teaching explicit phonics, reading, language arts, and composition in conjunction with the Core Knowledge English/Language Arts curriculum. The Orton method began with Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuroscientist who researched the functioning of the human brain in learning language skills. He collaborated with teachers to combine his multi-sensory techniques with classical and Socratic instructional approaches to teaching.
Orton is an “explicit” phonics approach as defined and recommended in a Federal Compilation of Reading Research: Becoming a Nation of Readers. Orton incorporates phonics-based spelling with a rules system dating from the Webster-Oxford standardization of English spelling, and also provides phonemic/graphemic correspondences from contemporary dictionaries, enabling students to learn correct spelling as well as regional dialects and pronunciations across the English-speaking world.
In addition to explicit phonics and instruction on the English code, students also learn syllabication, oral vocabulary, and comprehension. The English code is taught through an explicit, Socratic question and answer dialogue for 2400 vocabulary words spread from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. During these primary grades, the students progress from spelling, to sentence writing, to reading their own sentences, to the reading of books. The Core Knowledge literature is the basis for the students’ practice of reading in the early grades. The young students quickly move sentence writing to compositions of varying lengths. Grades 4-6 continue to use the phonetic foundation the students possess, to add vocabulary drawn from the rich Core Knowledge literature and content areas focusing on morphology. This will include heavy emphasis on Greek and Latin roots. Orton recommends vocabulary-rich literature, such as the classics, and is a proponent of high student expectations. For composition, students learn spelling, cursive writing, creative writing, spacing, margins, listening skills, orthography rules, vocabulary, grammar, syntax, punctuation, and capitalization. It also uses direct and Socratic instructional techniques to augment the instruction to integrate grammar and syntax, creative and organizational composition skills and vocabulary development. Each of the language arts strands is integrated around the vocabulary instruction. Orton uses a complete and comprehensive method to teach language arts skills — roots, prefixes, suffixes, homophones and homographs, antonyms, synonyms and graphic organizers. Orton recommends vocabulary-rich literature, such as the classics, and is a proponent of high expectations.
The complex information comprising the English code is practiced and sorted with the students through a notebook of graphic organizers.