A partnership to improve literacy teaching in the Eastern Cape
Rhodes University has joined hands with Funda Wande and the Eastern Cape Department of Education, to offer Short Courses in the teaching of reading and writing in the Foundation Phase. This year we are piloting six Short Courses, which deal with:
- The methods used to teach reading in the curriculum in Grades R to 3
- How to support learners’ engagement in the early stages of reading and writing (emergent literacy)
- How to develop children’s ability to discriminate between sounds, to link sounds to letters, and to read words and sentences with increasing fluency (decoding)
- How to expose children to rich language and teach vocabulary
- How to develop children’s ability to engage with text, use comprehension strategies and read for meaning
- How to teach handwriting and the writing of extended text for real and meaningful purposes.
Next year we will offer a further 6 short courses. We have sought SACE recognition of our courses and we have also applied to offer an Advanced Certificate in Foundation Phase Literacy Teaching in future.
Currently, 41 Foundation Phase HoDs and Lead Teachers, and 5 literacy coaches are doing the Short Courses, funded by Allan Gray Orbis Endowment Foundation. A further 21 Foundation Phase Subject Advisors have signed up for the courses, funded by the Eastern Cape Department of Education.
The courses have been designed to provide maximum contact and support for educators with minimum disruption to classroom teaching. Educators attend 3 one-week sessions, each covering 2 short courses, during the year, two of these sessions taking place during school holidays.
Strong features of our contact sessions are that teaching is primarily in isiXhosa, and we build discussion around videos specially filmed by Funda Wande in Eastern Cape classrooms. This enables us to observe teachers and learners in action and discuss in depth what they are doing. The discussion is framed by carefully designed questions. The Funda Wande videos are open source – anyone can use them. You can view them at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdbzR2fVsW5AtaQY_WYbvHw)
Between contact sessions, educators work independently using a specially designed App, primarily written in English, which contains text, videos, readings and interactive assessment activities relating to the topic of the Short Course. (You can view the App at https://funda.fundawande.org ) Educators are subsequently assessed on their knowledge of the content of the App by means of an online test.
Educators also attend workshops in their districts in which they tackle tasks designed to assess their ability to apply their knowledge in their classrooms or workplaces. The coordinator is available online throughout the workshop to explain the task and provide support. Educators submit the tasks by email; these are assessed and feedback is provided.
As you will have noticed, our courses make demands on educators’ computer literacy and access to data. All Foundation Phase teachers in the Eastern Cape have been provided with laptops, but in our experience, most lack confidence in using them. We therefore include computer literacy workshops in our contact sessions and provide constant, ongoing support to educators. Funda Wande has obtained RAIN simcards for our students so that they do not run short of data.
We look forward to sharing experiences with you in future posts.