THRASS

(29 Posts)
alittlebittired Fri 10-Apr-09 22:27:11

My twins are the youngest in their Reception year, being born in late July. They are being taught to read using the THRASS system. I feel it is far too advanced and abstract for their age, and they are struggling. They cannot recognise all the alphabet, certainly not sure of all the sounds the letters represent, and really cannot read at all. The Head is adamant that THRASS is the way forward, and has warned the parents that we should not be doing any simple phonics at all at home as this would confuse them. My poor girls really do seem to want to read, and THRASS is not working.

I should also add that whilst we have been promised the teachers will listen to the children read their key words once a week, this does not always happen. Obviously we do listen at home.

Does anybody have any suggestions as to what I should do?

CowsGoMoo Fri 10-Apr-09 22:56:48

Sorry but have no idea what THRASS is? my dd is in reception too but a mid feb baby. She is learning to read with the Oxford Reading Tree phonics books and the Heinemann books. The phonics has helped make reading much easier and she has now been weaned off sounding out words in favour of sight reading them. She has got on leaps and bounds this way.
Especially as after her second day at school in September she came home very upset and whispered to me, Ive been at school 2 days and I still can't read smile

let me know what this THRASS is and I'll ask my primary teacher friend for help

CGM x

alittlebittired Sat 11-Apr-09 07:10:26

Thanks CGM. THRASS is kind of a phonics system, basically their are 47 sounds sounds to learn (apparently!). This I get. however, they learn it by looking at a sheet of letters, and trying to memorise them. That's about it.It really is awful, and my girls have no clue.

I should add that their class teacher is fab - but their is only one of her and upwards of 30 children, plus a head who insists on using this system even though I am far from the only one unhappy with it.

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 13:26:06

I'm not a huge fan of THRASS although there are others who swear by it. I think there are much better programmes available to schools that are more fun for the children. Jolly Phonics for example involves "looking" at the letter shape "hearing" the sound and "doing" the action.

I suggest taking a look at Phonics International and also using online games such as Phonics Play and LCF

catflap Sat 11-Apr-09 14:48:59

Hi there - I was a Reception and Year 1 teacher and I taught synthetic phonics for 5 years before leaving work to have my girls. I've since tutored children diagnosed as dyslexic and I used Jolly Phonics as a resource but did spend time looking into THRASS.

Someone pointed me in the direction of this thread, so I'll answer some points, if I may.

Firstly, any system of teaching and resources is subject to the interpretation and use of the individual teachers concerned and a lot of knowledge s required of teachers to teach reading and phonics thoroughly. Teachers do need to have attended a THRASS course before purchasing resources and understanding how to implement it, but I guess it would still depend upon how they are doing it in class and how much of this they have communicated to parents. If you don't understand it, because the nature of our alphabetic code is complicated and it's been taught a lot more thoroughly than it ever was in 'our' day, then pop in and ask someone to explain it. Schools often have meetings to outline their teaching in such areas - I used to do one with how I taught reading.

"I feel it is far too advanced and abstract for their age"

- our written language is a phonetic one; that is, our written words are contructed of letters, or combinations of letters, that represent our individual spoken sounds. Because of the history of where all our different words come from, this sound/letter correspondence is quite complicated, in that we have lots of spellings for each sound and some spellings represent different sounds.

HOWEVER, taught systematically and thoroughly and in an age-appropriate way, this makes sense to children and they pick it up very quickly and learn to read very quickly.

So it is kind of advanced, compared with how we were taught, which was generally to learn 26 letters and their 26 sounds and to learn words as wholes in the meantime so it looked like we were reading quicker....

But it's not beyond Reception age children at all - of all the classes I taught, there were never any that couldn't read this way, albeit at different levels.

It isn't abstract when it's related directly tto words and reading them - then, it's utterly relevant. Teaching should be quick - here's a sound, here's its spelling, let's put it in sequence with some others we have learned and sound out all through the word to read it.

If learning is being done some other way - I doon't like the sound of "they learn it by looking at a sheet of letters, and trying to memorise them" - this does sound abstract and irrelevant....

"warned the parents that we should not be doing any simple phonics at all at home as this would confuse them" - it is true that conflicting methods can confuse children - indeed, it is the mixed method of teaching children to read that has consistently failed 25% of children as the years have gone on, which has prompted this overhaul of how to teach reading recently.

The 'traditional' way of teaching phonics, through the alphabet; 26 letters, 26 sounds, usually just in their initial position e.g. a is for ant, b is for ball etc AND usually pronouncing the sounds incorrectly is far too limiting and can confuse children who see the logic but are frustrated by the lack of knowledge they are receiving.

