Academic journal article The English Teacher

Thrass Phonics: A Case Study of Thomas as an Emerging Reader in English1

Academic journal article The English Teacher

Thrass Phonics: A Case Study of Thomas as an Emerging Reader in English1

Article excerpt


Phonics has been recognized as an instrument for Malaysian primary students to build essential English reading and literacy skills in the classroom. The Malaysian Ministry of Education (2011) English Standardized Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR) strongly recommends the use of phonics when teaching students (aged between 7 and 12 years) critical literacy skills. Increasingly beginning readers in Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States use phonics to assist beginning readers to acquire English literacy and fluency skills (Davies & Ritchie, 2003; Ehri, 2003).

The ability to read is one of the fundamental skills young students acquire at school and early literacy is a prerequisite for success in all aspects of education (Callinan & Zee Der Van, 2010; Cihon, 2011). Since the 1990s, THRASS (teaching handwriting, reading and spelling skills) synthetic phonics has been used to teach key English literacy skills in Australian and British primary schools (Callihan & Zee Der Van, 2010; Griffiths, 2008).THRASS creators Davies and Ritchie (2003) explain that THRASS phonics teaches the 44 phonemes (sounds of spoken English); it promotes phonemic metacognition, and is a successful tool for developing English literacy skills.

These days, there are a number of phonics methodologies that claim to help early English readers. This particular study will explore, for the first time, THRASS phonics ability in teaching English reading skills to a Chinese Malaysian primary school student. The study took place in Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia.

Literature Review

For over 60 years, phonics has received attention in terms of the development of English reading skills. Few educators dispute that whole language and phonics are essential if students are to learn to read and speak English effectively (Coogan, 2005; Ehri, 2002; Stotsky, 2006). Indeed, the UK's National Literacy Strategy (2006) recommends the use of synthetic phonics (THRASS) to teach literacy skills in reading and speaking English in primary schools (Callihan & Zee Der Van, 2010). Similar reports in Australia and the United States have raised phonemic awareness and positioned phonics at the top of the literacy agenda (Callinan & Zee Der Van, 2010; Ehri, 2003; Stotsky, 2006; Wilson & Colmar, 2008). Wilson and Colmar (2008, p.91) point out that "the overwhelming findings indicate that direct and systematic instruction in phonics contributes more significantly to children's initial and ongoing literacy development than any alternate approach of either unsystematic or no phonics." In other words, proficient reading instruction should consists of phonemic awareness, phonics, guided oral fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension (Ehri, 2003; Stotsky, 2006). Stotsky describes phonemic and phonics awareness as follows:

Phonemic awareness is understanding that spoken language is composed of tiny segments of speech called phonemes. The National Reading (United States) Panel (2005) found that phonemic awareness training "significantly improves their [students'] reading more than instruction that lacks any attention to phonemic awareness.

Phonics instruction is often confused with phonemic awareness, it teaches reading by making explicit the letter-sound correspondences in reading and writing. Research evidence points to the necessity of teaching phonics sequentially rather than merely highlighting phonics elements as they appear in a text (2006, p. 11).

For Australian researchers Wright et al. (2011, pi), early phonological skills, particularly the ability to recognize the phonemic structure of spoken words helps children develop knowledge of grapheme-phoneme conversion rules (GPCs). Moreover, literacy research in the United States has found that phonemic awareness and letter knowledge were the two best predictors of reading ability in the first two years of instruction (Wilson & Colmar, 2008). …

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