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Reading practices in two urban multi-grade foundation phase classes
In Africa, throughout the history of schooling, many teachers have been confronted by the demanding situation of teaching two or more year groups in the same classroom although data on this multi-grade phenomenon is scarce. Although reading is a fundamental competency and the core of our curriculum, a gap exists in practice. In multi-grade classes the gap is wider as a result of the different grades and varying abilities within the grades. The present study was motivated by the researcher’s concern for the status of reading in all Foundation Phase classes. This study answers one main question: How do teachers in two urban multi-grade classrooms teach reading in the Foundation Phase? The two sub-questions are: What are the current reading practices in urban multi-grade classrooms in the Foundation Phase? What challenges do teachers of urban multi-grade classes face when teaching reading in the Foundation Phase? The conceptual framework that was central to answering the two sub questions includes four theorists namely: Lave and Wenger’s (1991) Vygotsky’s (1978); Bronfenbrenner’s (1990) and finally Piaget’s (1972) stages of cognitive development including pre-operational stage and concrete operational stage. The literature review highlights the physical setting of the multi-grade classrooms, debates the advantages and limitations of urban multi-grade teaching, compares the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) 2005 and the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) reading curriculum, briefly deliberates the stages of reading development and finally discusses the variety of reading practices. A qualitative interpretive case study research design was formulated to explore the complex phenomenon of urban multi-grade reading practices in the Foundation Phase. The first research question explored the reading practices found in two urban multi-grade classes, and the findings include four themes which are: stories, vocabulary, comprehension and reading. The second sub-question, focussed on the challenges the urban multi-grade teachers experienced. In conclusion this study reveals that reading can be taught successfully in urban multi-grade classes. Teaching reading in multi-grade classes may foster the emotional, intellectual, social and academic well-being of learners. Secondly although the two urban multi-grade teachers faced many challenges, with the necessary support structures in place, these challenges could be minimized.