OVERVIEW OF THE GPLMS LANGUAGE PROGRAMME

 

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Acronyms
  • SGB
    School Governing Body
  • FP
    Foundation Phase (grades 1 – 3)
  • IP
    Intersen Phase (grades 4 – 7)
  • HL
    Home Language
  • FAL
    First Additional Language
  • EFAL
    English First Additional Language
  • LoLT
    Language Of Learning and Teaching
  • CAPS
    Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement
  • DBE
    Department of Basic Education

The Team

Professor Brahm Fleisch of the University of the Witwatersrand conceptualised and designed the original language programme, which involved a ‘triple cocktail’ of phonics programmes, reading books and coaches for FP classes.

Reading books and phonics workbooks from a number of publishers were selected for use in the programme, including Oxford, READ, Vivlia, Shuter & Shooter, Jade, Kagiso, Lectio Publishers, Marshall Cavendish Education and Molteno.

The GPLMS then appointed service providers to implement the language programme from January 2011 namely: READ Educational Trust; the Molteno Institute; St Mary’s DSG Outreach; Class Act Educational Services; Woz’obona and Phenduka Literacy.

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Class Act Educational Services, working together with Aneene Dawber, a linguistics expert, further developed the programme. Initially working at their own expense, they further developed existing phonics programmes, included a handwriting component, set pacing guidelines and developed milestone guidelines.

Recognising the need for and value of this work, the GPLMS soon appointed Class Act to develop scripted lesson plans and training materials. In addition, Kholo Makhaga, a GPLMS project manager, and Debbie Botha from WITS were appointed managers of the language programme. This appointment happened in time for the language managers to lead the expansion of the project into grades 4 – 7.

IP reading books include titles from Vivlia, READ, Oxford, Best Book, Macmillan, Shuter & Shooter, Maskew Miller Longman, Mthombothi, PM, Sunshine and Zebra.

The Context

Language in Gauteng is an enormously complex issue. SGBs are responsible for the language policies of schools in an attempt to ensure that the language needs of communities will be met. The school language policy determines which languages will be offered at HL and FAL level both in the FP and in the IP.

Collectively, Gauteng schools offer 10 of our official languages, with the exception of SiSwati. Some primary schools offer home language instruction in as many as 5 languages, in an attempt to meet the needs of their communities

Even with these offerings, project schools do not always manage to cater for the needs of all pupils. As a result, many of our learners learn in a home language that is not their first or even their second language.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that once learners reach Grade 4, the LoLT for all subjects becomes English. In an attempt to better prepare learners for this, CAPS introduced FAL as a FP subject. Many schools have embraced this opportunity to better prepare learners for grade 4, and as a result, offer EFAL.

From grade 4 – 7, the GPLMS language programme is limited to English at either HL or FAL level, again with the aim of supporting learners with the LoLT of all subjects.

The GPLMS Approach

Language Development

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At the core of our language programme is the need to sensitise teachers to the fact that they have to teach meaning and vocabulary as part of every lesson, in every subject. As well as sensitising teachers, we aim to equip them with the skills and methodologies required to do this.

In order to facilitate language development, the GPLMS language programme is theme based. Themes are loosely based on content that learners will encounter in the DBE workbooks, but are tailored to ensure that the language of themes is useful and relevant to authentic situations and compliant with policy. From grades 1 – 3, children experience two HL themes per term, and one EFAL theme per term. From grades 4 – 7, children experience two themes per term, whether at HL or FAL level. Themes are clearly illustrated by the GPLMS posters, which are used to teach vocabulary and sentence structures for the 4 – 5 week period. For the duration of the theme period, all listening and speaking, grammar and writing tasks are geared to the theme. In grade 7, themes are based on class readers, and so even the reading activities are theme based.

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Another important aspect of language development integral to the GPLMS programme focusses on attitude. Teachers are encouraged to:

  • Show the value they place on language acquisition by being well prepared, positive and enthusiastic
  • Take a developmental, positive approach with learners
  • Build a safe, trusting classroom atmosphere where children are encouraged to try out new language and to make mistakes as part of the learning process
  • Build confident learners who feel good about their emerging language skills
Skills Development

The GPLMS language programme is CAPS compliant in terms of time allocations, content and assessment.

Scripted lesson plans are designed in two week routines. As far as possible, regular activities that incorporate core methodologies are done within each routine. The structure of the routines and the regularity of methodologies have four main purposes:

  • The core methodologies are based on sound, successful practise
  • Programmes are more likely to become habitual and therefore institutionalised if they are repeated
  • Being able to anticipate the form of particular lessons allows learners to focus on the content
  • Teachers and learners spend more time on task when they know what they are doing
 
 

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A balanced approach to reading is followed as prescribed in CAPS. This means that attention is given to both decoding skills and to comprehension. Learners participate in shared reading lessons and group reading lessons with an aim to developing independent reading skills.

Phonics, handwriting and spelling lessons are all explicitly and regularly taught to develop the skills that learners need to do independent writing. Writing forms and skills are explicitly taught and then practised in either shared writing or process writing activities.

Grammar lessons are selected to compliment the writing form that learners will be practising. Grammar is first modelled incidentally in listening and speaking lessons, and then explicitly taught. All assessment tasks are clearly laid out and customised assessment tools and model answers are provided. Assessment activities are all modelled on the methods used in the ANA, therefore continually preparing learners for this important assessment.

Training, Coaching and Mentoring

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The GPLMS language programme tries as far as possible to offer standardised training, despite the cascade element of training. At the start of every term, a standardised training event is designed to accompany the distribution of lesson plans. Coaches are given detailed facilitation guides and are thoroughly trained to deliver the training to teachers. Throughout the year, additional standardised training events are implemented based on and using the Knowledge Tree DVD series – a series specifically designed for the GPLMS.

The purpose of all training is to:

  • Encourage minimum compliance to standardised routines, methodologies, lesson plans and assessment tasks.
  • Deepen coaches’ and teachers’ understanding of the GPLMS language approach and methodologies as well as the rationale behind these methodologies.
  • Begin to encourage competent, confident teachers to facilitate extended learning opportunities for their learners.
  • Share emerging good practise and success stories.

The role of the coach is to be a ‘critical friend’ to the teachers, to offer high-level support and constructive criticism to move teachers forward. This role is respected by the GPLMS language team, and training programmes include opportunities to develop these skills.

 

 

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Successes

The GPLMS language programme has generated good results in the first two years.

The language team attributes much of this success to:

  • The coherent nature of this programme. All materials are designed to specifically work together. The CAPS compliant, scripted lesson plans build in the use of the reading books, the DBE books and assessment tasks. All training materials talk directly to the scripted lesson plans, the core methodologies and the need to always teach meaning and vocabulary in every lesson.
  • The ‘user friendly’ nature of the lessons. The scripted lesson plans follow routines, use core methodologies, are easy to understand, and very rarely call for extra resources. Teachers are not overwhelmed by the programme, and, once they decide to, find the lessons accessible and easy to implement.
  • Clear, consistent direction and leadership. The GPLMS managers and Class Act , the design and development service provider, have collaborated well to provide a stable, coherent vision for this project.
  • A focus on relationship building, good communication and organisation. A successful intervention relies as much on these factors as on the design and content of the programme.

In addition to improved ANA results, teachers and learners are spending more time on task, reading and writing skills have increased significantly, classrooms are transforming into print rich, organised learning environments, and teachers’ attitudes towards language teaching are improving all the time. Anecdotal evidence of many of these claims can be seen in the NGO Blogs.