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5 Steps to Choosing the Right Dyslexia Curriculum


So. Your state legislature just passed a dyslexia law. That’s great news for struggling readers — and everyone who cares about seeing students succeed. But it does present an immediate challenge for you: How to you figure out which dyslexia intervention programs and strategies are best for your district?

We can help. For more than 20 years, (we’ve) (The Sonday System has) (Winsor Learning has) been working with school districts all across the country to develop a curriculum that produces proven results for students with dyslexia AND meets the challenges you face as a school administrator. To help you sort through the information and make a curriculum choice with 100% confidence, we’ve developed a simple five-step checklist:

1. Does it comply with the law?

When evaluating curriculums for legal compliance, the first thing to ask is, “Is this program Orton Gillingham based?” Currently there are 43 states that have passed dyslexia laws. And though each statute is unique, a central feature of all dyslexia is the requirement of four essential Orton Gillingham instructional techniques:

• Systematic. The curriculum must ensure consistency so that it can be taught in the same way by different teachers.

• Cumulative. Each lesson must build on previous learning, to ensure a strong foundation.

• Structured. The curriculum should begin with simple concepts and proceed in a logical progression to more complex tasks.

• Sequential. It should meet children at their current level and progress as they develop.

The Sonday System was developed by nationally renowned reading expert Arlene Sonday, a pioneer of Orton Gillingham instruction with more than 25 years of classroom experience.

2. Is it proven?

Orton Gillingham is one of the most widely studied approaches of instruction for students with dyslexia, and has been cited by the National Reading Panel as one of the most effective approaches for teaching reading.1 But the fact is, not all Orton Gillingham-based curriculums have a proven track record. The Orton Gillingham technique can be complicated, which is why, more than 20 years ago, Arlene Sonday worked with Winsor Learning to build a curriculum that was simple enough for anyone to use — without compromising the highly effective Orton Gillingham approache. The Sonday System has been refined and optimized for more than 20 years, and is currently used by school districts nationwide.

1Teaching Children to Read: An Evidenced-Based Assessment of Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction (April 2000)

3. How will it impact my staff? 

News flash: Your teachers have a lot on their plate. The best curriculum in the world is no good if they don’t have the capacity to teach it correctly. When evaluating dyslexia reading curriculums, make sure to ask the following questions:

• How much teacher training is required?

• How detailed and specific are the lesson plans?

• How much prep time is required for each lesson?

• Can the lessons be effectively taught by classroom aides or volunteers?

The Sonday System was developed with these realities in mind. This multisensory approach requires minimal upfront training and almost no prep time, and can be taught effectively by almost anyone — including teachers, classroom aides and even volunteers.

4. How hard will it be to implement?

With a new curriculum in any subject area, an immediate challenge is building capacity. This means making sure you understand the training requirements — both initially and over time. A program that requires extensive training for teachers can have real implications for you and your bottom line. Before choosing a curriculum, make sure you understand:

• How much initial training is required?

• What kind of training will be needed in the future?

• Who can participate in the training sessions?

The Sonday System allows school districts to build capacity almost immediately because it requires very little initial training, very little subsequent training, and can be taught by almost anyone.

5. Are there any hidden costs?

Every district faces budget pressure. Every decision, no matter how student-centered, has a financial component. That’s why it’s so important to understand all of the costs. With dyslexia curriculums, that means knowing:

• Is teacher training included?

• Will additional training be required?

• Are all instructional materials included?

• Will I need to replace materials every year?

The Sonday System helps school districts control costs in many ways. It requires far less initial training and less follow-up training than other Orton Gillingham curriculums, and is designed with non-consumable materials — all of which help keep costs to a minimum.

Choosing the right curriculum is a big decision. By keeping these questions in mind, you’ll be able to quickly narrow your options and choose the dyslexia reading program that best meets the needs of your students, your teachers and your budget.

To learn more about the Sonday System, its Orton Gillingham lesson plans, its cost-effective teacher training requirements and its simple, multisensory reading intervention strategies for students with dyslexia please visit