Riggs News

The Riggs Institute Blog

RSS to subscribe.

Spelling Dictionaries now available!

Visit our
Discussion Group

Audio Tape/Visual Aid "Overview" and full catalog available FREE upon request.

Online ordering coming soon!

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

Welcome to The Riggs Institute

The Riggs Institute is a self-supporting, non-profit literacy agency and publisher. We offer language arts curriculum for teachers and parents and formal training seminars as well.

The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking

Our method of instruction, The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking, begins by teaching manuscript letter formation through dictated instructions (no copying or tracing), together with a sufficient set of sound/letter relationships (the alphabetic principle). This accommodates the Webster-Oxford spelling system which "standardized" English spelling in the early 1860's, and remains virtually unchanged after 140+ years. These phoneme/grapheme relationships are taught together as "explicit" phonics, "in isolation" (without key words, pictures or letter names) as recommended in the 1985 federal synthesis of reading research done by the nation's leading reading professors, "Becoming a Nation of Readers" (BNR). This instruction takes only four of the first nine weeks in Grade 1--all without consumable worksheets.


The 120 collective years of research and experience that have produced this updated method began with Dr. Samuel T. Orton, the earliest neuroscientist to research the functioning of the human brain in learning language skills (1923-1948). Dr. Orton used a very similar phonics base and collaborated with successful classroom teachers to combine his non-discriminating multi-sensory techniques with Classical Direct and Socratic instructional approaches to teaching. His first successful applications went to re-establish language-skills memory in brain-damaged World War I veterans. Other physiological organic or trauma-induced brain-damaged individuals (i.e. stroke patients) were treated similarly until his death in 1948.

Romalda Spalding and The Writing Road to Reading

Using Orton's methods to teach normal primary students was designed by one of his last teacher-collaborators, Romalda Spalding, who authored The Writing Road to Reading in 1957. She believed, and we believe, that her method represented Dr. Orton's final conclusions that this method should be used for primary children, both to prevent and correct learning disorders, and most importantly to establish high literacy in virtually all primary children. This promise gave birth to our motto:

  • An Equal & Optimal Learning Opportunity Through Multi-Sensory Language Arts.

The Riggs Method

The Riggs Method incorporates the phonics-based spelling with rules system dating from the Webster-Oxford standardization of English spelling, but also provides realistic phonemic/graphemic correspondences from contemporary dictionaries. It is possible to teach correct spelling as well as regional dialects and varied pronunciations across the English-speaking world. This phonetic system and the rules of English were regularly taught in colleges of education and were incorporated in orthography student texts during the pre-"Dick and Jane" era (the 1920's and before), in a time when children who were privileged to attend school almost all became highly literate. It simply requires a realistic alignment of worldwide speech patterns with the English spelling system (and our slight revision of the phonograms). See Dr. Linnea Ehri's research and commentary on the importance of the grapheme over the phoneme.


Augmenting the instruction to finely integrate grammar and syntax, creative and organizational composition skills, and vocabulary development saves time, money and attention, and points out the relevance to that which the student already knows. We use roots, prefixes, suffixes, homophones and homographs, antonyms, synonyms and graphic organizers to provide for a high-expectation, skills-based, complete language arts method designed to accompany any vocabulary-rich literature of the user's choice. Chronologically arranged daily lesson plans, with initial "how to" scripting, make the method teacher friendly and potentially the most creative program any teacher or parent may be privileged to use. It is the most cost effective, in that it equips a teacher for life for about $200. Students use only paper, pencil and their minds.

Instruction begins at a 6-year-old's listening and/or spoken comprehensible vocabulary levels which researchers Chall, Seashore and Flesch determined to be between 4,000 and 24,000 words. Because phonics instruction is first, fast, complete and multi-sensory (the latter to address all neurologically based "learning styles"). Beginners very quickly spell, write, and then read what they can already listen to and/or say with understanding. Primary children find this fast-paced, common sense, independence-establishing experience challenging, exhilarating and fun! Remedial students of all ages love this program because it doesn't look "babyish." They can easily be convinced that it truly is a life-changing college course in linguistics simply because it is so different from any other phonics system they may have learned.

Language Arts & Cognitive Development

The Writing & Spelling Road to Reading & Thinking (subtitled A Neurolinguistic Approach to Cognitive Development and English Literacy, title of our SAU accredited training seminars) is now the most complete and up-to-date "Orton-based" language arts method available. We believe that it complies with the "No Child Left Behind (NCLB)" research-based requirements. It is self-training for many teachers and parents, and gives them the practical help they need to teach the following language arts "strands" and cognitive development:

  • "Explicit" Phonics with dictated Initial Letter Formation
  • The Alphabetic Principle
  • Phonemic & Graphemic Awareness
  • Correct Spelling w/47 Rules
  • Fluent Oral and Silent Reading
  • Oral and Print Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Pronunciation & Speech
  • Creative & Organizational Composition
  • Grammar/Syntax/Punctuation/Capitalization
  • Analytical & Inferential Thinking
  • Auditory/Visual/Verbal/Motor Cognitive Development in:
    • Attention
    • Discrimination
    • Association
    • Memory


"Independent evaluation of our programs has affirmed our academic excellence, with full WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation, for grades K-12 in 2010. The national IOWA tests pay tribute to the education that our students receive by consistently averaging in the 90th and above percentile for core total scores. St. Joseph Academy students, taken together as a school, are working approximately four years ahead of the national objective standards for K-8 students. Likewise, taken as a school group, they are performing better than 97% of other K-8 schools.

Our high school students are performing better than 94% compared to other high schools nationwide. Performance by our students ranks them in the top 3% of grade schools and the top 6% of high schools in the nation."

- St. Joseph's in San Marcos, CA