How principals can deliver a whole school literacy curriculum

How principals can deliver a whole school literacy curriculum
When it comes to improving literacy outcomes, ensuring that your teachers’ subject knowledge is strong is imperative.

While many schools are aware of this, declining literacy outcomes among Australian children show that the fight to turn the tables is an uphill battle.

The latest round of NAPLAN results shows a 2.04% decline in writing skills across all year groups since 2011. Meanwhile, another study, conducted in 2016, shows that more than 60% of children aged six to 17 are not frequent readers.

However, one organisation has been seeing promising results through its delivery of high quality professional development in the understanding of phonics and linguistics and the teaching of reading, writing and spelling.

THRASS – an acronym for ‘Teaching Handwriting, Reading And Spelling Skills – is an Australian based teacher training organisation that has developed a Specific Pedagogical Practise (SPP) for the teaching of literacy.

Denyse Ritchie, co-author of THRASS, said that the organisation’s specific teaching practice allows principals to provide “a high quality sustainable teaching process” that can be used across the grades and across the curriculum to provide a whole school phonics teaching process which is both sustainable and differentiates for all learners needs.

“The Australian Curriculum places emphasis on sustainability as a priority in building subject content. Sustainability requires that what is taught at any time connects and relates relevant aspects of content and does not compromise future learning,” Ritchie told The Educator.

“Teacher subject knowledge is critical in developing curriculum and specific grade programs to ensure that what is taught is correct, sustainable, differentiates for learners and there is no ‘unlearning’ required.”

Ritchie said THRASS training has been uniquely developed to build teachers linguistic and phonics knowledge and to demonstrate how this knowledge is relevant to developing and explicitly delivering a whole school literacy curriculum.

‘Big picture’ learning

The organisation also provides an assemblage of specific resources to be used by those trained in THRASS to teach literacy skills.

The THRASS CHARTS and various THRASS teaching resources are linguistically correct and provide content that is sustainable for future learning.

The charts are pivotal to the THRASS Teaching Practice, allowing for ‘big picture’ learning and providing teachers practising THRASS with a charted, visual reference of linguistic and phonic facts.

This allows learners to understand new information and concepts via analogy and example, then by referencing ideas to what they already know.

Ritchie said that “phonics is to reading and spelling, what times tables are to mathematics”.

“It is the foundation on which reading and spelling are built. The use of phonics for reading and writing is a life-long skill. Even the most literate of adults, when faced with an unfamiliar word, will revert to phonics to decode and encode,” Ritchie said.

“Mandating the teaching of phonics will make a major difference to literacy results in Australian schools but only if all teachers have adequate understanding of the Alphabetic Principle and phonetic structure of English.”

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