Metalinguistic awareness in a group of KwaZulu-Natal beginner readers.
Whitfield, Pauline Patricia.
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This study evaluates beginner readers on three aspects of metalinguistic awareness as measured by Metalinguistic Awareness Interview Schedule (Dreher & Zenge, 1990), the understanding of reading as a meaning-gathering process; the ability to isolate language segments (sentences, words and letters); knowledge of terms used in reading instruction, as well as some basic concepts about print, as measured by the adapted Concepts About Print test (Clay, 1979). Individual interviews were conducted with a socioculturally diverse group of first grade pupils attending two schools on the Upper South Coast of KwaZulu Natal. Whilst considering the performance of the group as a whole, attention was also given to the three different language culture subgroups, and to second language learners who represented 40% of the sample. Consistent with earlier research carried out in other countries the results of this study confirmed that many of these beginner readers had only demonstrated a partial acquisition of metalinguistic abilities and a limited understanding of concepts about print as assessed by the two measurements. These confusions were described and their implications for teaching practice discussed. At the end of the subjects' grade one year a follow-up procedure was conducted to examine academic achievement in various aspects of English, and in Mathematics. In addition, readiness for grade two was also considered. These results indicated that much of the earlier confusion as demonstrated on the two measurement instruments had been resolved through instruction and mediation in the classroom. The implications of the findings, the limitations of the study and some suggestions for further research are discussed.