Negotiating the introduction of subjects whilst simultaneously changing the language of instruction in Grade 4 : a case study of natural and social sciences in a rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Ngcobo, Sifiso Siegfried.
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This study explores the introduction of subjects whilst simultaneously changing the language of instruction. It focuses on the introduction of specialised concepts at Grade 4 level in a primary school where isiZulu Home Language learners switch to English as their Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT). The study critically analyses the concepts, interactions and new academic words used by the teachers and learners, in the process of knowledge building, specifically in Natural Science (NS) and Social Sciences (SS) in Grade 4. Data was collected from Grade 4 teachers: one teaches NS and the other teaches SS. The researcher conducted lesson observations; interviewed the two teachers and also analysed the conceptual structure of Grade 4 NS and SS textbooks. For the purposes of this dissertation, the researcher also analysed the collected data in detail, looking for emergent themes, in order to obtain in-depth insight about the teachers’ experiences of teaching Grade 4. The findings indicate that the NS and SS textbooks are working carefully and constructively between the concrete and abstract concepts and between high and low levels of complexity. However, discrepancies were, in most cases, displayed by the teachers who mostly did not focus on conceptual development; instead they wanted to ensure that learners learnt how to read well and have good pronunciation, thus paying particular attention to decoding the texts only. This study recommends that teachers in the Intermediate Phase require exposure to and explicit guidance in teaching methodologies that would enable cumulative knowledge building. Teacher in-service training or subject advisors’ intervention programmes ought to empower teachers with approaches to teach specialised concepts explicitly in their learning areas. Teachers should enhance reading literacy development in order to improve the learners’ English competency levels and teachers should also be aware of and equipped with an understanding of learners’ background knowledge (which could be resulting in barriers to learning opportunities) as a lack of conceptual understanding results in learners’ poor performance. Textbook authors ought to consider translating key concepts and new terminology from English to African languages in order to enhance learners’ acquisition and effective conceptual understanding, especially in the scientific and mathematical subjects.
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