Enhancing the reading conditions in a multilingual grade six class : exploring the possibilities



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University of Cape Town

The qualitative study described in this research addresses the question of ""how to enhance reading conditions in a grade six class with learners from different language backgrounds, but taught in English as a medium of instruction"". The conceptual framework helps to carve a path through the maze of definitions about reading, independent readers, reading models and Cambourne's reading conditions, which were the focus of the research. The grade six classroom, in which the reading conditions, mainly ""immersion"" and ""engagement"", were to be enhanced, consisted of 42 learners and one teacher. The observation period started in February 2002, but the actual research described in this dissertation lasted two months (August and September 2002), and happened in different phases: the initial phase and the main research period. The latter was made up of the intervention and the final phase. In the initial phase the reading conditions In the classroom layout, the learners' profile, the teaching practices and the attitudes towards reading were explored through observations, field notes and interviews. Other qualitative data was gathered using a reading survey and a cloze procedure test, which were both developed by the researcher. The collected data helped to set up the intervention, in which several challenges had to be faced. During that intervention the physical conditions in the classroom were enhanced to create an encouraging and comfortable space for the learner-reader. A wide variety of interesting and relevant books were brought in the classroom in order to make it a literacy rich environment. At the same time, organising activities based on prediction and sequencing studied the learners' meaning making process. These activities were created to stimulate the learners' engagement in reading. In the final phase possible changes in reading engagement and attitudes were registered through the same cloze procedure test and a second reading survey. Significant results of the research showed that reading became a social experience, an interaction between learners and teacher, in an environment where learners read for pleasure. Even though the intervention took place over a short period of two weeks, the results indicate that there are ways in which teachers can enhance reading conditions and a stimulating environment can be created to engage learners in reading.