Foundation Phase English FAL

In the Foundation Phase, the primary skills in the First Additional Language curriculum are: 

  • Listening and speaking 
  • Reading and phonics 
  • Writing and handwriting 
  • Thinking and Reasoning and Language Structure and Use, which are integrated into all four languages skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing)  

The content (knowledge, concepts and skills) contained in the National Curriculum Statement (NCS) has been organised in the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPs), per term, using these headings. 

The Foundation Phase section of the CAPs provides teachers with: 

  • an introduction containing guidelines on how to use the Foundation Phase document 
  • content, concepts and skills to be taught per term 
  • guidelines for time allocation 
  • requirements for the Formal Assessment Activities and suggestions for informal assessment 
  • lists of recommended resources per grade 


Additive Bilingualism

Children come to school knowing their home language. They can speak it fluently and already know several thousand words. Learning to read and write in Grade 1 builds on this foundation of oral language. Therefore, it is easier to learn to read and write in your home language. When children learn an additional language in Grade 1, they need to build a solid foundation. They need to hear lots of simple, spoken English which they can understand from the context. Listening to the teacher read stories from large illustrated books (Big Books) is a good way of doing this as it also supports children’s emergent literacy development. As children’s understanding grows, they need plenty of opportunities to speak the language in simple ways. This provides the foundation for learning to read and write in Grades 2 and 3. 

In South Africa, many children start using their additional language, English, as the Language of Learning and teaching (LoLT) in Grade 4. this means that they must reach a high level of competence in English by the end of Grade 3, and they need to be able to read and write well in English. For these reasons, their progress in literacy must be accelerated in Grades 2 and 3. 

Fortunately, children can transfer many literacy skills from their home language. For example, if learners are taught handwriting well in their home language, they can use it when writing in English. If they learn phonics in their home language, they do not need to learn sound-spelling relationships repeatedly in English. They only need to apply their knowledge in English and learn those sound-spelling relationships that are different in English.

The First Additional Language CAPS take advantage of learners’ literacy skills in their home language. For example, Guided Reading activities introduced in the home Language CAPs in Grade 1 are introduced in the First Additional Language CAPS in Grade 2. This is called ‘additive bilingualism’ – developing a strong literacy foundation in the home Language and building First Additional Language literacy onto this. 

Different language learning contexts

In schools where children will use their additional language, English, as the LoLT from Grade 4, a substantial amount of time must be devoted to learning English in the Foundation Phase. However, in schools with the same LoLT throughout the grades, this is not the case. In these schools, many children learning English or Afrikaans as a Home Language do not speak these languages as their mother tongue, and as much time as possible should be devoted to this task. 


The CAPs document provides suggestions for each of the Formal Assessment Activities in the Foundation Phase Languages. Each activity consists of several parts dealing with different aspects of Language. In term one, there is only one Formal Assessment Activity in Grades 1 – 3. In addition, suggestions are given for informal assessments that will inform daily teaching and learning but will not be formally recorded. 

Introducing FAL

When the teacher introduces the First Additional Language in Grade 1, she needs a simple way to get the idea of an ‘additional language’ across to her young learners. A good way of doing so is using a puppet, which can be given a name in the additional language, for example, Peter the Puppet. In the first lesson, the teacher introduces the puppet and tells the learners that Peter can’t speak their home language; he can only speak English, so they will have to speak English to Peter. Peter will then become a permanent feature of the First Additional Language class. The teacher could introduce a second puppet (e.g. Pam the Puppet) to demonstrate interactions in the additional language (e.g. greetings). 

Listening and Speaking

Learning an additional language is much like learning a home language, except that it happens later in children’s lives. In the first year of their lives, children hear vast amounts of simple language in context, enabling them to gradually absorb their home language’s grammar and vocabulary. After a year or so, children start speaking their home language but not in complete sentences. They begin by producing one or two words, which they use to express various meanings and purposes. They can understand much more complex language than they can speak. 

