Teacher knowledge and implementation of phonological awareness in Grade R
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South Africa’s current performance on national and international studies is an indication that all is not well with our literacy teaching. In spite of the implementation of the National Curriculum Statement Grade R-9, illiteracy is currently a serious problem in South Africa. Current international and national documents call for direct, explicit, systematic teaching of reading and language concepts to beginning readers. The five principal components of reading instruction, namely phoneme awareness; phonics; word study and spelling; reading fluency; and text comprehension encompass language instruction at the phoneme, grapheme, syllable, word, sentence, and discourse levels. Teachers need specific and explicit linguistic knowledge to recognise and address the needs of all learners on the continuum of reading and language proficiency. Phonological awareness skills are considered as the most important indicators of early reading skills. Literature suggests a strong positive correlation between phonological awareness skills and reading skills development. Longitudinal studies show that children who don’t have phonological awareness skills have difficulties in reading. Experimental studies on phonological awareness suggest that the implementation of phonological awareness training has positive effects on the development of reading and spelling abilities. Phonological awareness is a key component in the prevention of reading failure. The information collected through the assessment of phonological awareness, enables teachers to make informed decisions about modifications of the literacy learning programme and implement reading interventions to prevent failure of reading acquisition. This early, preventative intervention reduces the possibility that learners fall behind in reading. The teaching of phonological awareness is par excellence for emergent literacy in the grade R class. Phonological awareness can be improved through the systematic, explicit instruction thereof. Therefore, teachers need to be able to implement a variety of phonological awareness activities in their classroom instruction. Teachers need content knowledge about phonological awareness, and how to implement it successfully. The purpose of this study was to determine: What a SWOT analysis reveals about grade R-teachers’: * Current in-depth knowledge of phonological awareness. * Preparedness to teach phonological awareness. * Implementation of instructional practices relevant to phonological awareness. * Perceptions of the support received from DoBE, in terms of relevant documentation, teaching and learning support material and professional development. The limitations, if any, in the teacher support documents of the DoBE, regarding the teaching of phonological awareness in grade R and to make suggestion with regard to the improvement thereof. What the perceptions of grade R teachers are about their in-depth knowledge, instructional practices and preparedness, concerning phonological awareness, after the implementation of a teacher training programme, focussing specifically on phonological awareness. The study was conducted utilizing a case study with thirteen grade R teachers from Lichtenburg, and the surrounding towns, Koster, Coligny and Itsoseng in the North West Province, Department of Basic Education, in South Africa. Data was collected in three phases, using questionnaires, interviews, observations and document analyses. In the first phase, the researcher gathered information on the knowledge and implementation of phonological awareness before the intervention (i.e., a teacher training programme). In the second phase, the teachers received training about the concept of phonological awareness and its relevance in reading acquisition. The training programme included relevant teaching activities as well as learning and teaching support material. In the third phase, the researcher trained the participants in the implementation of phonological awareness and gathered data about the implementation process. The results indicated that if teachers received explicit training about phonological awareness and are provided with relevant learning and teaching support material, they are able to implement phonological awareness activities in grade R classrooms. The results of this study have implications for teacher training. The concept of phonological awareness, its relevance in reading acquisition as well as relevant teaching activities need to be included in the training of grade R teachers.
- Education