THRASS News Dash

 

Enjoy the latest news from THRASS HQ!

 

Hi everyone!

We hope you are having a great term 2.

 

I have really been enjoying some great podcasts lately on the science of reading. Not the ‘SSP sales campaign’ SoR marketed to sell phonics programs and decodable readers, but the robust evidence gathered over many decades, including recent research, to support teachers to deliver the best teaching methods and essential elements required for literacy success. I hope the following can become discussion topics with colleagues and many of you go on to do your own research.

 

But first our exciting news! …..

We have partnered with T2L TV to provide video content to support the THRASS work you are doing in schools.  One of the hardest parts of building whole school practice is inducting new teachers into the schools’ instructional practices.  The videos now available on T2L TV are perfect for new staff to experience THRASS teaching and existing staff to add to their skills.

 

The THRASS videos now available on T2L TV include:

- Understanding Phonetics

- Segmenting and Blending

- Teaching Spelling in Years 4-6

- Spelling High-Frequency Words

- Words for Upper Primary 

 

Click Here to watch Denyse's sample videos

 

T2L TV includes over 800 videos to help your teachers improve their maths teaching, literacy teaching and behaviour management.  You can learn more about a subscription at www.teacherstoleaders.com.au 

 

 

 

What does this vast body of thousands of research papers and studies tell us about teaching for sustainable learning?

 

Literacy teaching has two specific outcomes, comprehension (reading) and written expression(writing).

In this newsletter, will look at two of the many integrated foundation skills identified as essential to acquire these outcomes.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE LETTERS OF THE ENGLISH CODE -TEACHING LETTER NAMES

 

Research indicates a strong correlation between children's ability to identify letter names and their future success in reading skills, establishing it as a crucial early predictor of future reading achievement (Trieman & Wolter, 2020). Furthermore, the more letter names a child knows, the better their chances of success in decoding with an understanding of letter names significantly boosting their grasp of letter sounds (Share, 2004). This is due to the role of letter names acting as a "hook" or "anchor," connecting the sounds children hear to the spellings they write down, thus providing essential labels for letters.

 

Although the current research evidence connects the teaching of letter names to boosting learners’ grasp and understanding of phonics, letter names are ignored by SSP-SL programs in favour of giving each letter of the lowercase alphabet a ‘sound’ and teaching a one-letter-one-sound phonics approach to reading.  There is no direction as to when and how letter names should be introduced and taught. Devaluing the role of letter names affects how we discuss the letters in a word and letters in phonics patterns. Clearly, this is not providing a sustainable, systematic process for the ongoing learning of phonics for reading and writing.

 

In SSP SL approaches capital letters are referred to by name (if at all). This process of giving capital letters and lower-case letters different ‘hooks’, confuses the role of letters in teaching phonics and the role of capital letters for grammar and, is the reason why many children write words using both and lower-case and capital letters to represent phonics. For example, baby as bAbE, car as cR, we as wE, and so on. This letter confusion is the cause of many learners’ struggle with acquiring literacy skills.

.

HANDWRITING

Reading research, or the science of reading identifies the importance of handwriting in teaching reading. Handwriting is essential, and yet it is not a focus (or even mentioned) in many early literacy phonics programs. 

 

Physically writing letters is crucial for building a solid cognitive understanding of how the phonics code works. By learning and practising handwriting, students gain more confidence, improved dexterity, better recall and enhanced memory, all of which are vital for phonics instruction. When students learn to write letters correctly and can recognise them by name, they not only improve their handwriting skills but also advance their ability to identify and read letters fluently.

(You may wish to visit our FB posts on handwriting.)

 

Before we pursue reading science further, I would like to share with you an article which sent to me, unfortunately without a source, but it so very meaningful in this ’teaching of reading’ turmoil schools and teachers are navigating.

 

As I was perusing through some posts in a literacy Facebook group, I came across a particular post that caught my attention. A literacy teacher asked if a specific program was good to use for students who were struggling with learning how to read. What spurred me to write this post was not a teacher reaching out to fellow teachers regarding their opinion about a literacy program but rather the answers that were given to this teacher.

 

There were several responses that affirmed that the program identified would work and other responses that suggested trying out some other program. Despite there being more than 20 replies, not one teacher asked for more information about the student(s), nobody expanded on why they thought the program in question, or the other programs would be effective. One program was highlighted because "it is easy to use/follow" and "can be used with larger groups of students".

