In a previous post, we discussed the multi-sensory approach shared by Orton-Gillingham and Empowering Writers. Another shared characteristic important to teaching students with dyslexia is that they are both incremental.
Just as the Orton-Gillingham language training does for reading, Empowering Writers offers an explicit, step-by-step process for learning how to write. As students move through the grades, new skills build on existing skills as they master basic foundational skills. Students also gain a clear understanding of the organizational structure of text before moving onto the more complex challenge of composing sentences, paragraphs, and finally, complete essays.
This incremental approach to learning is commonly referred to as “chunking”—breaking down large tasks into small, manageable pieces.
Of course, this strategy is helpful to all students, but it is absolutely essential to those with dyslexia. Why? Because chunking reduces the demands placed upon the working memory, the part of the memory system focused on the immediate perceptual and linguistic process. The core deficit associated with dyslexia is the phonological memory (also known as the “phonological loop”), a specific component of working memory (Hebert, Kearns, Hayes & Cooper, 2018). This weak phonological memory makes it difficult for students with dyslexia to remember and manipulate words when involved in the complex, multi-step process of writing.
Additionally, many with dyslexia lack confidence and are easily overwhelmed by complex tasks. The effective chunking method of the Empowering Writers curriculum makes writing less intimidating and more accessible to these individuals.
Clearly, the Empowering Writers methodology shares some of the characteristics that have made the Orton-Gillingham approach so successful in teaching students with dyslexia how to read.