New! 2013 Super Spelling
See the spelling camps page for details.
Jun 24 - Jul 16, 2013
509-946-5453 (Audrey) or 509-627-5447 (Linda)
Jun 18 - Jul 17, 2013
New! 2013 Training
Call 605-693-4454 to register
Commerce City, CO
Community Leadership Academy
Jun 10-14, 2013
Jul 8-12, 2013
If you would like to request a seminar in your area, please visit our
seminar request page.
Spelling Dictionaries now available!
Audio Tape/Visual Aid "Overview" and full catalog available FREE upon
Online ordering coming soon!
An EQUAL and OPTIMAL educational opportunity through multi-sensory language arts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does your curriculum require formal training?
Many teachers, parents, professional tutors, aides and literacy volunteers have
no trouble implementing the method quite correctly without formal training. We do,
however, offer training seminars and accredited correspondence practicums.
Necessary student materials are:
What curriculum materials do I need to teach first graders? Does it make any difference
if I have 20 first graders or only one?
The core teacher materials for first graders (for 1 or 20 students) are:
- Teacher's Edition, Level I
- Training Manual (to guide you through your preliminary study)
- Set of Phonogram Cards, with initial letter formation
- Phonogram Tape, with pronunciations and 47 rules
- Audio CD with blackline master practice, testing and correction sheets
- Blank composition notebook, 3/8"-rule
- Set of re-useable laminated 24" x 34" wall charts (or in the case of a small class,
the 11" x 14" size).
- 1 3/8"-rule dotted line composition notebook
- Practice Paper
- 1 each red and black, #2 six sided pencils
There are other recommended "enrichment" items for both teacher and students to
enhance the program, but which are not critical to the method itself:
- The Spelling & Usage Dictionary (K - 2)
- Comprehension series, the McCall-Harby (K) and McCall-Crabbs Standard Test Lessons
in Reading, Book A
- Merriam Webster's 10th Electronic Dictionary (for the teacher)
- The ABC's and All Their Tricks (for the teacher)
What curriculum do I need to teach kindergarten children this same program?
The same things, except use 1/2"-rule composition notebooks and practice paper for
K students. This wider rule can also be used for some special education students
-- depending upon their IEP and for some at risk grade one and two students.
How can I help my fifth grade students who still read at the 2nd and 3rd grade levels
and spell and write at even lower levels? They are not yet in special education,
but there are parental requests to test them for future special education placement.
Perhaps they only need to be taught the phonics and rules they may have missed along
the way and which they need for correct spelling. Correct spellings of words are
the same as standard "book print" used in reading assignments. If they have been
using "invented" spellings for composition, they could quite naturally have trouble
with reading as well. At 5th grade levels, if the school hasn't suggested testing
them previously for learning disorders, probably they were considered of normal
development for the first five years.
For a minimal investment to begin, try the
audio CD ($22.95) of the "Orton" phonograms (the commonly used correct spelling
patterns). With little supervision, they could teach these correct spelling patterns
to themselves using full multi-sensory instruction to address their individual "learning
How can I help my fourth grade students learn to spell better? About half of them
are fairly good readers, but they can't spell at all, and consequently hate to write
Our explicitly taught and complete phonics organization was designed to take such
phonics instruction directly to spelling applications (encoding) rather than only
to reading (decoding) which prevails in adopted reading programs. Our approach is
unique among phonics/reading methods, but we feel that we've proven, with around
120 collective years of successful use, that putting the words together through
phoneme/grapheme dictated spelling lessons creates a long term memory base more
quickly and efficiently than just noting what is already on the page to be read
or decoded. See #4 question above for suggestions on what might be done with students
to achieve a fairly "quick fix."
Sometimes there's a serious problem, but quite often they only need the missing
information. Some children immediately "see" the 2, 3 and 4-letter phonograms just
pop out of the words; others must be shown specifically how their own speech "maps"
to print through "the alphabetic principle". You would
need the Teacher's Edition, Level I, to carry the program forward into spelling,
composition, grammar, syntax, etc.
