Evaluation of the isiZulu Program [2016]

isiZulu Skills Development Program Report

November 2016

During 2015 an isiZulu phonics program was piloted with Grade R and Grade 1 educators from two schools. The evaluation from this program revealed that educators were concerned that the learners found it a challenge to ‘read’ words despite their knowledge of sounds. When the learners were reading and came across a word they did not recognise they had no skills to work out (decode) what that word was. The assessments with the learners confirmed this concern

Content of the isiZulu Skills Development Program during 2016
A program to introduce the educators to reading strategies was introduced in 2016 in two schools. The program consisted of two workshops and four support visits in the classroom context. The support visits provided the opportunity for the Soul Action member of staff to support and assist the educator in implementing these skills in the classroom.

During the second term the educators were introduced to four reading strategies through a workshop and two classroom based support visits. This was followed by a workshop on shared reading in the third term. Shared Reading, a part of the CAPS curriculum, can be used as a tool to help the children learn these reading strategy skills and practice them in a safe environment. There were also two support visits per educator in the third term.

The workshop on reading strategies in the second term covered:

  • understanding the need for reading strategies
  • building up a knowledge and understanding of what reading strategies are
  • developing skills to teach learners to blend sounds to read a word
  • developing skills to teach learners high frequency words effectively
  • developing skills to teach learners how to chunk to read words
  • developing skills to teach learners how to use pictures to guide their reading

The workshop on shared reading in the third term covered:

  • revising reading strategies and consider their link to everyday reading
  • to develop an understanding of what is meant by shared reading
  • to develop an understanding of how to facilitate shared reading
  • understand the benefits of shared reading

A focus of both workshops was how to apply this new knowledge to the classroom context.

Data Collection
During the fourth term, the educators completed a questionnaire to assess which reading strategies they teach regularly in their classroom, which reading strategies their learners use when decoding and the effectiveness of the workshops and support visits.

Reading Strategies being used in the classroom
The data revealed that the educators are primarily teaching the skills of blending sounds to read a word and pictures. High frequency words and chunking are used less regularly. It is encouraging to see that blending sounds to read a word is used regularly by all the educators as this is a significant reading strategy that needs to be taught. This was also confirmed in the support visits where it was clear by the end of the third term that the learners were familiar with this skill.

The questionnaire also revealed that the learners use the skills of blending sounds to read and pictures the most when decoding a word.

The educators responded positively that the workshops and support visits were very helpful. Six out of the seven educators scored the workshops and visits at the highest value.

Learner Assessments
A sample of learners from each class were assessed in the fourth term. Three children of varying abilities from each class were assessed on their ability to:

  • read and spell sounds
  • read and spell double sounds
  • read simple words
  • spell simple words

This assessment showed a good knowledge of sounds for the majority of learners. Reading and spelling of double sounds was more of a challenge for the lower ability learners. All of the middle and higher ability learners scored well at reading and spelling words. Please see the graphs on the following page which illustrate the above.

Successes of the program

  • The program built on the knowledge and understanding that the educators developed the previous year
  • Educators developed a knowledge and understanding of what reading strategies are and how learners can use them to decode words when reading
  • Educators developed an understanding that decoding a word they do not recognise is a skill that needs to be taught
  • Educators became familiar with some of the strategies and started using them regularly in the classroom
  • Educators developed the knowledge of how to plan for shared reading over a week and incorporate this into their CAPs planning
  • Educators explored how to use book resources more effectively
  • Educators realised the significance of using shared reading as a way to teach and practice the reading strategies
  • Educators became aware of how they could use shared reading to encourage and include their slow learners
  • The learners particularly enjoyed the exposure to new methods of teaching

Key learning points from the program
The educators developed their skills in the teaching of how to blend sounds to read, and the use of pictures as clues to decode a word. The educators could see clearly that shared reading can be used to teach, reinforce and practise the reading strategies. Shared reading is a class activity and though it gives the learners a chance to practise these skills together, the learners seldom get the opportunity to read individually and practise these skills learnt on a one to one basis. The learners would benefit from more opportunities to read in small groups or individually.

Photos from the Program