Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thinking about THRASS

Recently I was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to attend a parent workshop about the THRASS tools for teaching reading and spelling. While vaguely familiar with similar tools and aware of the THRASS chart, I had never really heard it all explained before. Anyone who has worked closely with me over the past few years has had to hear of my frustration with teaching spelling. I've been determined to find something that actually works and that provides a strong framework on which to pin learning.

THRASS stands for Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills. As far as I can tell, THRASS is not a teaching program, but more a philosophy and approach to teaching. Resources support the use of the THRASS chart and cater for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. 

In simple teacher terms, the chart displays 120 spelling choices to represent the 44 phonemes that make up the English language. Each phoneme is accompanied by the word (with phoneme in bold) and the equivalent picture. Once students are familiar with the chart, it can be used to help students to spell individual words and consider other words containing the same spelling choice. 

What I like about this:

  • It provides a structure to the sounds in the English language, and covers all 44 phonemes.
  • It provides classroom resources for students to refer to for support when spelling.
  • It allows for a common language and understanding around the types of phonemes - graph, digraph, trigraph, quadgraph.
  • It doesn't dumb down - children learn the correct metalanguage.
  • It can be used over a range of grades, and is flexible enough for differentiation within the class as well.

As I have only been to the parent workshop so far, there is a limit to my understanding of what it looks like in action in the classroom.

When I think about how I see it working, I imagine:

  • Exploring different spelling choices that students can see within a text they are reading. Eg. How many trigraphs can you find on this page? How many different spelling choices can we find for the phoneme ...?
  • Using the THRASS chart to approach the spelling of unknown words during writing tasks, and then using these moments to teach mini-lessons on similar patterns.
  • Encouraging students to test out spelling choices in a have-a-go book to determine which looks most right.

Though my current understanding is quite limited, I find that this approach appeals to me due to it's systematic nature. It just makes sense. I look forward to reading more and exploring THRASS further.

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