Grade 1 teachers' experiences of learners' pre-handwriting challenges
In the current curriculum of the South African Department of Education's Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS), handwriting is a prescribed activity in the subject Home Language. The policy document states that, before teaching handwriting to Grade 1 learners, a pre-writing programme should be followed. Although the guidelines are provided in the CAPS document for time allocation of handwriting instruction, an actual pre-writing programme does not exist. It is left to the discretion of the teachers in the Foundation Phase of a learner's school career. Should early childhood teachers have insufficient training and pedagogical knowledge, they would not be able to deliver quality teaching. According to the 2011 UNESCO report, only 50% of pre-primary school teachers are qualified and 80% of primary school teachers are qualified. This study implemented a qualitative approach, as it would allow for optimal data collection. Data were collected during focus group discussions. The teachers provided evidence from the written work of ten learners who had been identified by eight Grade 1 teachers as experiencing challenges with pre-handwriting skills. With a vast amount of young learners experiencing pre-handwriting challenges and not having access to occupational therapy services, it is essential that teachers are made aware of the skills needed for handwriting, as identified in this research project, to enable them to assist the struggling learners in their care. This research has shown that in order to successfully acquire handwriting, the following skills are necessary: fine motor skills, problem solving skills, proper pencil grip, the right writing tools, visual memory, correct letter formation, midline crossing ability, and a sufficient sense of direction and space; all of which can be enhanced through intensified training of teachers for Grade R. Furthermore, proper exercises to correct low muscle tone and ensure reversals are necessary, while the proper seating position can be ensured by having the correct furniture size. These areas of concern can now be used to compile a pre-handwriting programme in order to fill the gap in the CAPS policy document.
- Education