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An EQUAL and OPTIMAL educational opportunity through multi-sensory language arts.

For The Surest Way to Teach The Skills Children Need, Consider Our Training Seminars & This Information!

We assume that you are visiting our web site because of your interest in academic excellence. We appreciate that! Our finely sequenced basic skills method allows you to teach an entirely new program or to supplement your current literature- and composition-based programs for mainstreamed or remedial students of any age and virtually any ability levels. We invite your thorough examination of the latest, most complete and up-to-date Orton/Spalding/Riggs-based method available! We address both speech and correct spelling in our curriculum and in these seminars. Our 30-hour seminars are accredited.

Our Complete Phonetic System not taught in colleges of education for approximately 85 years since Dick and Jane ™ when the publishing world took control of what would happen in YOUR college preparation and in classrooms IS the alphabetic principle set by the 1860's Webster-Oxford collaboration to standardize English spelling for the world. In your first grade (or any) classroom, this complete phonics system is taught in four of the first nine weeks without any visual worksheets, pictures, key words or letter names. This is “explicit” phonics as defined and recommended in the 40/60–year compilation of federal research done by the nation’s leading reading professors, 1985's Becoming a Nation of Readers (BNR) – a Reagan Administration initiative. These experts included Dr. Richard Anderson, director of the used-to-be Center for the Study of Reading, University of Illinois, Champaign, and chair of this committee, who forgot to distribute this report to teachers, schools, colleges of education, State Departments of Education, publishers, and/or legislative bodies, thus it has had very little impact on how anyone “thinks” about teaching the reading, writing and spelling of English. I have it on excellent authority that he wanted to leave the phonics chapter out, but Dr. Jeanne Chall threatened an “Afterword “report” if he did, so it’s in there to no one’s particular advantage if they don’t have the report. The word explicit as used in this report is reading jargon; it is not the normal dictionary definition, either used as an adjective or an adverb, yet that is how it is mistakenly used, over and over, in all of today’s relevant documents such as NCLB, Reading First initiatives, state phonics statutes, etc. Legislators simply do not understand that the term to means “teaching the sound/symbol (phoneme/grapheme) relationships “in isolation” which is not done by any of the phonemic awareness programs. These relationships for speech and spelling should be taught to all students, just as we used to teach multiplication tables to give students a working body of information, up front and very personal, to their future academic well-being. They need a working body of information before they get into the intricacies of encoding and decoding. These seminars are your chance to learn what your reading professor failed to teach you – what the alphabetic principle actually is, and how to teach it to 5 and 6-year-olds. The alphabetic principle, so often spoken of but never really defined, which would enable your students to speak and write at their first grade oral vocabulary levels (4,000 to 24,000 words according to researchers: Chall, Flesch and Seashore). The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners, 1994 and 1998 reveal that 94 million American adults read and write at the two lowest of five levels of proficiency (a Clinton Administration initiative). This equates to 51% of the entire adult population. How did this happen? Do you seriously believe that all of these people were brain deficient from conception or birth? We have proven otherwise. The Clinton Administration also took $1 in funding away from the IRA and NCTE in 1994 (see www.edweek.org archives, 3-31-199 and told them they could not set English language arts standards. They have, of course, and didn’t get money from the federal government or taxpayers to do it..

The phonemes of English speech have increased from (arguably) 40 - 46 to nearly 250 in all the dialects of English spoken worldwide while spelling patterns (the graphemes) are virtually unchanged. We can still communicate in writing across the world, so why do the current programs concentrate on just phonemic awareness, or the sounds of the letters of the alphabet (about 1/3 of the system needed to cover correct spelling) and call it phonics – and then take four years and a blizzard of worksheets to teach it. I happen to know the individual who does the printing of these worksheets for the half dozen publishers; he is very wealthy, but uses our program in his private school for his own children and those of his rich friends. I think we all know what the answer to that is. Teachers, are also victims of this monopolistic system (kept in place by state textbook adoptions in Texas, California and 19 other states (see Ed Week archives, 3-23-05 “ for “Stop State Textbook Adoption.”). We all know who sets the standards, writes the state assessments and adoption criteria, don’t we? Who works with these publishers inside our Colleges of Education and State Departments? These are not the rank and file members of the International Reading Association (IRA), The National Council of Teachers of English ( NCTE) and The National Association for the Education of Young Children. These are the organization’s top level people who speak at all the conferences, get the research money and the top jobs. Register your protest of this obvious monopoly violation of federal anti-trust statutes, by learning the truth, which can, indeed, set you free as teachers and citizens.

