Original Research

The contributions of reading and phonological awareness for spelling in grade three isiXhosa learners

Mikaela A. Daries, Tracy N. Bowles, Maxine N. Schaefer
Reading & Writing | Vol 13, No 1 | a365 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v13i1.365 | © 2022 Mikaela A. Daries, Tracy N. Bowles, Maxine N. Schaefer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 February 2022 | Published: 12 December 2022

About the author(s)

Mikaela A. Daries, Department of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa; and, Centre for Social Development, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa
Tracy N. Bowles, Department of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa; and, Centre for Social Development, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa
Maxine N. Schaefer, Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: One factor which is consistently highlighted in research on literacy is the lack of understanding of how literacy develops in the Southern-Bantu languages. In particular, little is known about spelling in the Southern-Bantu languages such as isiXhosa.

Objectives: Through the use of an initial exploratory study and a conceptual replication study, we examined the relationships between reading, phonological awareness, and spelling in isiXhosa grade 3 learners. The initial exploratory study sought to describe the relationships between reading and spelling, and phonological awareness and spelling in a sample of 49 grade 3 isiXhosa learners. We then conceptually replicated this study with a larger sample of 200 grade 3 isiXhosa learners. We expected that both reading and phonological awareness would be related to spelling and that the strength of the relationship between reading and spelling, and phonological awareness and spelling would vary with spelling ability, due to the changes that occur in the development of spelling.

Method: Cross-sectional, quantitative secondary data were used from two different projects to answer the research questions. Tasks of phonological awareness, oral reading fluency and spelling were developed and administered to the participants.

Results: We found that reading was a replicable predictor of spelling for grade 3 isiXhosa learners and that phonological awareness was influential only at the mid-range of spelling performance.

Conclusion: Our findings emphasise the importance of the reading – writing connection, and lend support for what has been found for other consistently written languages, adding to the growing body of knowledge of universal predictors of spelling development.


Keywords

spelling; phonological awareness; oral reading fluency; literacy; isiXhosa; conceptual replication

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