Teachers need to keep this in mind when children are learning an additional language. In Grades 1, learners need to be exposed to lots of oral language in stories and classroom instructions. Listening to stories being told is an excellent way for children to acquire their additional language. The teacher needs to: 

  • choose a story with a simple, repetitive structure, which allows for vocabulary and grammar to be recycled (e.g. the Three Little Pigs) 
  • keep her language very simple, speaking slowly but naturally 
  • use gestures, pictures and real objects to support understanding of the story 
  • tell the story several times, gradually involving the children more and more, for example, by joining in the refrains (e.g. he huffs and he puffs and he blows the house down) 

Another way of exposing children to the additional language is through listening to stories (or non-fiction texts). This is called ‘Shared Reading’. The teacher reads from a Big Book, a large illustrated book with an enlarged print that all the learners can ‘ee as she read’. One of the advantages of Shared Reading is that it also develops learners’ emergent literacy and excellent listening activity. Children learn, for example, concepts of print (e.g. that we start reading at the front of a book and end at the back; and that we read from left to right and top to bottom of a page), and they begin to recognise a few written words in the additional language (e.g. he, she). Learners should be familiar with shared reading activities since they will also be doing it in their home Language lessons. 

Another excellent way of exposing children to the additional language is by giving simple instructions that they respond to physically; for example, the teacher says, ‘Come here, Thabo,’ with an accompanying gesture, and he responds. This method, known as Total Physical Response, has the advantage that the teacher can see immediately whether Thabo understands or not. She can provide feedback – either ‘Well done, Thabo,’ or she can repeat the instruction more slowly with the gesture emphasised more strongly. Classroom language (e.g. Come to the front of the class and sit on the mat) provides many natural ways of introducing Total Physical Response. Action rhymes, too, are an excellent way of combining language with physical activity to support both understanding and memory of the language. 

The advantage of the three methods described above (listening to stories, shared Reading and total Physical Response) is that they all focus on learning language through listening comprehension. This takes the pressure off young learners having to speak, reduces anxiety and allows them to focus on understanding the language. However, to become competent users of the language, learners also have to practise speaking. 

Initially, learners’ spoken language will be formulaic – memorised songs, action rhymes and poems, and formulaic language learned as chunks, for example, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ But gradually, as children begin to understand the additional language, they need to start talking, initially with one or two-word utterances. For example, in response to the teacher’s question, ‘Did you like the story,’ a learner answers ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ 

At first, learners’ emergent spoken language needs to be scaffolded (i.e. modelled and supported). For example, learners can begin by acting out stories the teacher has told or read to them, speaking some of the dialogue. With the teacher’s help, the children can retell the story. The teacher needs to make sure that all the children get opportunities to speak in English. Because children will progress at a different pace, the teacher needs to tailor speaking opportunities (e.g. the questions she asks) to the individual child’s level. As the children move through the grades, the teacher should expect children to speak more, and their utterances should become longer. 

As children make progress with learning English, they also need to be introduced to more text types. In Grade1, they will have lots of exposure to stories and will begin to recognise the structure and features of narrative text (i.e. characters are introduced, the setting is described, a problem arises, and it is resolved; a narrative is usually told in the past tense). In the Grade 2 First Additional Language CAPs, oral recounts are introduced (e.g. yesterday, we went to town. First, we went to the supermarket to buy food. Then we went to the library, etc.), and in Grade 3, written recounts are included. The recount is a vital text type because it provides a bridge between spoken and written language. We often use oral recounts (e.g. telling people about what we have done), but we also write them down. In Grade 3, learners are also introduced orally to procedural text (i.e. instructions such as recipes) and information reports (e.g. Elephants are large animals. they live in herds, etc.). Examples of these text types are provided in section 4 at the end of this document, together with a description of their structure and features. 

Daily and once/twice weekly focused listening/speaking activities built around themes 

A substantial amount of time needs to be devoted to Listening and Speaking in Grade 1. This is reduced in Grades 2 and 3 when more reading and writing is introduced in the First Additional Language. Focused attention needs to be given to Listening and Speaking throughout the Foundation Phase

In the First Additional Language CAPS, Listening and Speaking are organised as follows: 

  • A list of activities to be covered on a daily basis over the period of a week. The selection and number of activities to be covered each day will depend on the teacher and the time she has available; this will vary according to whether she uses the minimum or maximum time for First Additional Language. 
  • A focused activity, ‘listening to stories told and read’, is taught once or twice a week, depending on the Grade and the amount of time available. 
  • These activities are organised around themes. It is recommended that the teacher select four themes per term, possibly less where the minimum time is used for the First Additional Language. The teacher needs to choose themes that lend themselves to teaching an additional language. The themes should be very familiar to learners, preferably already taught in the home Language, and offer lots of opportunities for teaching language in context (e.g. they need to provide opportunities for demonstration and use of physically present things in the classroom). Some themes are given as examples, but these are merely suggestions; they are not to be seen as prescriptions. 
  • Using themes is to make it possible to recycle vocabulary and language structures in meaningful contexts constantly. For example, words related to the body (face, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, legs, feet) and the structures in which they are situated (Point to your _____./This is my _____./These are my _____.) first of all need to be heard repeatedly in context; learners then need opportunities to use them. As learners move into Grades 2 and 3, they will also need opportunities to read and write them. Only if vocabulary and structures are constantly recycled will learners be able to remember and use them. 

