|dc.description.abstract||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
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.||en_US