Original Research

Third-Grade English Second Language teachers’ vocabulary development practices

Jabulani Sibanda, Jean Baxen
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 8, No 1 | a545 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v8i1.545 | © 2018 Jabulani Sibanda, Jean Baxen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 May 2017 | Published: 14 November 2018

About the author(s)

Jabulani Sibanda, School of Education, Sol Plaatje University, South Africa
Jean Baxen, Office of the DVC, Sol Plaatje University, South Africa

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Background: This article investigated the potential of Grade 3 English Second Language (ESL) teachers’ vocabulary development practices to equip learners in English-deprived environments with English vocabulary requisite for transition to Grade 4 where English is the Language of Learning and Teaching and where learning to read gives way to reading to learn.

Aim: This study sought to document and interrogate incidental and explicit Grade 3 ESL teachers’ vocabulary development practices vis-à-vis learners’ vocabulary needs.

Setting: Three classrooms from one township and two diverse rural schools in three different districts of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa were observed.

Methods: The case study sourced qualitative data through video and field notes recorded in classroom observations in 10 English First Additional Language classes for each teacher. Quantitative data on teacher talk vocabulary exposure and recycling were generated using the AntConc 3.2.4 software.

Results: The study found that the incidental vocabulary development was compromised by low English language exposure occasioned by teachers’ frequent recourse to the Home Language, little word recycling in classroom talk and lack of rich contexts in which words were encountered. Explicit vocabulary instructional practices mostly drew learners’ attention to novel words and had a narrow range of strategies dealing with word meanings.

Conclusion: In view of the manifest lack of a robust vocabulary development programme among ESL teachers, the study recommends planned and deliberate attention to vocabulary development on the teachers’ part and a reconsideration of the learners’ vocabulary needs and learner meaningful engagement in vocabulary development.


Explicit instruction; incidental strategies; practices; vocabulary needs; vocabulary exposure; recycling vocabulary development


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