Using the sound reading system to teach English spelling: A case study
Namibia is a country where English is mostly acquired as a taught subject and Grade 4 is a transitional year where the medium of instruction changes from the mother tongue or predominant local language to English. The National Curriculum specifies that it is crucial for learners to acquire English literacy skills in Grades 1, 2 and 3 to ensure a smooth transitioning to Gr.4. However, data revealed that when Namibian learners enter the Senior Primary phase (Grade 4-7), their shaky foundation leaves them at a disadvantage which hinders optimal academic progress. Spelling is essential for reading comprehension therefore it is crucial for literacy development and needs to be taught explicitly in the Junior Primary phase. The case study presented in this paper is part of a broader qualitative M.Ed. study which explored the teaching of English spelling by using the Sound Reading System (SRS) in spelling instruction from Grade 1 to Grade 3 at a school in the Erongo region of Namibia. The findings revealed that teachers felt their own alphabetic knowledge was strengthened and their approach to teaching spelling had evolved. The use of SRS provided a systematic approach to their teaching. The teachers believed that there is a definite link between spelling and reading and that this strategy has provided an opportunity to teach these skills simultaneously and in an integrated manner. The paper discloses that for spelling instruction to be effective, teachers should be equipped with thorough alphabetic knowledge as well as pedagogic content knowledge.