Original Research

Lessons learnt: Observation of Grade 4 reading comprehension teaching in South African schools across the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006 achievement spectrum

Lisa Zimmerman
Reading & Writing | Vol 5, No 1 | a48 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v5i1.48 | © 2014 Lisa Zimmerman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 January 2014 | Published: 01 December 2014

About the author(s)

Lisa Zimmerman, Department of Psychology of Education, University of South Africa, South Africa


The evidence of the huge challenges of literacy development faced by South African learners is primarily gleaned from the results of learners’ external assessments. There is little research which explores, in-depth, the strategies used by teachers to teach reading literacy and reading comprehension specifically. Questions remain about what is going wrong and, most importantly,what can be changed to rectify the poor outcomes of learners. To gain insight into the poor achievement of Grade 4 learners, in South Africa in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006, six case studies were undertaken. Each school case had a different class average achievement profile ranging from low to high on the PIRLS achievement scale.This article presents findings from the observation of Grade 4 reading comprehension lessons in six schools. The comparison of observations of teaching practices aligned to higher achieving schools, against those of lower performing schools, indicates the discrepancies in the quality of teaching reading comprehension across the schools, and reveals potential foci for teacher development. The value of comparative lesson observation for these purposes is highlighted.


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