I would like to address why the above criteria shouldn't be our main focus when choosing what materials/methods we use with our students.

 

Easy to Use

A program that is "easy to use" does not necessarily mean it makes learning easier for students. I find this term "easy to use" an insulting message that I have heard frequently from school leaders, teachers and as a sales pitch from companies that create literacy programs and software. I understand the appeal of adopting the "easy to use" program, but as I stated above, the problem is "easy to use" does not mean that the program will be effective and meet the needs of our students.

I would recommend that we put "ease of use" aside and spend more time focusing on research, especially independent research, that examines the effectiveness of any program.

Larger groups

Programs that boast about their effectiveness for larger groups of students are often appealing to school leaders. The problem is that the strengths and needs are not going to be the same for each student in the group. When the group size is larger, teachers can not address the needs of each student in a timely manner. The teacher will waste time teaching some students what they already know in order to address what the other students don't know. It is virtually impossible to help a large group of students make progress fast enough to catch up with their on grade-level peers.

 

Knowledge is key

In Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity for All Learners, Regie Routman, writes that overreliance on programs is a sign of lack of professional development(p. 109). Making teachers more knowledgeable about all elements of literacy and literacy processing creates teachers who are not dependent on programs. Teaching our most struggling readers is not an easy task. Making informed decisions based on our observations and choosing a way to respond that will best fit the student(s) in front of us is not easy. Therefore, I am sceptical of any products that market themselves as making our job easier.

As reading specialists, we need high-quality professional development that is well-supported by research and grounded in theory. High quality professional development helps teachers by:

  • providing knowledge to inform decision making
  • helping teachers to understand how children become literate and the complex processes involved in learning to read
  • showing teachers how to closely observe students and how the progression of literacy acquisition builds over time
  • letting teachers know which approaches are effective
  • showing what type of assessments to use, how to examine those assessments, and how to use assessments to inform our teaching

 

Effective teachers develop a belief system that they work from and are able to reflect on and evaluate their teaching decisions and practices. Effective teachers are not simply going through the motions of teaching or being compliant by following manuals with fidelity. Effective teachers make professional learning a priority.

Make Professional Learning our Responsibility

We can best support our students by making it our responsibility to involve ourselves in professional learning opportunities such as:

  • Reading professional books
  • Facilitating/joining book studies
  • Advocating for professional development teams that plan for professional development that goes deep (not fleeting or piecemealed) and is meaningful
  • Start your own professional learning group
  • Attend professional conferences
  • Work with the school's literacy coach
  • Implement what you have learned during professional development, evaluate and reflect on how it went

When we're thinking about the effectiveness of adopted programs or practices we have to think beyond what is easiest. We should be constantly learning and looking at research. The list above is not exhaustive.

 

Thank you ‘anonymous’..

 

 SO, BACK TO THE SCIENCE OF READING EVIDENCE-

Research evidence provided by the science of reading clearly states that phonics is essential and nonnegotiable in understanding written code. Evidence from reading research is also clear that phonics alone (and one method of phonics, synthetic phonics) is not sufficient.  And yet our schools are now filled with shallow synthetic phonics programs with set sequential lessons and decodable readers.  Phonics other than ‘synthetic’ are condemned and other essential elements are ignored or, are programmed to be taught as separate entities at a later date.

 

Science has clearly stated in favour of the explicit and systematic teaching of phonics. Sadly, this has been interpreted by phonics program providers as - ‘direct instruction and a sequential teaching process’ starting with simple code and moving on to complex code. ‘Evidence should be interpreted as explicitly and systematically teaching phonics in all words, as part of your teaching ‘system’.

 

Teaching reading is not a step-by-step phonics teaching process but relies on the integration of language and phonic processes. Making each a separate teaching element is detrimental to literacy acquisition. For some, the overemphasis on beginning phonics strands to the detriment of language strands causes them to struggle to comprehend what they are reading.

 

We have to remember that although English is a phonologic/sound symbol-based language it is also morpheme-(meaning) based with etymology playing a significant role. Meaning is interpreted in written language with different phonics.  

 

Consider this.

 

The ferry had a saw throat witch made her voice horse. She wanted too go two the beech with her friends. The son was out and they all wanted to dig wholes in the sand. What wood they do if it reigned? They’re wings wood get wet. The tied mite bee hi and they would have to weight – but knot till knight, they new that wood not be a grate idea.  They wood take some bred and meet to eat for tee. It was grate the bred was on sale!

