Morgan Dynamic Phonics: Scientific Underpinnings
Orton Gillingham Based Programs
Systematic, explicit, sequential code-based instruction (of
which this program is a good example) has proven highly effective for beginning
and problem readers (McCardle & Chhabra 2004; Bailet 2004; Ehri 2004;
Torgesen 2004; Henry 2003; Torgesen 2003; Henry 1997; Ehri 2001A; Ehri 2001B;
Cunningham, J. 2001; Blackman, B. 2004; Moats 2000; NRP 2000; Lyon 2001;
Ehri, C. 2000; Hall & Moats 1999; Snow 1998; Moats 1998C; Ehri 1998;
Torgesen 1998; Adams and Bruck 1993; Chall 1989; Liberman and Liberman 1990;
Mather 1992; Brown & Felton 1990; Felton 1993; Lyon 1996; Snow 1998;
Burns 1998; Foorman 1998; Foorman 1997; Torgesen 1997; Hall and Moats 1999;
Morgan 1995). "For the past century, phonic and multisensory methods
have been used effectively to teach reading and writing to students with
learning disabilities. A review of clinical history affirms the value of
these methods for teaching reading." (Mather 1992, p.90).
"The accumulated research over nearly 100 years has been
that a code emphasis (approach) leads to better results in word recognition
and in comprehension." (Chall 1997).
Morgan Dynamic Phonics is an multisensory program in which
information is deliberately input to all sensory channels. Weaker sensory
channels are strengthened because they are linked with stronger ones. In
this way, memory is strengthened, and learning is accelerated. A review
the effectiveness of other Orton-Gillingham multisensory structured language
programs can be found in McIntryre, et. al. 1995. A comprehensive review
of multisensory procedures and techniques in all subject areas can be found
in Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills (Birsh 1999). This book
has a wealth of information for the novice as well as the experienced teacher.
A report published by the Appellate Division, 1st Judicial
district, Supreme Court of the State of New York, 1990, found a more significant
correlation between academic failure and delinquency than between delinquency
and socioeconomic status. It has been demonstrated that using multisensory
Orton-Gillingham instruction with juvenile delinquents in detention centers
resulted in significant gains in reading and in significantly lower rates
of recidivism (Simpson, et. al. 1992). The same methods appear to be very
beneficial for reading disabled college students (Guyer 1989).
Phonemic awareness refers to the sensitivity to, or understanding
of, the underlying phonology or sound structure of the language (Adams et.
al. 1998). To be more specific, phonemic awareness is the understanding
that words contain sounds (phonemes), and it involves the ability to isolate,
identify and blend the individual phonemes or sound components of the language.
These are crucial skills for learning to read and spell. Successful reading
requires blending ability; successful spelling requires segmenting and identifying
ability. Note: Sometimes we will use the term phonological awareness in
place of phonemic awareness. The term phonological awareness is a more inclusive
term which contains phonemic awareness as well as print awareness, word
and sentence awareness and short-term sequential linguistic short term memory.
Phonemic awareness has been shown to be the best predictor
of reading success in English (Windsor 2000; Blackman 1984; Juel 1991; Stanovich
1986; Mann & Brady 1988; Manu 1993). This has also been shown to be
the case in Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and
Russian (see Adams 1998, p. 2). Strong relationships have been found between
phonemic processing scores and reading progress one to three years later
(Bradley & Bradley 1985; Fox & Routh 1980, 1983; Helfgott 1976;
and Zifcak 1981) and between phonemic awareness and reading and spelling
11 years later (MacDonald & Cornwall 1995). Poor phonemic awareness
has been shown to distinguish low SES preschoolers from high SES preschools
and to be characteristic of adults with reading problems in the U.S., Portugal,
England, and Australia (Adams 1998, p .2). "Indeed, among readers of
alphabetic languages, those who are successful invariably have phonemic
awareness, whereas those who lack phonemic awareness are invariably struggling"
(Adams 1998, p.2).
Wagner and Torgesen (1987) argued that phonemic processing
skill is causally related to success or failure in reading (see also Adams
1991; Jorm and Share 1983; Lyon 1995A). Researchers such as Adams (1991)
and Wagner and Torgesen (1987) believe that phonemic processing ability
leads directly to the acquisition of word identification skills.
Children having trouble learning to read, whether classified
as reading disabled or with sub-average intelligence, have been shown to
have significant deficits in phonemic processing ability (Wesseling &
Reitsma 2001; Wagner 1997; Hurford et. al. 1994; Vellutino 1987; Wagner,
Torgesen & Rashotte 1994; Gough & Tunmer 1986; Alexander, Anderson,
Heilman, Voeller, & Torgesen 1991; Stanovich 1988; IDA 1997; Lyon &
Chhabra 1996; Lonigan 1998). The recently popular theory of phonologically
based reading disabilities (Stanovich 1988; Torgesen 1993) proposes that
phonemic awareness deficits are the direct cause of a substantial proportion
of reading disabilities in children and adults.
