How teaching reading and spelling can be simpler, faster and more sustainable

Reading and spelling acquisition is much simpler, faster and more sustainable than conventional ‘phonic’ approaches when a phonetics teaching-tool is used with a phonographic, multisensory focus, says Denyse Ritchie, Principal at The THRASS Institute.

Denyse Ritchie, THRASS

Co-developer of the phonetics teaching tool THRASS, Denyse Ritchie is focussed on showing teachers, principals, parents and support staff how and why Specific Pedagogical Practise (SPP) can work to facilitate sustainable phonics teaching as part of a balanced literacy approach.

The THRASS Institute will have the opportunity to speak to educators in person when they exhibit within the free expo at The Education Show opening in Melbourne at the end of August.

The Education Show is a key event of The National Education Summit, an innovative professional development event for principals, school leaders and educators from K-12 on Friday 30 August and Saturday 31 August 2019.

Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Show features 100+ exhibitors showcasing the latest cutting-edge learning and teaching resources along with programs, support services and technology to educators from across Australia. Visitors can also attend the Free Education Program, as well as the Free Spotlight Stage where exhibitors will provide in depth information about their service, program or resource.

We spoke to Denyse Ritchie to learn more about The THRASS Institute and their work around the teaching of speaking, reading and writing skills.

How many times have you exhibited at the National Education Summit and how was your experience?

DR: The THRASS Institute has participated in the National Education Summit as exhibitors, presenters and sponsors for the past six years. Every year the conference has grown and evolved to
become a bigger and more exciting, with 2019 being no exception. The summit provides a great opportunity for us to engage face to face with educators and show how THRASS can be used with
learners of any age and ability to sustainably teach literacy skills. It is also great to meet other exhibitors and speakers to build our professional network and share our industry experience.

What do you hope to achieve at The Education Show?

DR: Our team are really looking forward to exhibiting in Melbourne and hope to engage with as many teachers, principals, parents and support staff as possible. As The THRASS Institute is a training organisation, it is really valuable for us to be able to speak to educators in person to show the how and why the THRASS pedagogy can work to facilitate sustainable phonics teaching as part of a balanced literacy approach.

What are some of the important messages and tools you will share with teachers at the show to support their teaching of reading, spelling and handwriting?

DR: Skills and strategies for learning ‘how to spell’ 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 maths, it is not just the correct answer that is important, the working memory and understanding of how to achieve the correct answer are vital to the cognitive process (deep understanding) for future learning. THRASS is designed to assist with the ‘word level’ component of literacy. The work that you do with THRASS needs to be continually reinforced by regular reading sessions with a variety of content.

In your view, what are the most significant emerging challenges for schools in teaching spelling and literacy?

DR: Spelling should be a standardised whole-school program. It should be centred around a consistent spelling sequence that can be implemented from the start of the learning process and applied at each level of learning. It needs to be easily monitored using standardised tests to check progress at each level. Standardised testing should be done twice a year, in approximately. May/June, to check that progress is being made and December to show yearly growth and provide a benchmark for the next learning year. Spelling progress should not be reliant on weekly testing of words. Spelling should be monitored for application in everyday work. This cannot be done if the spelling teaching relies on a set of unrelated words which do not provide for the applied process
of spelling, in context.

What place do traditional phonics approaches have in teaching and how do these compare to phonetics teaching?

DR: The acquisition of reading and spelling in English is dependent on the learner’s understanding of the Alphabetic Principle – the idea that there are systematic and predictable relationships between letter patterns and spoken sounds. These relationships must be explicitly taught and practised- this is phonics. From the very beginning of the literacy process, learners need to be explicitly shown that English words are composed of graphs, digraphs, trigraphs and quadgraphs – the spelling patterns used to construct everyday language for written expression. By explicitly teaching this information from foundation we are equipping learners with the skills and strategies required for learning how to read and spell everyday words, not just CVC words, but multisyllabic words with digraphs, trigraphs and quadgraphs.

What place do benchmarks and standards have in teaching literacy?

DR: Cognitive development is not a fixed progression through age related stages, rather, the learning and mastery of new concepts occurs in fits and starts. Learners must be given the correct and sustainable prerequisites to master the learning of new concepts. Each subject area has a set of basic facts critical to understanding and when committed to long term memory these facts aid in problem solving. Each of us learns in an individual way. The more of the learner’s senses we use to carry out a teaching task the more chance we have in working to each learner’s learning ‘style’. Many of us use combinations of learning styles, that is why it is important to plan lessons to cater for these differences. Standardised Testing to be undertaken twice a year to accurately
monitor progress.

To register for the free expo at The Education Show, visit


The Education Show
When: Friday 28 – Saturday 29 August 2020
Where: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

More Info:

One Comment

  1. Good afternoon,
    I am 65 years old, my hole adult life I have been passionate about education.
    I have tough myself to read and on numerous occasions tried to teach myself to spell.
    I came across your YouTube when I looked up ( Phonemic) and it all made sense to me what has been missing, I am retired now and would love to be involved in education, however I have to learn to spell myself first.
    I see you have an education program, I would be great-full if I could attend.
    Sincerely yours
    Judith Girdler

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