Can you explain why you revised the old "Orton" phonograms? And then, why you published
a new program?
The current nationwide "phonemic awareness" frenzy was the final thing that really
pushed us into this. As you may or may not know, the original Orton program designed
for normal primary-level students (Spalding's Writing Road to Reading (1957),
reflected 80-year old speech patterns. These deteriorated speech patterns are the
problem students are confronted with when they are trying to think, write and spell
correctly on their own. We teachers cannot be with them forever to lead them through
the words the way people spoke them 80 years ago.
We did not make up any new phonemes or graphemes (the latter remain very constant),
but we did reassign a few phonemes to the original graphemes, such as the vowels
i and y now having a long /e/ sound -- just as they are shown in modern dictionaries
(example: "baby"). When the controversial third edition dictionary came out in 1963,
Mrs. Spalding feared that speech would deteriorate, and, she was right,
of course; it has. However, she decided to ignore the new dictionary in the hopes
that pronunciations would follow her lead. Her own speech reflected Webster's 2nd
revision which was much closer to spelling and syllabication patterns.
The problem is now exacerbated by the current emphasis on only pronunciations. Phonemic
awareness makes students aware of what they are saying and hearing, but it teaches
only about one-third of the phonetic system needed for correct spelling. If we intend
to be true to the WRTR methodology (and we do), we needed to give students a way
to deal with newer speech (confirmed by the dictionary in most cases) and still
allow them to spell correctly -- even if they were not "born" spellers. When students
are trying to think, write and spell correctly on their own, this is the problem
they face. We decided to do something about teaching them these new patterns and
"awarenesses" if you will. The slight revision of the phonograms and a couple of
refinements to the mnemonic marking system now permit this.
We began with a reality check of our own -- by first looking up every single
word in the Ayres List in the 10th Edition of Merriam Webster's Electronic
Edition and by admitting how we ourselves actually now pronounce many of them regardless
of how we thought we were pronouncing them. Our linguist board member also uses
his German, Greek, Latin and French dictionaries to look back a few centuries. What
we came up with was actually closer to what Webster's spelling patterns looked like
in the 1850's than what we've been dealing with since the 1920's (see the orthography
chapter in Harvey's Revised English Grammar, 1868). It became obvious these
phonograms had been tampered with considerably before Dr. Orton ever had his hands
We published a new program for five primary reasons:
- To correlate it with the revised phonograms and marking system
- To provide for chronologically organized daily lesson plans in the order in which
they are taught to students, all under one cover
- To add and intersperse direct, Socratic and multi-sensory lessons in grammar/syntax,
organizational composition skills and vocabulary development not previously addressed
- To provide a detailed K - 7 Course of Study standard coupled with ongoing assessments
of those academic outcomes
- To provide the means for self-training for those who cannot take formal training
in the method
I am a principal wondering how I might best bring your method to the attention of
our staff. They have previously embraced a purist whole language approach, but now
they recognize that certainly some of our students needed better phonics instruction.
Recently they have tried to include some phonics using worksheets, but find that
this instruction is pretty ineffectual overall -- in fact, that it often seems to
hurt more than it helps.
We believe that all schools or individuals looking for change should concentrate
on a more thorough investigation of the various methods offered. The Riggs Institute
will send a FREE "overview" package of information with a digital tape to explain
our concepts with many examples. This includes a finer-print copy of Myrna McCulloch's
monograph, "Phonetics, Spelling, Whole Language: How We Put Them Together for
the Best of Both Worlds," originally published in the 1994 University
of Oregon College of Education's Annual Conference Monograph. The use of the words
"whole language" may be of some concern because purist whole language programs,
generally, haven't produced the promised results. However, we are talking about
including the missing skills to write creatively with correct spelling and syntax,
and to speak correctly and effectively.