Fortunately, phonemic awareness can be taught to children
and has been shown to positively impact reading and spelling skill development
(Torgesen 2004; Ehri et. al. 2001C; NRP 2000; Torgesen 1998; Snow 1998;
Yopp 1997; Tangel & Blachman 1995; Bradley and Bryant 1983; Lundberg,
Frost, & Petersen 1988; Bradley and Bryant 1985; Hurford et. al. 1994;
Scanlon 1997; Smith 1998). It has been shown that developing phonemic awareness
in combination with learning letters and sounds in written format is better
than learning letters and sounds alone (Ball & Blachman 1991). Conversely,
it has also been shown that developing phonemic awareness along with letters
is more effective than training phonemic awareness alone (Bradley &
Bryant 1983; Byrne & Fielding-Barnesley 1991; Cunningham 1990). Some
studies have shown that early phonemic awareness training seemed to reduce
the prevalence of dyslexia in at-risk children (Borstrom 1997; Schneider
1999). The discovery of the role phonemic awareness plays in reading ability
and in reading instruction is revolutionizing the way we teach reading.
Phonemic awareness training appears to be especially effective when combined
with explicit instructions in applying these skills to reading and spelling
- (well designed phonics instruction) (Elbro & Petersen 2004; Yopp &
Yopp 2000; Torgesen 1999; Griffith & Olson 1992; Torgesen, Wagner, &
Rashotte 1994; Ball & Blachman 1991; Bradley & Bryant 1985, 1983;
Hurford et. al. 1994; Clay, 1979; Lyon and Chhabra, 1996; Blackman 1991;
Clark 1988; Hall and Moats 1999; Lyon 1998; IDA 1997; Snider 1988). Torgesen,
Wagner and Rashotte (1994) strongly recommend that phonemic awareness training
be included in any reading program for children who may be at risk for reading
problems. Integrated instruction in segmenting and blending seem to provide
the greatest benefit for reading.
"Among readers of alphabetic languages, those who are successful
invariably have phonemic awareness, whereas those who lack it are invariably
struggling." (Marilyn Jaeger Adams – IDA conference 2003)
"Phonics is the key to reading. Phonemic awareness is the WD 40.
Reading is the key to literacy." (Marilyn Jaeger Adams – IDA
"It has been said that phoneme awareness is the greatest
break through in reading pedagogy in universal literacy since the invention
of the Gutenberg printing press." M. J. Adams
In the Morgan Dynamic Phonics program, we have integrated three very powerful
phonemic awareness training techniques into our daily reading and spelling
lessons. All of these methods also improve short-term sequential linguistic
memory - which is a weakness for many students with reading problems and
is trainable. These techniques are also multisensory.
The Finger Tapping technique (which comes from Barbara
Wilson of the Wilson Reading System). Finger Tapping teaches phoneme blending
and helps children sound out new words. Phoneme blending is one of the
phonological tasks which is difficult for most problem readers.
The Block Spelling technique, adapted from the work of
Russian scientist Elkonin (Elkonin 1973). The Block Spelling technique
teaches phoneme segmentation (the best predictor of reading success -
troublesome for most at-risk students), identification, sequencing, and
also improves short term sequential linguistic memory. Block Spelling
impacts heavily on reading and spelling progress by helping to create
visual representations of the sounds in words, and this helps children
understand the connections between written and spoken language.
The Sound Spelling method has the student write the letters
in a word and say the sounds that those letters represent at the same
time that he writes them.
These three multisensory, phonemic awareness techniques are extremely powerful
additions to an already successful reading and spelling program - Morgan
Dynamic Phonics. Students make much quicker progress in reading and spelling
with the use of these techniques.
The use of Elkonin box technique for prereaders is also a very powerful
phonemic awareness training process - see the Pre-reading Activities section.
Our focus on the use of blending and segmenting phonological awareness
techniques has strong support form research (McCardle pp. 165).
For more information on the assessment and remediation of phonemic awareness
see: Smith 1998, Yopp 1995A, Yopp 1995B, Yopp & Yopp 2000, Hall 1999,
Adams 1998, and Burns 1999.
The National Institute of Health has recently stated, after spending more
that 120 million research dollars to find the best instructional techniques
for at risk readers, that
About 20% of children have reading disabilities (dyslexia),
Deficits in phonemic awareness represent the primary deficit
in dyslexia, and
These children need an intensive, structured and explicit
code emphasis approach along with phonemic awareness training to learn
how to read (Lyon 1995B).
Morgan Dynamic Phonics is such an approach. Many children end up in middle
school or high school with poor reading skills because no one used a method
like this one to teach them. Some of these children become permanent members
of special education and end up as angry and frustrated adults.
