Compare SPELL-Links with OG-based Programs

How does SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing compare with commercially available Orton-Gillingham (OG)-based programs? We’re glad you asked!

While SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing has much in common with commercial OG-based programs — explicit, systematic, cumulative, multi-modal, structured literacy — it also has a unique program philosophy that aligns with the most current research and provides many distinctive advantages for learners, which we highlight in the table below.

“The curriculum is…amazing. I love that it has pattern-loaded writing and reading materials to go along with the lesson plans. I'm really blown away by the detail of these lessons. I'm trained in Orton Gillingham and I've dabbled in Words Their Way®. Your SPELL/SPELL-Links program is better than the two of these combined with a shot of steroids. It's fabulous.”


Instruction Directionality and Organization

Print to Speech
Instruction is organized by letter patterns, begins with a letter, and teaches in the direction of letter to sound. The practitioner teaches one corresponding sound for a letter. Reading is introduced before spelling if spelling is included. Instructional time is spent only or mostly on reading (decoding, word recognition, comprehension).

Speech to Print

Instruction is organized by sounds and by letters, begins with a sound, and teaches in the direction of sound to letter. Students learn common and other allowable spellings for a sound. Spelling is introduced first and as a gateway to reading. Instructional time is spent on both spelling and reading (decoding and word recognition), first at the word level and then with immediate application to connected reading and writing.

Instruction Model

Stage/Developmental Model
Instruction typically begins with phonological awareness, progressing to orthographic knowledge, and ending with morphological knowledge in later stages of instruction.

Connectionist/Multi-Linguistic Model

Phonological, orthographic, semantic, and morphological instruction is integrated throughout the program across all grades to facilitate neural functional connectivity of the language literacy network.

Instruction Entry Points

Entry points are limited. From that point, instruction, sequence, and pacing are determined by the program and are the same for all students.


Using the SPELL-Links diagnostic prescriptive assessment (SPELL-3), specific lessons and entry points within each lesson are uniquely prescribed for each student. Students receive differentiated instruction. Pacing through a student’s prescribed intervention plan is determined by student performance.

Teaching Philosophy

Practitioner Imparts Knowledge
Students are told how our language system works.

Students Acquire Knowledge Through Active Analysis

Students discover how our language system works through active analysis and processing of word forms in structured learning contexts. Carefully-constructed activities and step-by-step presentation, questioning, and scaffolding by practitioners leads students to identify, demonstrate, and explain patterns and rules in their own words to ensure they have fully internalized, and not just memorized, information about the way words work.

Syllable Types

Man-Made Conventions for Printed Words
A great deal of attention and instructional time is allotted to marking vowel and consonant letters within a word and memorizing letter patterns to determine where to break a word into syllables, very often in an artificial way, based on its visual patterns.

Biologically Determined Syllable Separations of Spoken Language

The focus of instruction for syllables is based on direct mapping of spoken syllables with their corresponding letters; words are broken into syllables based on natural syllable separations of spoken language.


Man-Made Conventions
Some combinations of phonemes are artificially taught as a single speech sound unit, for example, consonant clusters and vowel + /r/ are taught as single phoneme units.

Biologically Determined

Phonemes are taught in a manner that mirrors the innate and neurologically established phonological system of English.

Phoneme Production When Decoding

Segmented Phonation
Phonemes are pronounced separately before blending the sounds together into a word.

Continuous Phonation

Phonemes are pronounced with continuous phonation, no pausing between sounds, reducing demands on working memory and making it easier to blend the phonemes together into a word.

“Sight” Words

Taught Separately
Sight words are introduced, practiced, and assessed separately as whole words.

Integrated Instruction

Irregularly spelled words are layered within lessons to fully connect the spelling of a word with its sounds and meaning.

Nonsense Words

Stand-Alone Activity
Students practice decoding nonsense words and decoding words outside of meaningful context.

Integrated with Instruction

Nonsense words are used by students to demonstrate internalized learning.


Look, Say, Write

Say, Hear, Write, Read

Auditory and Prosodic Components

Not Typically Included
Instead, visual cues are used with focus on the practitioner’s artificial facial expressions such as scrunching the nose or circling the mouth with a finger to differentiate between vowel sounds. Artificial pronunciation of unstressed syllables is used, with all syllables in a word equally stressed and pronounced without schwas by the practitioner.


Explicit auditory phoneme discrimination and prosodic awareness instruction, both critical for struggling readers and writers and multi-language learners, is included to establish strong phonological representations of English phonemes and words.

Motoric Component

Artificial Arm Movements & Hand and Finger Movements Associated with Sounds
Arm movements include air or sky writing. Hand movements include ‘tapping’, ‘pounding’, ‘bumping’ fingers or hands to represent sounds or syllables; ‘finger spelling’ is used to represent sounds and then letters.

Authentic Motor Associations with Sounds

Spoken sounds are associated with simultaneous writing of corresponding letters on paper to foster development of neural functional connectivity between the phonological and orthographic systems and to strengthen motor memory for authentic writing.

Simultaneous Oral Spelling

Students are taught to say letter names with simultaneous writing of corresponding letters to spell a word.

Not Used

Students are taught to say letter sounds with simultaneous writing of corresponding letters to spell a word.

Tactile Component

Includes Unrelated Tactile & Sensory Experiences
Tactile experiences may include modeling letters with clay, writing in sand or shaving cream or on bumpy surfaces, and color-coded cues.

Not included

The focus of instruction is on developing motor memories and orthographic input associated with authentic writing.

Declarative vs. Procedural Knowledge

Declarative Knowledge
Students are directly taught specific language patterns and expectancies and are expected to memorize decontextualized information such as A Apple “a” and “p” says /p/. Rules are memorized for the pronunciation of letters and location of syllable stress based on letter patterns.

Procedural Knowledge

Students discover specific language patterns and expectancies while immediately receiving explicit instruction and extensive practice in applying their newly acquired knowledge and skills to reading and writing. Students learn to apply a single strategy of flexing vowel and consonant sounds and syllabic stress to correctly read a word.


Focus on rate of reading
Instruction focuses on achieving fluency through speed.

Focus on accuracy and automaticity of reading

Instruction focuses on achieving fluency through accuracy and well-established and integrated phonological-orthographic-semantic representations of words.

Drill Work

Used as method of instruction
Drill work included in each lesson.

Not used as method of instruction

Drill work is minimal, if any. All lessons focus on the meta-linguistic application of skills to spell and read both familiar and unfamiliar words within meaningful contexts.

Meta-Cognitive and Executive Function Components

One Core Meta-Cognitive Strategy
Instruction typically emphasizes one core strategy—break words into syllables.

14 Meta-Cognitive Strategies

Instruction emphasizes using multiple strategies for independent problem solving when spelling and reading words.


Available in a series of levels, which are generally sold separately.

Materials are available as a complete intervention program.


On average, a complete core program costs $3,000.

SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing complete core program costs $439.

"In the NICHD-funded research on specific learning disabilities (SLDs) involving language that I directed as principal investigator for over 25 years (cross-sectional, longitudinal, genetic, brain imaging, and school- based and clinic- based interventions) our interdisciplinary team published evidence showing that not all reading disabilities are the same and not all writing disabilities are the same. Findings showed that dysgraphia (impaired letter production), dyslexia (impaired word decoding/reading and word encoding/spelling), and oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD; impaired syntactic skills for language by ear, mouth, eye, and/or hand) differed… yet all three SLDs benefit from spelling instruction as in SPELL-Links.”
Virginia W. Berninger, Ph.D
Professor Emerita, University of Washington

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