The Complete Teacher


Supporting literacy in schools

Posted by Hlengiwe Zwane on 28 April 2022, 12:55 SAST
Hlengiwe Zwane photo

Literacy is one of the most fundamental skills for anyone to have, so then why is it that this skill isn't being taught well at the grassroots level? The following is what research has shown: 

Research has shown that the real spin is that schools can help to bridge the gap of children's literacy deficits if they have a highly-focused, sustained literacy approach at the foundation level. But there really isn't a large body of research on intervention case studies like this in African schools. Research shows how the intervention design and focus have to be adapted because of the context at schools.

A message of hope may inspire township schools to deepen their teaching of reading and writing in the Foundation phase. There are also lessons for the Intersen phase and the need for an integrated curriculum management plan at schools. Schools need to understand better now why their entire community must become reading schools, including the teachers.

A coaching model of intervention needs to make more impact.
Research shows that it is more evident to support learners who struggle to receive tailored support in their classrooms. Support for learners should not be extracted from their peers and be given isolated sessions. This form of intervention has no real, measurable impact in the absence of an integrated reading-writing model in the respective classes and as a school-wide curriculum strategy.

Intervention strategies put in place after Grade 3 have limited impact on learners' literacy proficiency thus far. Children have to develop strong language and literacy skills in the Foundation Phase, or else they are destined to struggle throughout their academic careers. Trying to intervene later is a time-consuming, resource-intensive process that may produce negligible systems turnaround.  

There are gaps in teaching literacy at the foundation phase. It is therefore critical that students develop strong literacy skills so that they can cope with the transition to Grade 4. The challenge is that literacy skills are taught superficially. Besides teaching the decoding process where learners are taught to recognise words, there is not enough systematic teaching and practice of comprehension and reading skills.

According to research, children learn to read by reading. Then, their reading skills are reinforced when practising when they do writing exercises based on the reading. Reading activities are critical to developing a student's literacy skills. Real learning takes place when written exercises are given to reinforce the reading skills that are being taught.

There are benefits to mastering strong literacy skills 
Children with strong literacy skills will have a high level of word recognition skills that will enable them to recognise high-frequency words automatically, quickly and accurately. When children reach this level of competence, they can use their energies to make meaning of the texts as they progress, rather than being hamstrung in basic decoding processes. It is this level of mastery that learners need to cope with the academic demands of Grade 4, the intermediate phase. At higher grades, the emphasis is on reading to learn as opposed to learning to read. 

Developing a classroom reading is essential. 
Classrooms need to have a well-stocked classroom library that all learners can access. It is Ideal that learners should read daily in class and be allowed to take books home every day. Educators need to reinforce that reading and writing are inseparable so that children acquire the writing habit as well. Teachers should establish this routine so that this process becomes automatic.

As educators, we should be enthusiastic readers ourselves and model-independent reading as a pleasurable activity.

Source: The School Corridor 

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