"Converging evidence from NICHD research suggests that
the most useful interventions for reading disabled individuals consist of
explicit and direct instruction in phonemic awareness, sound-symbol relationships
(phonics) and contextual reading and reading comprehension skills"
Morgan Dynamic Phonics is designed to promote quick and efficient word
reading. We are always striving for more and more automatic responses from
children. It has been pointed out that skillful readers are automatic decoders
and that poor readers usually have problems in this area (Rayner, K. et.
al. 2001; Samuels 1988). It has also been shown that accurate and fluid
word reading of single words is a good predictor of comprehension of written
text (Curtis 1980; Stanovich, Cunningham & Freeman 1984). See section
of fluency for other techniques to speed up reading speed.
Most of those children who need a good phonics system in order to learn
to read can become very competent readers, if instructed correctly (Mathes
1998; Slavin 1993; Shaywitz 2003). The problem is that many of these children
are not receiving proper reading instruction in our schools. This is primarily
the result of misunderstanding on the part of teacher training schools about
how children learn to read (Moats 1994; Moats and Lyon 1996; Moats 1999).
As a result, many teachers are unprepared to give appropriate reading instruction
to their students who need a good structural phonics approach.
Ehri (1989) has suggested that many children fail in reading and spelling
because of uninformed instruction and that these problems may not originate
from individual deficiencies but from poor instructional practices. She
proposes that many of the students that are labeled dyslexic have just not
been given the right kind of instruction in reading.
"Intensive, well-designed intervention that addresses
the core linguistic deficits underlying reading failure has been shown to
salvage most children, even if their early instruction was inadequate. The
components of an effective instructional program include phonemic awareness,
letter recognition and formation, sound symbol connections, opportunities
to practice decoding in controlled texts, vocabulary building with an emphasis
on word structure and morphology, instruction in comprehension strategies
and motivational techniques to foster independent reading" (Moats 1998B).
Morgan Dynamic Phonics uses lots and lots of phonetically decodable text
to reinforce the letter patterns taught. With more sever reading problems,
we believe that students should only read decodable texts for some time
to avoid confusion. The use of decodable text with research-based phonics
instruction is strongly recommended by: Foorman 1998 and Juel & Minden-Cupp
Morgan Dynamic Phonics programs, like most other Orton-Gillingham programs,
teaches syllable division and syllable type identification to help students
read larger words. When the English language is taught by syllables and
meaningful word parts called morphemes, it is a lot more predictable (see
Stanback 1992). Our Dynamic Roots program (used by many after students complete
the Morgan Dynamic Phonics programs) uses the study of root words, suffixes,
prefixes and Latin and Greek word origins to teach higher level reading
and vocabulary skills.
Morgan Dynamic Phonics was created during the 1992-1993 school year. The
program yielded extremely good results in the first year (Morgan 1995).
In the second year of using this method, with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade special
needs students, a reading growth rate of 1.68 years was attained in one
year, according to the Brigance Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills.
In the third year, with a combination of 2nd - 5th grade special needs students
and 2nd grade general education nonreaders, a reading growth rate of 1.74
years was attained in one year, according to the Woodcock Reading Mastery
Test. In the third year, with 2nd-5th grade special needs students, a reading
growth rate of 1.78 years was attained, according to the Woodcock Reading
Mastery Test. With the consistent use of Block Spelling in this year, the
students also made two years progress in spelling, according to the Brigance
Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills. In the next four years, with elementary
school special education students pulled from all levels of Special Education,
reading growth rates of 1.97, 1.92, 1.54 and 2.23 years were attained according
to the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. In the last three years, with elementary
special education students but with more limited teaching times, reading
growth rates of 1.65, 1.3, and 1.62 years were attained. Some of the Dynamic
Roots program was also used with some of these students.
A Comparison Study
One experimental group was matched to two control groups by using school
free lunch percentages and the school's 3rd and 5th grade reading scores on
state mandated testing.
The experimental group: This was the first year the teacher was using the
program. She attended a one hour talk by the author at the beginning of the
year. She had a 3rd-5th self contained SPED classroom. Because of scheduling
problems, she was only able to use Dynamic Phonics for about 30 minutes per
day. The children spent another 30 minutes doing other reading activities
that mostly involved independent reading activities. Even with this small
amount of reading time, her children attained over one years reading growth
according to the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test.
1st control group: This class was also an 3rd-5th self contained SPED classroom.
This teacher used a literature based reading program with the Houghton-Mifflin
reading series. The teacher taught sight words and the children had phonics
workbooks for extra practice. These children had about an hour of reading
instruction per day. The children in this class attained 0.326 years reading
growth according to the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test.
2nd control group: This class was a 3rd-5th self contained SPED classroom.
This teacher used the Focus reading series, the Modern Curriculum Press phonics
books, and had the children read for 15 minutes at home every night. The reading
time in this class was at least 2 hours per day. The children in this class
attained 0.833 years reading growth according to the Woodcock Reading
Conclusions: The difference between the experimental group and the
first control group are substantial and demonstrate the power of this reading
The difference between the experimental group and the second control group
do not seem as great until we take into consideration the time each teacher
spent teaching reading in the classroom. The experimental group teacher was
able to attain a little more reading growth with her students in one hour
per day of reading than the control group attained in 2 hours of reading time.
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