Kevin McCabe, head of Adderley Primary in Birmingham.
What was it?
An introduction to a whole-school phonics programme, called Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills (Thrass). It provides a framework for teaching the 44 phonemes (speech sounds) of spoken English and the 120 graphemes (spelling choices) of written English.
I felt our approach to language learning was a bit messy. I'd used Thrass at a previous school, so I knew that it worked.
Message, Motto or Mantra
When spelling we change phonemes to graphemes. When reading we change graphemes to phonemes.
Hand-outs or hands-on?
It's very instructional. You're put in the position of a child in the class and made to move your finger along the phonics chart and sing all the songs. It helps you see things from the kids' point of view.
Something I liked
Some phonics programmes teach a simplified alphabet which children have to "unlearn" later on. This teaches all 44 sounds of the English language from the word go.
Something I learned
There is a neutral vowel sound, which exists in all languages, called a "schwa". But I don't know why it's called that. I should look it up, I suppose.
Has it made a difference?
It's been particularly helpful when teaching children who don't have English as their first language. They find it logical and uncomplicated.
There are plenty of books on the market, but phonics is one of those things where personal instruction is very important. It has to be done right Interview by Steven Hastings
There are two-day courses in January, in Somerset, Lincoln and Essex. Price pound;185 plus vat. www.thrass.co.uk