SOUTH AFRICAN POLICIES AND THE TEACHING OF  READING COMPREHENSION

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW: READING COMPREHENSION IN THE INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL CONTEXTS

‘Teachers have to learn how to teach reading comprehension strategies and procedures. Teachers can do this by becoming more aware of, and being prepared on the procedures and processes of good comprehension of text. Teachers need to learn how to interact with students during the reading of a text to teach them reading comprehension strategies at the right time and right place’ (National Reading Panel – NRP, 2000:4-94)

Introduction

In Chapter 1, I gave a short overview of reading comprehension to conceptualise my inquiry. In Chapter 2, I will offer a literature review, by providing a summary of empirical studies related to aspects of the teaching of reading comprehension in the international and South African contexts. I will comment on some of the current debates concerning the teaching of reading comprehension. Although a formidable body of knowledge exists on concepts like models of teaching reading comprehension, metacognitive and cognitive strategies when using reading comprehension strategies, I will identify aspects of reading comprehension relevant to my study and identify gaps in the literature. Reading strategies can be useful to help learners become proficient readers. Decoding is also one of the most important foundational skills. Learners should be able to recognise the types of relationship between written and spoken words. If teachers can be aware of this relationship, they will teach learners during reading activities. Usually, where there is a comprehension problem, at the root of that difficulty is a decoding problem. In essence, teaching learners proven decoding strategies such as teaching them sound and letters provides them with a strong foundation to ensure reading success. Therefore, if children are still struggling with readings skills in the third grade, odds are, they will be struggling the rest of their lives (Wren, 2001:12).
In the next sections, I will thus give a brief summary of empirical studies done internationally and nationally in order to highlight their importance to the teaching of reading comprehension. I will commence with an explanation of reading acquisition as a process, as reading comprehension cannot take place without it. Thereafter, I will present a discussion of studies on this topic in the international context. This study does not attempt to measure learner performance, but investigates the teaching of reading comprehension to Grade 3 Tshivenda-speaking learners in order to explore how teachers teach reading comprehension in their classrooms.
In this chapter, some older sources are referenced to indicate the long road that has already been travelled to improve reading comprehension in learners. The United States, for example, is the one country in the world where reading research has been done for many years. Additionally, for a variety of historical, political and theoretical reasons, American‟s views of comprehension of text have changed. Text is no longer regarded as a fixed object that the reader is supposed to depend on as closely as possible as he or she reads. Instead, the text is viewed as a blueprint for meaning. The reason being that according to their view no text is ever fully explicit, no text ever specifies all the relationships among events; this means that readers play a much more active and constructive role in their own comprehension (Pearson, 1985:726). An active and constructive model of comprehension has enormous implications for the role of the classroom teacher in promoting comprehension. This is because a teacher can no longer regard the text as the ultimate criterion for defining what comprehension is, but must view the text along with learners‟ prior knowledge, learners‟ strategies, the task or task given to learners and the classroom environment (Pearson, 1985:726).

The reading acquisition process

There are five stages of how reading is acquired, namely pre reader, emergent reader, early reader, developing reader, early fluent reader and independent reader (DOE, 2008:10-11):

  • During the pre reader stage, the learner is expected to hold the book and turns pages correctly, recognise the beginning and the end of the page, listen and respond to stories, interpret the pictures, pretend to read loudly and silently, know some letters and show interest in print and point at them whenever they see signs and labels, and create stories out of pictures;
  • The emergent readers uses pictures to tell stories, know some sounds and some letters that could make a sound, are aware that reading strategies from left to right, like to join someone who is reading, recognise some words, and read some familiar books;
  • The early fluent reader knows some letter sounds and names, recognises some common words, can retell a story, uses pictures to make meaning of the written text, reads alouds when reading to self, reads word for word loudly, reads early readers and picture books with pattern, repetition and rhyme;
  • The developing reader uses pictures to make reading, uses knowledge of sentence structure, uses phonics to decode words, combines words into phrases, retells the beginning, the middle and the end of the story, can also give some details of the story, use punctuation marks, reads silently, corrects himself/herself, reads books with large prints.
  • During the fluent reader stage, learners move from learning to read, to reading to learn. In this stage, the reader builds up a substantial background of knowledge of spelling. The learner recognises most familiar words on sight, reads fluently at least 60 words per minute, use punctuation to enhance comprehension, stops at all full stops, and begins to understand implied meaning.
  • Learners in the independent reader stage read fluently and read more advanced books. They read and understand the implied meaning of the text.
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Comprehension in the international context