However, taught properly, you should see results fast. Teaching using JP, you teach 6 sounds in one week - s, a, t, i, p and n and you use these to make words that the children can read e.g. tin, sat, pin, pan, snip, snap etc so at least 30 words can be read by the end of the first week. Then add the next 6 into the following week - ck, e, h, r, m and d and you can imagine how many words can be read by the end of the second week! Loads! Children who are struggling to take all these sounds and spellings on board can reinforce some at a slower pace and focus on reading less words whilst children who take this on board readily can be reading simple phrases by the end of week two. THRASS can work like this too, although I understand they have a few more things to learn - key words to indicate pronunciation - to support the resources first.

"basically their are 47 sounds sounds to learn (apparently!)."
There are (well, there is even some debate as to exactly how many there are, but that's about it )

Once upon a time, 26 letters would be taught, with 26 sounds and then you would learn all these other sounds that could be make by putting the ones you had already learned together... This was really just delaying things and ingraining some knowledge into kids' brains and then changing it all about a bit with new rules and confusion which lots of kids couldn't cope with. Nowadays, children are more aware of all the sounds in our spoken language from the start and then just systematically learning all the spellings for them. The difference sounds subtle when i put it like that, but it's quite crucial.

THRASS has a web site here which you might find useful.

But if there are a lot of you unhappy about it, I would pop in and ask about the possibility of an information session for parents.

However, i would just reassure that if they are doing this properly, it is a more thorough and systematic way of teaching reading that is infinitely more successful at getting kids reading independenly, especially in the long term, even though it does look hideously confusing and strange to us mums

maverick Sat 11-Apr-09 15:26:24

Oh dear, THRASS is proud to proclaim that it still retains the multi-cueing strategies that the Rose Report advised should be replaced by synthetic phonics first and the simple view of reading.

The THRASS programme retains the 'searchlight' strategies (global sightword memorisation and guessing) despite being described as "The natural approach to synthetic phonics". Programme developer and self-declared 'synthetic phonic expert'(!) Alan Davies states that '(T)here is no need to look for a new model of early reading to replace the ‘Searchlights’ model...It is wrong to believe that synthetic phonics is the ‘best route to becoming skilled readers’, as stated in Jim’s report. www.thrass.co.uk/searchlights.htm 'Parents need to understand and use four 'searchlights' for reading with their children: a 'Word Recognition Searchlight', a 'Phonics Searchlight', a 'Context Searchlight' and a 'Grammar Searchlight', as set out in the National Literacy Strategy that the UK Government abandoned in 2005. The Government's new synthetic phonics programme, 'Letters and Sounds', focuses on the 'Phonics Searchlight', an approach which is inadequate for both parents and young children’ (THRASS press release Jan 08)

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 15:46:23

It is usually accepted that there are 44 phonemes in the English language (even THRASS agrees) although this varies according to accent/dialect. The 44 phonemes can be written in different ways meaning there are approx 120-150 letters or combination of letters to represent the 44 sounds.

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 15:52:53

I should add as a teacher I need parents to reinforce phonics at home. My children take home a "sound book" containing all the phonemes they have been taught and I ask parents to practise these with their child every night for a few minutes. I also recommend phonics games and far from confusing children it helps them learn.

cat64 Sat 11-Apr-09 16:26:33

Message withdrawn

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 16:32:52

so if they tell you 'a' says "ay" and 'c' "see" etc. then acknowledge their cleverness, and don't try to impose a different system on them.

please please don't say "a" says ay it doesn't! and "c" doesn't say see ... this is letter names NOT phonics and is very unhelpful in learning to read and spell words.

You can hear the sounds letters represent *here*

cat64 Sat 11-Apr-09 16:36:38

Message withdrawn

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 16:46:23

Sorry cat64 it wasn't intended as a criticism of you but as a parent and a teacher I would really question a system that delays children becoming readers and I'm afraid I would correct misinformation

alittlebittired Sat 11-Apr-09 17:04:40

Thanks so much for all your replies.

The school has had several information sessions, which I have attended, so I do pretty much get it.

However, the last session I attended the children demonstrated the THRASS rap with their THRASS sheets, first doing the alphabet, then consonants, then vowels. For all of these demonstrations, including just the alphabet, the children were to point at the letters. My children were both aimlessly pointing at the sheet, did not know the "rap". i should add that they are not naughty children, they do want to learn, they just really do not get it! However, the Head is adamant that THRASS stays, and that is the method they teach by.

We do read with them at home, they love being read to, and do want to read themselves. And to be fair, some children in their class are reading, so THRASS is obviously working for some. But it is not working for them, and to be honest I am getting terribly worried about it.

Sorry, think I rambled a bit there!

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 17:12:08

As has already been said there isn't a one size fits all in education and schools should be willing to accept this and try alternatives with children who are not succeeding. My own son never ever grasped phonics but that doesn't mean that I don't believe good phonics instruction is the best way for most children to begin to become readers and I think it's essential to spelling.

