Wordworks grows from strength to strength

For more than a decade, Wordworks has been helping children at government schools in the southern suburbs learn better and faster.

The programme was launched more than a decade ago to support early childhood development and literacy at schools through various fun activities such as word games, listening and talking to build language skills, drawing, and story telling.

On Friday April 8, Wordworks and Western Cape Education Department (WCED) officials met at Sid G Rule Primary School in Grassy Park.

The holistic aim of the Wordworks initiative was to share material and know-how with teachers, parents and volunteers to ensure that children can learn to read and write.

One of the Wordworks programmes is a six-week programme that parents of foundation phase pupils complete at the school their child is attending.

The aim is to equip parents to be able to help the pupils with homework, reading and writing through literacy and numeracy games, sponsored by Wordworks.

These games essentially strengthen the child’s development and as a result the pupil becomes more empowered in the classroom and builds a solid education foundation.

It also gives parents the opportunity to breach the communication gap that is often seen in the home when it comes to schoolwork.

Hillwood, Levana, Square Hill, Perivale and Montagu’s Gift primary schools, among other schools, have benefited from the programme.

Wordworks also has the Strengthening Teaching of Early Language and Literacy in Grade R (STELLAR) programme, which was designed to support Grade R teachers to develop the knowledge and skills they need to teach oral language and emergent literacy effectively.

Wordworks creators decided to focus on Grade R because evidence has shown how important oral language and literacy foundations are. It was found that children who have more developed language and literacy capabilities when they start Grade 1 go on to become better readers and writers.

The Stellar programme provides theoretical and practical ideas to help Grade R teachers work with young children to build these crucial skills in a fun, story-based, activity-rich programme.

For the past few years, the Stellar programme has been running at schools in the Southern district but with the help of the WCED and sponsors, the programme has been rolled out to all schools across the province since the beginning of the year.

Teachers participating in the programme will be attending training and reflective workshops over the course of a year, ensuring that new teaching insights, methods and practices can become embedded in the classroom.

Lesley Pearson, foundation phase subject advisor for the WCED’s Metro South district, said the Wordworks, and specifically the Stellar programme, has had a massive impact on foundation phase learning.

“We can see the difference. The children thoroughly enjoy the activities and we tie this in with the curriculum. A solid foundation is being put in place and from there pupils will be equipped to learn better,” said Ms Pearson.

Programme manager Angelique Twiss said the initiative is crucial – especially for pupils at school in disadvantaged areas. “We wanted children to be able to cope with school and the best place to prepare them is in Grade R. It’s not a fancy programme – it’s actually very simple.

“It gives teachers the opportunity to build their skills in a constructive way on a daily basis,” said Ms Twiss.

“If children go to Grade 1 without these critical skills they’re not going to be able to cope with the curriculum and then there could be a backlog in their learning,” she said.

Carien Vorster from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the major sponsors of the Wordworks programme, said they decided to sponsor the programme because it proved to be a worthy cause.

“It is an excellent organisation and it’s a very good programme.

“Many people think that learning starts in Grade 1 but the pro- gramme teaches the community that early learning is very important,” said Ms Vorster.