We are able to teach this information very rapidly because we use multi-sensory instruction that simultaneously engages students through four neurological pathways to the brain: visual, auditory, verbal and motor. This ensures that each individual’s learning style will be accommodated with one method (no need for separate and costly testing), and permits optimal cognitive development in attention, discrimination, association, and memory. We also use direct and Socratic instruction to:

  1. Get and maintain attention
  2. Conserve teacher and student time
  3. Teach analytical thinking skills

Mnemonic devices and graphic organizers round out the important instructional techniques of this method –all of which can be used in other disciplines. In 1923, Dr. Samuel T. Orton had a distinct advantage over contemporary brain researchers in his collaboration with classroom teachers who were still being trained to teach the alphabetic principle - both the phonemes and graphemes needed for correct spelling. My mother was trained in the 1920's and taught 32 children in all 8 grades in one room; classes were 5 minutes in duration. None of her students failed to learn to read. There were/are also some 47 rules of spelling, plurals and syllabication, use of apostrophes and capitalization that we also teach. In 1942, I learned real phonics from my gray-haired teacher and two spelling rules during 8 years of elementary and found out they were both wrong! About five years ago at the Harvard Brain Conference, I heard a very famous neuroscientist lecture an 850-person audience of teachers and school administrators. He said, “Here’s how to do phonics: On the overhead he wrote “buh” “aah” “tuh” - sounded it out and then pronounced bat. I nudged the teacher next to me and asked, “What do you think of that?” immediately she said, “What’s wrong with it?” I said, “Well, in this day and age of phonemic awareness, this speaker has just given us 5 sounds for a word that has only 3.” Not one person protested, but the lesson was clear: we should now learn phonics instruction from a neuroscientist who, through no fault of his own, doesn’t happen to know anything about the subject, and has not yet found anyone to ask as Dr. Orton did. My conclusions are drawn from my 30 years of experience, what I have learned of the history of phonics instruction, the alphabetic principle and in administering the use of an Orton-based program in a small, inner city school in 1977, 78, and 79. What happened to our class composite averages is shown in the line graph above. No child failed; they all excelled. See next paragraph.

The Riggs Institute is a veteran, non-profit literacy agency vending both curriculum and in-service training seminars. The Institute received its tax exempt status in April, 1979 after our founder Myrna McCulloch implemented the first, primary-level, Orton-based program, Spalding's Writing Road to Reading, with at-risk students in an inner school in 1977/78/79. During the first year, and pointedly without their help, the school became ineligible for Title I funding in exactly 2.5 months (only 7 students remained below the 50th percentile), and brought 7th and 8th graders up 4 and 5 reading and spelling grade levels in one year in a doubled-up mainstreamed classroom. First graders finished the year at the 96th %tile– their composite class average–while the previous first grade class averaged at the 37th percentile. This same students rose to the 87th percentile in Grade 2. I envisioned this happening across the country. From my 26-year experience base, and about 100 collective previous years of experience and empirical evidence, we think that many teachers and schools are ready to change the status quo to make this success story happen again and again! Our extensive website at: www.riggsinst.org is about 150 pages, including our educational reform position papers. It includes such highlights as:

Additional Materials:

  • Power Point Presentation (overview) with separate script or optional audio at "Downloads."
  • A 23-page Curriculum Evaluation Q & A found at www.riggsinst.org/Assess.aspx
  • FAQ's
  • Glossary of Terms
  • The "Great Debate" (What phonics are we all discussing? What IS the alphabetic principle?)
  • Complete description of The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking
  • Riggs' K - 7 Reading & Language Arts Course of Study Standards
  • Search Engine
  • Bibliography
  • and much more!

Essential Consumable Student Materials:

  • Dotted line paper, 1 blank composition notebook, red and black pencils
    (Note: Eliminating the cost of workbooks more than pays for the training, the non-consumable teacher materials (one set per teacher, per career for ??? students) and a couple of years of student materials)

We qualify for NCLB and Reading First Initiatives as “research based,” not proven. We continue to ask Dr. Reid Lyon to focus his interest for controlled, back to back research to study our method and its results and to try to assess the why of it. Please let us know if we might answer any questions. A taped/visual aid overview is available for staff meetings. References and samples of students’ written work are available upon request.

The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking

Training Seminars

Direct, Socratic & Multi-Sensory Instruction to teach Explicit Phonics, Initial Letter Formation, Spelling w/47 Rules, Grammar, Vocabulary, Composition

We teach:

  • The "explicit" phonetic structure of correct English spelling to produce both phonemic and graphemic awareness to render virtually all text both "decodable" and "encodable."
  • Letter formation to correct or prevent reversals, build cognition and enhance listening skills.
  • How to apply 47 rules of spelling, syllabication, plurals, capitalization and apostrophes through a dictated, spelling-vocabulary list.
  • How to manage teacher/student time efficiently using direct instruction and student-made resources.
  • How to use brain-based multi-sensory instruction to accommodate all "learning styles."
  • How to make the neural connections in auditory, verbal, visual, and motor cognitive developmental to correct learning disorders and to provide for acceleration in the learning process.
  • How to integrate reading, writing, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and composition basic skills for inclusion into any literature or composition-based program.
  • How to effectively use on-going assessments of student progress to adjust instructional needs.
  • How to acquire a higher "expectation" for potential student performance.