At St Mary’s we use THRASS for teaching phonics.
THRASS stands for Teaching Handwriting, Reading And Spelling Skills.
If a learner cannot successfully spell words then they are less likely to succeed at formal learning. Additionally, skills and strategies for learning HOW to spell words are a very important part of the spelling process. Even if a learner is able to ‘spell a word’; if they do not understand the process they cannot use this knowledge to spell unfamiliar words.
As in mathematics, it is not just the correct answer that is important, the working memory and understanding of how to achieve the correct answer are vital for future learning.
English words are produced using a combination of 44 individual speech sounds called ‘phonemes’. These phonemes can be represented in writing using the 26 letters of the English alphabet, either individually or combined with other letters. There are numerous spelling choices (graphemes) for each phoneme.
For example, in English the letter ‘c’ does not just represent the sound ( c ) as heard at the beginning of words like cat. It can represent the sound ( s ) as in the words city, cent, Cindy etc. The sound ( f ) is not just represented by the letter ‘f’ but can be represented by the letters ‘ph’, as in photo, Sophie, Philip and Phoebe. The letter ‘y’ does not just represent the sound heard at the beginning of yawn, but more commonly represents the sound heard at the end of words like city, pony and Kelly, or the sound in the words my, fly and by.
Knowing the 44 sounds of English and the various spelling choices that can represent these sounds enables the learner to understand the spelling system of our language.
There is not a single word in English that cannot be adequately explained using THRASS.
All of the children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 have their own THRASS mat to assist them every day with their spelling choices. They are taught how to use the mat and the words on the mat are their non-negotiables – these must be spelt correctly at all times. In addition, children in Reception are given a THRASS mat during their first term at the school to take home to use and practise from.
At the end of Year 1, all children have to take a Phonics Screening Check. They need to be able to read 40 real and made-up words correctly, using their phonic knowledge to decode them. More information about this test can be found here:
Please click on the link below to take you to one of my favourite poems – I think it highlights just how difficult the English language is! And how important it is to get the teaching of it correct.
This final link takes you to one of the songs we sing in our phonics lessons:
If you have any questions about how we teach phonics in school, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Teresa Rouse – Deputy Head