"Explicit" phonics was covered in only one chapter of 1985's compilation of reading
research, "Becoming a Nation of Readers";
the balance of the chapters affirmed many of the concepts of whole language programs.
The idea of a marriage of effective and fast phonics and skills instruction and
whole language concepts garnered widespread approval between about 1989 and 1994.
Just as many teachers and districts were thinking that this was a reasonable answer,
the "standards and assessment" movement, legislation and state textbook adoptions,
and publishers set a different course for reading reform. Suddenly "decodable" texts
and "phonemic awareness" were "in."
Apparently nearly everyone forgot to ask, "Decodable by what phonics?" We predicted
that phonemes without concurrent graphemes would soon be discovered not to work
(see Linnea Ehri's research paper) and sure enough, teachers
are already describing and complaining about what is happening in these classroom
where phonics is far too little and too late. When phonics isn't correct and isn't
complete, of course it won't work.
You may also get additional information from our 13 page Q & A curriculum survey
questionaire. We can follow this with a Q & A speaker-phone staff session or sometimes
send a representative in person to answer any further questions. We think that all
man-made materials which can affect the human body or mind, i.e. curriculum,
foodstuffs, drugs, etc., should be required to furnish full disclosure and accurate
labeling. We have participated in some state textbook adoptions and talked with
teachers who have volunteered to examine materials and listen to textbook publisher
presentations, and we have concluded one thing: tired teachers, even voluntarily,
should not be required to decide in a brief period of time the effectiveness of
any pedagogy in any set of teaching materials.
This process may appear to give public institutions a proper basis for spending
tax dollars, but it is doubtful that it can produce such a basis. What, when and
how phoneme/graphemes are taught to address all "learning styles" is the first measure
of comparison regarding just this one issue. Phonics methods are not all equal (see
"Phonics is Phonics, is Phonics, Or Is It?").
I get what you are saying about the phonics you teach for correct spelling, but
isn't all this other brain-based instruction a bit much?
You are right; many students can learn with ordinary methods, but if you need to
address all "learning styles" why not use the best and most complete methods available?
What we ask is why anyone would want to unnecessarily risk truly damaging perhaps
20 to 30% of students who must have the finest methods available or to settle for
giving your top students considerably less than they are capable of learning? Our
"An EQUAL and OPTIMAL learning opportunity for every student."
You might use this analogy:
Would you spend weeks and weeks sewing an heirloom wedding dress for your daughter,
yet use only the cheapest of materials? OR spend days and days tilling your new
vegetable garden, then use inferior seeds and fertilizer? You would be disappointed
with the results.
How can I encourage or persuade a seventh grader who reads at the first grade level
to believe that "one more method" won't be the same as all the others they've tried?
That they won't fail with it, too?
This is not easy, but you might read our article,
"How to Motivate the Older Child Who Reads, but Doesn't Write, Spell or Think All
That Well" and try to get its points across to the student. Though
your question is about the student who doesn't read all that well either, the concepts
of this article address failure and how we can find positive ways to work around
attitude. We find that such students need to have the "monkey of failure" removed
from their backs. The only way to do that is to take on some responsibility for
the failure ourselves as teachers. Far too often, these children have been told
that they are incapable of learning – that they are the problem! There is little
admission that teaching methods for them have not been what they should have been.
They are very discouraged, depressed, and often extremely hostile. They fail over
and over again because most of their school hours are spent being asked to do things
no one has yet taught them to do. This is very demeaning to them. "Invented" spellings
are a sample of this type of so-called academic activity. Dr. Barbara Bateman, Professor
Emeriti of "Reading, Learning Disabilities and Law" at the University of Oregon,
calls these mis-teaching practices "academic child abuse." These are strong words,
yet these children's bodies and minds are too often divided up to go with the various
pots of money bureaucratic misdirection has provided instead of spending available
time learning language skills first – the tools of all other learning.
Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on C-Span in early February of 2001 to
address a group of African-American teenagers on the importance and absolute necessity
of learning English language skills. He went on and on, at great length, to get
this one point across to them. In so doing, he told them that he had not learned
English well at all until he went to college. He gave a distinct impression that
he is passionate on this subject. We simply must make these children know that the
methods used with them previously have not been correct and have not addressed their
particular "learning styles."
This method has been known to bring the reading comprehension scores of 13- and
14-year-olds up four grade levels in four weeks in our 60-hour
summer spelling camps. We think it is due to the method, but also due to
the intensive, uninterrupted work on nothing but explicitly taught complete phonetics,
spelling (with rules) and the rudiments of English grammar and syntax. We can send
an e-mailed proposal for such a summer intervention program at your request. We
call them "Super Summer Spelling Camps" - a name which appeals a good deal more
than "remedial reading."
What can you make available for staff meetings or to individuals to learn about
or study the concepts of this method of instruction?
Contact us for the following:
- Our taped/visual aid overview packages
- An email attachment of our 13-page Q & A curriculum survey questionnaire
- In-person or phone Q & A follow-ups
- Overview presentations and curriculum exhibits at various Core Knowledge, Classical
School, Lutheran Schools, Brain Research, Charter School and Literacy Conferences
- Our PowerPoint Presentation, with or without real audio
We would like to implement your method in our school, but we need to have "scientific,
controlled research" you can cite proving its efficacy in order to obtain the grants
we need to pay for the materials and training.
We would like to work with you, but sadly, this is our toughest question. We have
no such research by that designation, which is now written into almost all funding
legislation regarding reading reform efforts. Most of it now further stipulates
that such research, with at least one control group, must be overseen by a "disinterested"
third party, garner peer review and be published in "juried" journals which are
mostly owned by the "reading establishment." Since 1923, when Dr. Orton first began
his research, his work and that of all of his protégés who have written or worked
with methods that are derivations of his techniques, have been completely ignored
by the research community.
In 1997, the Reading, English and Communications ERIC Clearinghouse made a link
directly to this web site, and they have published many of our curriculum materials
and education reform position papers on microfiche, but that is still not enough
to qualify for grants. All the "Orton" based programs have hundreds of years of
collective "empirical" evidence that proves that they are very effective and perhaps
the best methods for academic and cognitive results in the English speaking world.
It has been suggested that we "buy" our own research, but we think that doing so
would make us like any other publisher who buys their own research. It would be
tainted with our own "vested interest" which is not the purpose of research. We
further believe that those who already have billions in taxpayer financed research
funding should be looking around for promising projects; for instance, instead of
the NICHD only researching to find deficiencies in the human brain we think they
should also be interested to discover what kind of instruction and content produce
very high proficiencies.
I do not understand the differences in your kind of phonics and how it is taught
versus the phonics being taught in my child's first grade classroom. Can you tell
me what it is?
Riggs teaches all phonics, in isolation or "explicitly," in 4 of the first 9 weeks
of first grade instruction. That is: 71 "phonograms" using the
42 "pure" elementary sounds (phonemes) of English speech, taught
in tandem with the 71 spelling pattern combinations (graphemes)
for a total of 118 letter/sound combinations. This is the "alphabetic principle,"
or how speech can be made to spell fourth grade oral vocabularies (or "maps" to
standard book print for reading). This instruction, taught with dictated letter
formation, is much like teaching the multiplication tables before giving the math
problems that require them. This phonics instruction is followed by dictated spelling
lessons and 47 rules of spelling, plurals and syllabication. We use multi-sensory
(neurologically addressing all "learning styles"), direct and Socratic (questioning
rather than telling) teaching techniques.
Most other "phonics" programs teach about 1/3 of these phoneme/grapheme relationships
(with little emphasis on the graphemes) over a 4-year period of time, and do it
as an embedded or "implicit" process using key words, pictures, letter names and
consumable worksheets. They most often permit, and even encourage, "invented" spellings
through the end of grade 3.