There are various international studies conducted on reading comprehension indicating that there can be no doubt that learners‟ reading comprehension performance has been a concern to teachers. In America, more than ever before, they are devoting much intellectual and emotional energy to helping learners to read and understand the texts in their schools (Pearson, 1985: 724).
For a variety of historical, political and theoretical reasons, Americans‟ views of comprehension of text have changed. Text is no longer regarded as a fixed object that the reader is supposed to depend on as closely as possible as he or she reads. Instead, the text is viewed as a blueprint for meaning. The reason being that according to their view no text is ever fully explicit, no text ever specifies all the relationships among events. This means that readers play a much more active and constructive role in their own comprehension (Pearson, 1985:726).
An active and constructive model of comprehension has enormous implications for the role of the classroom teacher in promoting comprehension. This is because a teacher can no longer regard the text as the ultimate criterion for defining what comprehension is, but must view the text along with learners‟ prior knowledge, learners‟ strategies, the task or task given to learners and the classroom environment (Pearson, 1985:726).
Durkin (1979) states that the meaning of the text does not reside in the words on a page, but is constructed in the mind of the reader supports this view. That is why proficient readers actively use a set of comprehension strategies to help construct meaning as they read, while struggling readers are less aware and have less control over their comprehension process when reading. As a result, a number of strategies to increase reading comprehension were recommended by the National Reading Panel in America (NRP, 2000; Snow, 2002; Noles & Dole, 2004).In this study, I shall review these strategies as they were research-based, for example, monitoring, graphic and semantic organisers, questioning, question answering, and question generating (NRP, 2000).
Durkin (1978) did a related study in America in fourth-grade classrooms through observations. One of the goals of this study was to determine when and how often teachers are engaged in direct, explicit instruction for comprehension skills, that is, what do teachers tell learners about how they should perform the various comprehension tasks assigned on the myriad of worksheets and workbook pages.
The study revealed that very little time is spent in the classrooms on explicit reading comprehension instruction. In the seventy-five hours of reading that Durkin observed that year, teachers devoted less than 1% of the time to teaching learners how to comprehend and learn new information from reading (Durkin, 1978). It was discovered that teachers only monitored learners‟ comprehension by asking questions after they had finished reading a text instead of teaching specific strategies to help learners develop comprehension skills (Swanson & De La Paz, 1998). Much of the time devoted to reading instruction went into giving and checking written assignments or filling in workbook and ditto sheets, with the assumption that readers would simply discover the inherent meaning in printed texts and then transmit this knowledge.

DEDICATION
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
DECLARATION OF ORIGINALITY
ABSTRACT
LIST OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
CHAPTER 1 OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 RATIONALE
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND SUB-QUESTIONS
1.4 EXPLANATION OF CORE ELEMENTS IN THE STUDY
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
1.6 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
1.7 DATA ANALYSES
1.8 OUTLINE AND ORGANISATION OF THE STUDY
1.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW: READING COMPREHENSION IN THE INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL CONTEXTS
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 THE READING ACQUISITION PROCESS
2.3 COMPREHENSION IN THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
2.4 SOUTH AFRICAN POLICIES AND THE TEACHING OF  READING COMPREHENSION
2.5 POLICIES AND THE TEACHING OF READING COMPREHENSION
2.6 THE NATIONAL READING STRATEGY
2.7 READING COMPREHENSION IN THE PRIMARY GRADES
2.8 READING COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES THAT CAN BE  TAUGHT TO GRADE 3 LEARNERS
2.9 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 3 LITERATURE REVIEW: READING COMPREHENSION IN THE INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL CONTEXTS
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 DEVELOPMENTAL LEARNING THEORIES AND  READING COMPREHENSION
3.3 DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH AND LEARNING THEORIES
3.4 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
3.5 SUMMARY
3.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
4.3 PARADIGMATIC CONSIDERATIONS
4.4 RESEARCH DESIGN
4.5 RESEARCH SITES AND PARTICIPANTS AND RESEARCH
4.6 DATA ANALYSIS
4.7 STRATEGIES FOR ENHANCING THE VALIDITY OF THIS  STUDY
4.8 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 DATA PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 RESPONDENT PROFILE
5.3 DATA ANALYSIS PROCESS
5.4 RESULTS OF THE THEME ANALYSIS
5.5 SUMMARY OF THE RESPONSES
5.6 SYNOPTIC OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
5.7 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 6 SYNTHESIS AND SIGNIFICANCE FOR THEORY AND PRACTICE
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS FOR THE INQUIRY
6.3 POSSIBLE SUGGESTIONS RESULTING FROM THE FINDINGS
6.4 RECOMMENDATIONS
6.5 IDEAS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
6.6 CONCLUSION
LIST OF REFERENCES 
APPENDICES
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