Orton-Gillingham in Small Groups: Engaging in SOS

No, the ship isn't sinking, but we also don't want our students to sink when it comes to effective tools for reading and writing. Simultaneous Oral Spelling, SOS for short, helps students learn to read and write in a super effective way. But, how do you make it work in small groups?
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

I work primarily in small groups throughout the school day to ensure I see all of the students who need the most help. Ideally, my groups would have no more than 3 students, but I typically have about 4-5 students in each group. It works, and I have to tweak how I do things to make it work for me.

SOS is one of the most important aspects of an Orton-Gillingham lesson. At this time, students should be saying each letter out loud as they write the word on paper. This helps students remember the letters and sounds in a word through different modes of entry into the brain. Students are writing (kinesthetic), saying the letters (speaking), hearing the sounds (auditory), and seeing each letter (visual). This part cannot be short-changed!

SOS steps:

1.  Teacher calls out a word or sound.
2.  Students repeat the word or sound.
3.  Students finger spell or tap out the sounds in the word, as needed.
4.  Students say each letter or sound as they write.
5.  Students repeat the word or sound to check for accuracy.
6.  Teacher shows the word or sound and corrections are made, as needed.

One of the biggest hurdles for helping students in small groups is that they don't want to copy off of each other during SOS. Some students absolutely do NOT want someone else to hear their letters as they write them. Other students want to copy right off of someone else.

So, what did I do?

I tweaked it to work for us! Here are some of my favorite ways to change up SOS in our daily routines.

Choral SOS

This was suggested by my supervising fellow. She saw that the students weren't really using the SOS strategy completely, and she had the suggestion that they all say the letters at the same time. Students still whisper-spelled the words (or even mouthed them) while they wrote, but at the end, the said the letters aloud for the word. If all students had it correct, they all said the letters. If only one or a few had the word correct, only the students who had it correct said the letters. They liked this because no one was cheating off of them as they wrote the words, and they actually worked hard to get the words correct.

Game Boards

This one is so simple to use during SOS! I simply pull out a game board (any one will do) and call out the words. One student has a chance to move it the SOS process is carried out completely, and the word is correct. All students complete the process for accuracy too. When finished, a die or spinner is used to tell how many spaces to move. 

Sometimes, I double up drills or use this for review. One student reads the word to the group (Reading Drill), and the other students use SOS to spell the words (Spelling Drill). I sit back, monitor, and assess. BAM! Instant fun!
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

Change Writing Surfaces

Who wants to always write in a notebook? Not kids! You have to change it up sometimes. An easy way to do this is to find a different surface to write on. There are so many different ones out there too!

One night my daughter decided to do her SOS on paper towels with chalk. Yes! Paper towels with chalk! She loved it, and I can see why.
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

Dry erase boards and chalk boards work great too.
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

And just putting texture under the paper works great too. Sandpaper, needlepoint plastic canvas, and glitter foam are all great ways to get your students to do SOS!
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

Change Writing Utensils

If you're going to change the writing surfaces, why not change the writing utensils. Each day I give my students limited choices in writing utensils. It may be pens, but they are different colors. It may be markers, but in different colors or scents. Sometimes we use chalk on paper. It just depends on what I have available at the time. By mid-year, they were all bringing their own pens to use. Kind of crazy how it works!
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

Fortune Tellers

Or whatever you want to call them! I made a set of short vowel ones for my students, and they love them! They were able to do SOS with them, and I didn't call out a single word! They were actually doing 2 drills in one, if you want to be honest.

One student reads the words the other student picks. The other students spells them. Switch turns. I just listen and move on!

You can click here or on the picture below to purchase them. The preview is a sample of the short vowel one.
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

I'm working on more of these to finish out the beginners' set, so keep checking back!

Word Ladders

Ok, this one is silly, but it works too. Students start at the bottom and then write the words up the ladder to get to the top. When they get to the top, we dance a little. Or if it's a game, they get a small prize. I've also done this with rocket ships, where they blast off at the top. 
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

SOS Baseball

If you don't follow Emily from The Literacy Nest, you are missing out! She has an amazing game called SOS Baseball that has saved me many times! I use this to teach how the steps of SOS and to reinforce. Or just for fun. I used some old cake toppers from a birthday cake to make it more fun!

Each student has a board and moves around the field at each step. She explains it well in this post, where she also offers a free download of the game. You don't want to miss it!
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

So, which of these have you tried? Do you have any other ways to engage your students in the SOS process? I'd love to hear from you!
Simultaneous Oral Spelling is the keystone to success with Orton-Gillingham instruction. Keep it exciting with these fun ways to engage students in the process.

And if you would like to see more about how I use Orton-Gillingham in my interventions, check out these posts.

Orton-Gillingham in Small Groups:  Working Magic Daily
Orton-Gillingham in Small Groups:  Planning for Success
Orton-Gillingham in Small Groups:  The All Important Notebook
Orton-Gillingham in Small Groups:  Engaging Students All the Time
Orton-Gillingham in Small Groups:  Designing Your Space

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