 

Did ewe reed the book I red about the write way to sauce sents from flours? Be’s no just witch flours are write two ewes. They put a peace of pollen on each leg. The mail be’s collect all the pollen they knead to make honey.

 

The ‘phonics patterns’ determine meaning.

 

As teachers are required to teach homographs, homophones, graphs, digraphs, trigraphs, quadgraphs and morphemes. To navigate this requires robust teacher knowledge and practice well beyond shallow step-by-step phonics teaching with exceptions, trickery and mixed teaching methods using a whole-word approach for some words and phonics for others. 

 

This is why the THRASSCHART was developed. We needed a way to systematically teach phonics as required to show phoneme-grapheme and grapheme-phoneme connections for all words. THRASS is a system to systematically teach phonics, synthetic, analytic and in context.

 

THRASS is fully aligned with all the evidence identified by the science of reading. We are very proud that we have been identified as a teaching method beyond simple letter-to-sound teaching of phonics encompassing all the essential elements of literacy teaching. THRASS provides for explicit, robust phonics teaching in all its forms integrated with the language strands.

 

We look forward to seeing you at our different levels of THRASS training. Building teacher agency is very much our goal. Remember, teachers are university-educated and hold a degree. Our profession, like all other professions, requires continued ongoing professional learning which builds with experience. Remember the professor out there once started where you are - we do not start as professors. Sharing our learners’ journeys, PD, critical thinking, professional reading and sharing our classroom practice is what builds a successful education system full of thinking teachers.

 

Below is an extract from a letter we received. We posted this on FB, and it was liked by so many - we love to share best classroom practices.

THANK YOU!

 

Denyse & The THRASS Team

 

 

 

 

THRASS courses 2024

 

                                                                           

Foundation Level (Certificate 1) online

Foundation Level (Certificate 1) face-to-face

14th & 15th May

MELBOURNE 18TH & 19TH June

18th & 19th June

SYDNEY 18th & 19th June

8th & 9th July

ADELAIDE (St Peter’s College) 18th & 19th July

15th & 16th August

 

17th & 18th September

 

3rd & 4th October

 

12th & 13th November

 

10th & 11th December

 

 

Foundation to Proficiency Level (Certificate 2) online

Foundation to Proficiency Level (Certificate 2) face-to-face

20th June

MELBOURNE 20TH June

10th July

SYDNEY 20TH June

19th September

 

14th November

 

 

Mastery & Lead Level (Certificate 3)

MELBOURNE 8TH, 9TH & 10TH JULY

 

SHARING BEST PRACTICE

        

 

 

Thank you to Michelle at Wise Owl Learning (Victoria) for sharing these great work samples, ideas and especially your stories of success. Michelle has worked for many years as a Primary teacher and now provides invaluable support for those who have struggled with literacy acquisition.

Michelle is also a THRASS Trainer - and we love the feedback from teachers about her hands-on delivery of all thing’s phonics teaching.

Book a THRASS course now to build your subject knowledge and to ‘supersize’ your literacy teaching.

 

EXPLICITLY TEACHING PHONICS ACROSS THE GRADES TO SUPPORT WRITTEN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION.

 

Vocabulary acquisition is essential for comprehension. Phonics, orthography, morphemes, and etymology are all essential elements of building vocabulary through word study across the grades.

 

Writing and spelling underpin the process of learning to read. Accumulated research evidence clearly shows the value of concentrating on handwriting to support the teaching of beginning reading and code breaking (decoding). This is why handwriting is the first essential skill identified in the acronym THRASS.

 

Handwriting is the tactile and visual process that opens pathways for the repetitive learning of the phoneme (sound) to grapheme (symbol) correspondences of the written English code. This teaching builds orthographic mapping of words for sight vocabulary.

              

 

 

 Have lots of fun with the
 
THRASS Playing Cards  

 

 

 

These cards can be used for a variety of activities. Activities can be as simple as storytelling using cards turned face-up from the pack or matching pictures to words, through to more complex activities such as linking cards by themes, words/pictures, phonemes and graphemes when playing simple card games such as Snap, Go Fish, THRASS Pairs and THRASSINGO.

 

Order yours now on the THRASS shop:

https://www.thrass.com.au/products/t-176-thrass-playing-cards