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My experiences using THRASS

In 2013 I was appointed as the learning support teacher of the Foundation Phase at my current school, a mainstream former model C school.

I was excited for the challenge, but it soon became evident that I would need to equip myself with more knowledge and skills in order to offer learners the best support possible. I enrolled for my master’s degree in Comparative Education with UNISA and conducted a full research dissertation on beginner reading development, as most of the learners I helped really battled with reading.

Learning from another THRASS expert I undertook an ethnographic study of a Grade 1 class at my current school. I wanted to determine what factors contributed to good reading and the type of teacher instruction that would further promote reading development. The teacher I chose to observe had been thoroughly trained in THRASS by Alan Davies, while she was studying at the University of the Witwatersrand. I watched her make learning to read fun while using THRASS. She used many of the resources available, such as the Sound it Out interactive software on her whiteboard, phoneme/grapheme cards, magnetic letter tiles, Sing-A-Long software, learner charts and big classroom wall charts, to name a few. The teacher incorporated a multi-sensory approach to teaching and the learners thrived. I was amazed to witness how quickly the Grade 1 children learnt how to read and spell using THRASS. The value of a well-trained teacher using systematic, direct and explicit phonics instruction was undeniable.

Bringing THRASS alive

After I completed my dissertation, I decided that it was time to apply what I had learnt during my research and observations. I noticed that learning the sounds of the alphabet was very challenging for many young learners. I decided to make up actions for each letter sound corresponding with the THRASS keyword. I used one class to test the effectiveness of this kinesthetic alphabet. It worked remarkably well, especially with the little boys. If they battled to remember a sound, I would just show them the action and they would then remember the sound. The only slight deviations that I made from the THRASS chart regarded the short vowel sounds /e/i/o/u/. I noted that the learners struggled to remember the keywords of the short vowel sounds because the sounds used are in the middle and not at the beginning of the keywords. To help the learners, I taught them the following; “e/e/ elephant sleeping in the bed. It, it, it, is a tin, /o/o/Ollie is a frog, Up, up, up in the bus.” I filmed teaching experience and sent the video to Mojaki Finger, from THRASS Africa, and he was very supportive. I then taught this kinesthetic alphabet to all the Grade 1 classes (there are five classes). I am still using it with great success today. This method has given learners the valuable skill of being able to build and decode words with confidence. This method has also allowed young learners the opportunity to learn and remember the letter sounds, THRASS keywords and pictures
with ease. I teach the letter name at the same time without difficulty.

THRASS makes a positive impact

Another change that I made was to order the Grade R learner books for our Grade 1 learners. Our learners come from diverse backgrounds, some with little formal instruction before entering Grade 1. The Grade R learner books have proven invaluable in revising and consolidating concepts. The teachers have reported to me that the books are highly recommended and beneficial.
We have also purchased the updated teacher manuals, which provide explicit guidelines on what to teach and how to teach THRASS systematically from Grade 1 to Grade 3. These manuals provide teachers with ideas to teach
phonemic awareness, vocabulary, phonics, sight words, fluency and comprehension, all of
which are vital components in promoting reading development.

I am passionate about THRASS because I have seen the positive impact it makes on beginner readers as well as helping older learners who are still learning to read and spell. I use a variety of THRASS resources and teaching methods (multi-sensory) to make lessons fun and interactive. The THRASS chart is an amazing tool with which to teach and expands learners’ vocabulary as well as their general knowledge. Both of these are important for comprehension and constructing meaning while reading.

The “THRASS teacher” creates rich literacy environments

I also like to promote “incidental THRASS” throughout the day, across the curriculum. I believe that both the learners and the teachers need to understand that THRASS is not just an isolated set of lessons, but rather a valuable tool that can be used to promote literacy throughout the day. Using opportunities throughout the day means that learners are exposed to a much richer literacy environment. I have had great success in teaching Grade 1 learners a variety of vowel phonemes, that are not part of their specified curriculum, as and when they need them. I have also done this successfully with Grade 2 learners. I truly believe that our learners are capable of so much more and THRASS allows learners to achieve beyond what is expected.
I have earned the title, “The THRASS teacher”, by the learners and teachers alike. I am a proponent of THRASS as I have seen how beneficial it is. THRASS is a fantastic tool to teach and promote literacy. You are only limited by your imagination.

Category: Winter 2019

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