I will always be amazed at how hard teachers work. I get messages each week from parents and teachers asking me which trainings they should take. People are willing to spend their own money to get the education they need to help children be successful.
Today, I’m going to compare 3 of the top trainings supported by the Science of Reading. I have taken all three and see value in all of them. Each training is worthwhile, and none of them will lead you down the wrong path. I’ll let you know the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for yourself.
I want to share the trainings I’ve been through. I’m not trying to brag, but wanted to frame how and when I did each of these courses so that you can compare. I was Orton-Gillingham trained (classroom level) by Dawn Nieman in April 2019. I took the associate level training with Dawn this summer (2021) through Zoom. I completed both volumes of LETRS between February 2020 and June 2021. I was not part of a cohort, but had access to some cohort trainings in my district later. I completed Reading Teacher Top Ten Tools online between August and September 2021.
Orton-Gillingham is my pick for: gaining a deep, thorough knowledge of the English language. You want to know phonics? Choose OG.
Orton-Gillingham was the first training I received in the Science of Reading world. According to the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, the Orton-Gillingham approach is a “direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals.” It was originally designed almost 100 years ago for students with dyslexia.
1. Orton-Gillingham is an approach, not a program (Wilson is a program based on OG principles that require you to use their materials). You can use this approach with any materials you have. You aren’t limited to a scripted program, which is amazing.
2. It values an explicit, systematic approach to phonics that is unbeatable. In my Orton-Gillingham training, I was actually taught why English makes sense and the different patterns children need to learn. You will walk away from an Orton-Gillingham training feeling like you were never taught anything about spelling in your life. For four days, I sat in a training room asking, “Why did no one ever tell me this?!?!?”
3. The methods can be used in whole group or small group. Many programs designed for struggling readers are used just for small group. While the Orton-Gillingham approach is designed for one-on-one instruction, you can very easily adapt it to whole group instruction.
4. Orton Gillingham training is intense, but it doesn’t go on for months. Each training I received was for 4 days, with each day being 8 hours. While some trainings can go on for months, it was nice to be fully trained after 4 days.
1. Cost. It will cost you at least $1,000 for the initial training, and subsequent levels cost more. One way to offset this cost is by getting a scholarship or seeing if the state offers any free training. I am incredibly lucky that my Department of Education was sending 150 teachers a year through the training for free.
2. The training I received did not include any training in phonemic awareness. It was very limited to only the phonics aspect of reading, without much attention given to the other 4 pillars of reading (phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency).
LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling)
LETRS is my pick for: most comprehensive training. A person who is LETRS trained will be well-versed in both theory and best practice surrounding the Science of Reading.
Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) has become the gold standard for teachers in the Science of Reading. Some states, like North Carolina, are even providing the training to all of their teachers for free. According to their website, LETRS is “a flexible, literacy professional development solution for preK–5 educators. LETRS provides teachers with the skills they need to master the fundamentals of reading instruction—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language.” It promises a lot, and honestly? It delivers.
1. LETRS includes both the why and the how. You gain an in-depth look at how our brains work to learn to read, and then you learn exactly how to help it happen for your students. You don’t just get theory or practice, but both. I learned more in my LETRS training that I did in two master’s degrees worth of education.
2. There’s both a textbook component and an online module component. For many, there is also an additional training with a facilitator, but I didn’t take that route. I really love that there is a textbook component and the online component. Once I lost access to the online modules, I was still able to look back in my textbook. I was making copies from the appendices just this week.
3. It’s affordable. Units 1-4 costs less than $400.
4. LETRS includes all components necessary for learning to read. Units 1-4 explores the reading brain, phonemic awareness and phonics. Units 5-8 discuss vocabulary, comprehension, and writing. This is an oversimplification of what the units include. The truth is, LETRS gives you all the information you wish you had learned in your preservice classroom.
1. You only receive access to the online modules for a year. I wish there was a way we could continue to get access to the videos! I love watching those teachers in action.
2. While they show lots of small groups, there isn’t really anything about the division between whole-group and small group. I know teachers desperately want to know how to schedule their time. They discuss both, but they don’t actually identify how much time should be allotted to each.
3. I wish their website to purchase was friendlier. It feels impossible to find the link to purchase LETRS. There’s lots of places on the website where they want you to talk to a representative. I think for some teachers as soon as we hear “speak to a representative,” we get anxious because it tends to equate to a lot of money.
Reading Teacher’s Top Ten Tools
Reading Teacher’s Top Ten Tools is my pick for: anyone who is doing this on their own, without financial assistance. You can receive a comprehension examination of the Science of Reading and how it relates to the classroom at a fraction of the cost of any other training.
- The price. You can pay $25 a month for access. I was able to complete all modules in 2 months. So, for $50 I was given a deep knowledge of the Science of Reading.
- The content is comprehensive. You are given access to modules that take you through all aspects of reading instruction—both the research and the practice. You will learn about phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency.
- Dr. Glaser provides many, many supplemental links to additional articles and books to purchase.
- The website is clunky. I wish they would update it so that everything is in one place. I loved the way that LETRS had the journal entries right on the page, and moving through the modules felt seamless. Anytime I clicked on a link in the modules for TTT, it would take me back to the top of the page and I had to keep scrolling down.. Some things you had to create new windows for. Some of the links to resources don’t work anymore. It just isn’t the easiest site to navigate.
- I wish I had a textbook of some sort. Now that my access is gone, I don’t have much to reference anymore. There’s TONS of documents that I saved, but I wish there was a textbook for reference.
- Dr. Glaser is amazing, but the pace was very slow for me. I listened to every video at 1.75-2.00 speed. This is just a personal preference, but I wanted to put it out there in case you didn’t know it could be sped up!
No matter which of these trainings you choose, it will be worth the time, money, and effort. It really boils down to a few things—cost and what you hope to receive. If cost is no issue, I would go with LETRS or Orton-Gillingham. If those don’t work financially, Top Ten Tools offers a great, affordable option. I will say that Reading Teachers’ Top Ten Tools was my last training: if I had taken it first, I may feel that it was the most indispensable option! If you are already knowledgeable about the Science of Reading, but want to gain a deeper understanding of explicit phonics instruction, then you can’t go wrong with Orton Gillingham training. OG, LETRS, TTT—all three are valuable and all three are changing the lives of children through the teachers they train. So, what is next for your professional development?