My main method of phonics is Jolly Phonics but I also use Big Cat Phonics on the IWB (which presents things in a slightly different format) I also use Letters & Sounds games and some of the Phonics International resources. It means there is something to suit most of the children in my class.

catflap Sat 11-Apr-09 18:16:26

alittlebittired - ah, that is a bit clearer, unfortunately. It doesn't sound good, does it. I think then I would be going into the school to voice your concerns to the teacher and see how they are going to support your children before they lose all their motivation! How would you feel about teaching them home using different resources?

mrz - although I agree with most of your comments here, i would just suggest that really, phonics isn't so much a method but more a content.

Children who are successful at reading do understand the phonics, often in spite of the teaching - they have the ability to pick it up and make sense of the chaos themselves. You cannot read or write to a competent, independent level without if, for that is how our language is constructed. I understand where you are coming from with the one size fits all, but that theory can fit within phonics teaching. For example, for a child with good visual skills, you can use these to maximise on the learning of letter shapes and words whilst working harder to develop the auditory side - similarly, children who struggle with the visual side will need more support there whilst making the most of their phonological ability. But pretty much everyone can learn phonics - if taught right and the methods tailored to suit their strengths.

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 18:41:01

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you in part as the mother of a very successful reader with no understanding whatsoever of phonics. He cannot however spell to save his life and I put this down to his lack of phonics. He was reading untaught before he began school and continued to develop as a reader in spite of his teacher telling him he couldn't read because he didn't know his sounds. At 7 he was reading NATO defence documents with understanding but still unable to spell even simple words.

He had excellent phonics teaching at his primary school (and a mother who studied phonics for 3 years and wrote her dissertation on the subject)I tried many times but he just argued that words aren't "bits" but complete "objects". He has yet to encounter a word he can't read...

KatyMac Sat 11-Apr-09 18:50:18

MRZ - I am a bit like that

I read very competently to myself, but I struggle pronouncing them sometimes & I can't spell for toffee

I agree to some extent that words just are - and have only learned about endings by rote

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 19:00:13

My son actually reads accurately when asked to read out loud. He was assessed in primary school by an education psychologist when he was 8 and had a reading age (reading single words and comprehension) far ahead of his actual age. I have taught a few children who seem to read this way but it is rare.

Having said all that I still believe that phonics is essential for all children and should be the primary method of reading instruction.

catflap Sat 11-Apr-09 19:59:04

mrz - your son sounds fascinating and from my interest in phonics and reading I'd love to meet him :-)

I would, however, suggest he is one of the exceptions and that generally I, as you are it would seem, am talking about what is generally applicable to most children learning to read.

The skills involved in reading and spelling are a bit different. I know of many people who read loads and are very capable readers yet can't spell at all. Unfortunately it's not something I have read up on enough to offer any explanation here but I know there is info out there to read. I use the Reading Reform Foundation website a lot and I'm sure it's probably there somewhere.

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 20:12:40

The skills involved in reading and spelling are basically opposites in reading we put phonemes together to build a word and in spelling we break the word down into phonemes. Once children become competent readers phonics becomes a spelling programme more than a reading programme.

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 20:47:18

catflap my son is unusual but not unique and the point I was trying to make in relation to the OP is that schools should show a degree of flexibility and not have a blanket policy of "We use THRASS so like it or lump it" and meet the needs of all children.

mrz Sat 11-Apr-09 21:12:45

An old article in the NY Times
Australian research
more research

good luck grin

redskyatnight Tue 14-Apr-09 20:45:55

DS's school also uses THRASS (he is in Reception - May birthday). I am also not totally convinced about it ... but I have been impressed by the way he HAS picked it up... they seem to do lots of fun activities round it at school (lots of very stupid rhymmes for the different graphemes). It also seems to repeat a lot, so I'm finding that stuff he didn't get a couple of months ago he is starting to understand a bit more now.

What I do suspect is that he is slower to "get going" than someone using a traditional phonics scheme as he has a larger volume of material to absorb, but once he has "got" it, he will really have got it; and won't have to start learning "exceptions" later on.

Maybe your DC's school either need to use different methods to teach it; or it's possible that they may just suddenly "get" it down the line?

alittlebittired Wed 15-Apr-09 15:09:21

Thanks Redsky - I do hope that's the case!!

hellywobs Wed 15-Apr-09 15:52:58

At my son's school they have used a mix of Jolly Phonics and ORT - so a mix of sight reading and phonics. I think this is right at a basic level because children learn in different ways - I definitely learnt to read by word recognition; my son is the same and we are both good at spelling but other children need to use phonics. So if a school uses both methods, at least initially, the kids can read the way that suits them.

Personally though I think phonics can only take you so far in English, because spellings are so weird. In German or Spanish it's a different story.

However, I've done no research!

If you are really unhappy you could raise it with the governors via the school complaints procedure but I suspect this is an area which the HT would say is out of the remit of the governors. However, differentiating learning/teaching should be happening to ensure good teaching and learning for all, so this is something the governors should be monitoring - ie is THRASSS working? If not, why is the head not looking at other schemes? Why is it considered so much better than the other schemes most schools use etc? These are all questions governors should be asking.

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