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Conceptual awareness in English of grade 5 learners : an analysis
Lambani, Matodzi Nancy
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The objectives of this study were to investigate existing theory regarding the conceptual learning of young learners and to determine what core concepts Grade 5 learners need to learn. An empirical investigation as to whether these learners were familiar with the mother tongue words for the identified core concepts in syllabuses and textbooks, and to investigate whether they could recede these concepts into English (the medium of instruction in their classrooms) was also undertaken. The role of conceptual awareness in learning was discussed based on Piaget's, Vygotsky's and Clark's theory. They explain how concepts and knowledge are acquired and also how language affects this process. Learners are required to know the concepts of what they learn and should recede the information or concepts into the language used for a specific learning task. In the case of this study it was English. The study revealed that many learners who were investigated in this study did not possess the knowledge to encode many of the core or broader concepts in Tshivenda, their mother tongue. Learners also seemed to learn some concepts and the English encoding for them simultaneously. The findings showed, however, that most learners in Grade 5 could not recede many of the concepts that they possessed in L1 into English the Mol. It was clear that many learners in this study were not ready to switch from mother tongue instruction to English Mol in Grade 5. Their lack of conceptual awareness coupled with the lack of adequate English proficiency to learn the subjects in English may have been influenced by a number of possible reasons. Some reasons that were suggested were the following: a lack of prior knowledge of concepts that occur in Grade 5 syllabuses and textbooks; poorly trained teachers who are unable to assist learners to create links between existing knowledge and new knowledge; poor socio-economic circumstances and illiteracy and teachers who may lack English proficiency and cannot teach all subjects confidently in English. Some implications for the findings were suggested such as the following: if teachers are aware of the demands made on the conceptual framework of learners and the possible limitations that• they have regarding their conceptual readiness to learn, intervention is possible. Much can be done regarding the strategies that teachers may employ to enrich, expand, reconstruct, revisit or adapt concepts for learning. Such strategies include visual scaffolding, an enriched conceptual and language programme and a planned and structured approach to teaching language across the curriculum.
- Humanities