Original Research

Teaching reading in a multi-grade class: Teachers’ adaptive skills and teacher agency in teaching across grade R and grade 1

Labby Ramrathan, Jabu Mzimela
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 6, No 2 | a448 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v6i2.448 | © 2016 Labby Ramrathan, Jabu Mzimela | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 May 2016 | Published: 29 July 2016

About the author(s)

Labby Ramrathan, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jabu Mzimela, Early Childhood Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


The skill of reading is regarded as the cornerstone of literacy learning in the foundation phase. Although it is the most complex skill to master, it forms part of literacy teaching. Most learners begin schooling without having any kind of exposure to reading. This lack of exposure introduces a number of challenges, which are consequently exacerbated if teachers have to teach in multi-grade classes. This case study was conducted in two primary schools in the Ndwedwe Circuit in KwaZulu-Natal. It is framed within the interpretive epistemology
embedded in a qualitative research methodology. Empirical data were generated from two rural schools where multi-grade teaching was undertaken. To produce data, two teachers teaching multi-grade classes (incorporating both grade R and grade 1) were observed during an isiZulu Home Language reading period. Subsequently, semi-structured interviews were used to elicit more data for corroboration of findings. The findings show that teacher agency is crucial
in making adaptive decisions. These decisions are based on the intersection of formal knowledge, situational knowledge and experiential knowledge that the teachers have acquired over time.


multi-grade teaching; teacher agency; rural schooling education; pedagogical knowledge; reading; reading strategies; adaptive skills


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