What Makes Hill Methodology Different from Other Phonics-Based Programs?

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

The secret to the success of Hill reading instruction lies in the use of what is known as Structured Literacy. Based on scientific evidence, this term has been trademarked by the International Dyslexia Association, a professional organization that is rooted in the work of Mrs. June Orton who created the Orton-Gillingham approach.

The key principles of SL instruction are that it is:


  • Explicit – directly taught, students not expected to discover language concepts simply from exposure to language or reading

  • Systematic and Cumulative – teaching language concepts in an orderly, planned way while explaining how each element fits into the whole

  • Hands-on, Engaging, and Multimodal – teaching using all senses and creating movement and tactile experiences

  • Sequential – each skill taught in a logical order

  • Diagnostic and Responsive – use of student responses guide pace and the way concepts are presented


The key components are:

  • Phonological Awareness – understanding the individual sounds (phonemes) that make up words

  • Sound-Symbol Correspondence – understanding phonemes and the letters and letter combinations that can represent them

  • Orthography – understanding patterns of letter use in the writing system, as in six types of syllables that give clues to how a word is read

  • Morphology – understanding prefixes, roots, base words, and suffixes and their meanings

  • Syntax – understanding the system for ordering words in sentences so that meaning can be communicated

  • Semantics – understanding words and phrases by teaching word meanings (vocabulary), interpretation of words and phrases (i.e. figures of speech), and text organization.


Every lesson in reading and some aspects of writing at HSW are taught using these principles and components. Many other programs describe themselves as teaching phonics, but few have the scope of these components and breadth of this explicit methodology as the foundation of their instruction. The Hill program has 40 plus years of research documenting the success of Structured Literacy principles. Structured Literacy can be used with all students but particularly works for dyslexic students. Our students and teachers certainly convey and represent the positive outcomes of this type of instruction.


Additional reading:

Structured Literacy: How Results and Research Support

Effective Reading Instruction

Here’s Why Schools Should Use Structured Literacy

Structured Literacy: An Introductory Guide

What Is Structured Literacy?: A Primer on Effective Reading Instruction

Structured Literacy: Effective Instruction for Students with Dyslexia and Related Reading Difficulties



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