Reading in the early grades: Learning to read and reading to learn
Many South African children complete Grades 1-3 without being able to read properly in their home-language. A weak literacy and language foundation in the early grades constitute some of the major factors leading to poor learning outcomes in later grades, weak general knowledge and academic performance. Many educators and researchers are explicitly acknowledging that reading is critical in literacy and language development, and indispensable for attaining better outcomes in mathematics and science.
The Zenex Foundation has a keen interest in the areas of literacy and reading. The Foundation supports initiatives designed to innovate, research and test system level application to improve outcomes in education. These have been shared in a wide range of forums. A panel arranged by the Zenex Foundation, presented an aspect of Zenex’s research and interventions in literacy and language development. The presentations shared insights emerging from programmes in home language and first additional language interventions on reading to learn in the later grades. A presentation provides a brief outline of how the vocabulary component within the Zenex literacy project is implemented in order to help teachers actively build Home Language and First Additional Language vocabularies in learners throughout the Foundation Phase.
Dr Nic Spaull: Learning to Read and Reading to Learn
Reading for meaning and pleasure is arguably the most important skill children learn in primary school. Since almost all future learning will depend on this fundamental understanding of the relation between print and spoken language, it is unsurprising that literacy, built upon a firm foundation of basic reading, is used as one of the primary measures of school efficacy.
This is why in the Foundation Phase (Grades 1 to 3) children are ‘learning to read’ but from Grade 4 onwards they are meant to be ‘reading to learn’, that is, using the skill of reading to acquire new information. However, if children cannot ‘read for meaning’ they cannot access the curriculum and they fall further and further behind even as they move into higher grades. Unfortunately, most children in South Africa do not learn to read for meaning by the end of Grade 3 and remain perpetually behind.
Prof. Leketi Makalela: Language literacies, epistemology and assessment: Nurturing the future for early graders
Teaching literacy in the Foundation Phase has reached a sense of urgency in South Africa. The aim of the presentation was to highlight the problems and challenges of both epistemological and monolingual biases in the Foundation Phase literacy programmes. It sought to showcase how one-ness ideologies from Germanic languages such as English are used as proxies for versioning teaching assessment, curriculum and pedagogies for teaching and learning in multilingual contexts that include African languages. Recommendations for shifting paradigms are considered at the end of the presentation. The paper highlighted the critical need for literacy benchmarks in African languages.
We know more or less how to teach reading in a systematic way, and when experts pay close attention to one or two classrooms (or teach themselves) it is easy to produce high levels of reading outcomes. However, when implementing a pedagogical intervention in 50 or more schools one is actually trying to change teacher practice on scale. This is the central challenge, quite aside from the intrinsic quality of the new pedagogical methods. One is trying to change the ingrained behaviours of teachers with whom one has limited contact.
The study is examining the efficacy of different models of support for improving early read
Prof. Lilli Pretorius: Narrowing the gap: Building vocabulary during the Foundation Phase
Vocabulary development as a proxy for improved teacher literacy teaching and practice. Research has shown that vocabulary correlates strongly with all aspects of language proficiency such as oral comprehension, reading comprehension, writing and academic literacy; it also correlates with academic performance and general knowledge. Although vocabulary research has a robust tradition, there has been surprisingly little explicit focus on vocabulary development within the South African education landscape, specifically with regard to vocabulary development in the African languages, and in English as a First Additional Language (FAL).