Skills development program – isiZulu

The vision of Soul Action’s Skills Development Program is to empower children to reach their full potential by learning to read, write and communicate effectively. Soul Action’s vision is achieved by providing relevant skills development for Grade R and Grade 1 educators whose first language is isiZulu, to enable them to teach phonics effectively.

The Department of Basic Education (2011, p.17) states that since the, “Apartheid legacy will remain present for many years to come…it will continue to be necessary to address these legacy problems directly in the design of in-service training and in the way training programmes are targeted towards teachers.” Therefore the skills development program for teachers consists of termly workshops, in conjunction with support visits. Workshops are facilitated at the start of each term, the following topics are covered:

  • stages in developing phonological awareness
  • learning styles and how to facilitate multi-sensory activities
  • how to support children to develop an awareness of words, syllables and sounds
  • how to support children in playing with words [rhyme and alliteration]
  • how to support children to blend syllables or sounds to make words
  • how to support children to segment words in to syllables or sounds
  • how to introduce and teach sounds
  • how to support children to develop reading skills
  • how to support children to develop skills in reading high frequency words
  • what is meant by, and how to facilitate shared reading
  • activities to support children in consolidating key knowledge


The teachers receive a pack of resources which enable the facilitation of multi-sensory activities, catering for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners. Throughout each term a teacher receives on average three support visits from an experienced member of staff. This provides the assistance necessary to apply what has been learnt in the workshop to the classroom context.


During the first year of the programme the children develop an awareness of words, syllables and sounds. In the second year of the program children build on the knowledge learnt as phonics teaching [the symbol representation for each sound] is introduced. Children are taught skills to apply their knowledge of sounds to the reading and spelling of words. Through shared reading and the use of big books the children are given opportunities to apply the knowledge and skills they have developed to the reading of a book.


During 2015 we were able to pilot the isiZulu phonics program in two schools. Fourteen Grade R and 1 educators were trained how to teach phonics effectively. This new initiative benefited an extra 700 learners.  Please click here to read 2015’s evaluation report

In 2016 we worked alongside eight Grade 1 educators from two schools focusing on word attack skills and shared reading.  The program enabled 370 learners to develop skills to read simple words in context.  Please click here to read 2016’s evaluation report

When educators understand the benefits of developing phonological awareness skills and are supported to develop their own skills to facilitate activities, a learning environment can be created that enables young children to develop the age appropriate skills necessary to read and write. If children are able to develop these skills in their mother tongue during Grade R and Grade 1 this will provide the foundations to build on for the teaching of English in Grades 2 and 3.

Department of Basic Education (2011) Action Plan to 2014, Pretoria