Reading and Writing

For the reasons given above, there is a strong focus on developing oral language in Grades R and 1, when children learn to read and write in their Home Language. However, in Grades 2 and 3, focus should be given to developing literacy in the First Additional Language. This is very important for children who will be using English as the LoLT in Grade 4. They will need to read and write in their other subjects and use English textbooks in the intermediate Phase. This will require high levels of literacy, and especially a wide vocabulary, in English. 

Reading and writing also contribute to learners’ language development in English. Reading gives learners more exposure to their additional language. We know from research that children’s vocabulary development depends heavily on the amount of reading they do. Writing is critical because it forces learners to think about grammar and spelling. This encourages learners to process the language, speeds up language acquisition and increases accuracy. Thus more time is devoted to reading and writing activities in the First Additional Language CAPs for Grades 2 and 3. 

The activities for Reading and Writing are as follows: 

Exposure to environmental print 

From their earliest years, South African children are exposed to much environmental print in English, such as signage (traffic signs, shop signs, etc.) and packaging. Teachers can use this as a starting point for children’s emergent literacy in their additional language, for example, by bringing standard packages or advertisements to class and seeing if the learners can recognise brand names. From the 3rd term of Grade 1, when learners have established some literacy in their home language, the teacher can start labelling objects in the classroom in both the home language and English. These activities support incidental learning; they are not focused on literacy activities and should not be given too much time. 

Shared Reading 

Shared Reading is introduced in Grade R and continues throughout the Foundation Phase. This activity is an essential focus for language and literacy development. The purpose of shared Reading in Grade 1 is to give learners exposure to their additional language in a meaningful, supportive context. It also develops learners’ emergent literacy in their other language. They form concepts of print and start to recognise a few written words in English. At this level, the teacher should: 

  • Choose a straightforward enlarged text (e.g. a Big Book) with a limited amount of text and plenty of good illustrations. The story should have a clear, simple structure (e.g. the Three Little Pigs). it is helpful if the language is repetitive and predictive (e.g. Where’s Spot? He’s in the kitchen. Where’s Spot? He’s in the garden. etc.) The texts should very gradually increase in complexity as the year progresses. 
  • Talk about the pictures with the learners so that they understand the vocabulary. Ask questions in their home language. Help them to link the story to their lives. 
  • Read the text several times using her finger or a ‘pointer’ to enable learners to follow her progress through the text. 
  • Ask questions about the story. 
  • Gradually involve learners in ‘reading’ the story. 
  • As learners move into Grades 2 and 3, the texts should become more challenging. The teacher models fluent reading and uses the reader to develop vocabulary, comprehension, decoding skills, text structure, grammar and punctuation. 

Group Guided Reading 

In Grade 2, learners begin a new activity in their additional language: Group Guided Reading. However, they will be familiar with the activity since they will have been doing it in their home language from the beginning of Grade 1. For this activity, the teacher needs a set of readers graded according to the level of difficulty. The teacher should organise the learners in 6 –10 children’s ability groups and then select a reader appropriate for their level. The teacher works with each group once a week for 15 minutes while the other groups are involved in Paired or Independent Reading or activities related to the text, such as simple writing activities such as completing sentences or putting sentences in the correct order. The purpose of Guided Reading is for the teacher to give learners individual attention to develop their comprehension and word attack skills in their additional language.

Teachers may be unfamiliar with using Guided Reading, especially in the First Additional Language class. Therefore, they can introduce the method gradually. Once they become confident about using it in the Home Language, they can then start using it in First Additional Language. in the meantime, teachers can do whole-class reading where all the learners have a copy of the same text, and each child takes a turn to read. Teachers should still observe individual children’s reading behaviour and help them to develop comprehension and word attack skills. 

Also, there is not as much time for Guided Reading in the First Additional Language CAPs as in the home Language CAPS. Teachers who are using the maximum time for First Additional Language will work with each small group once a week for 15 minutes. However, those who are using the minimum time for First Additional Language will not do so. They will have to do the whole-class reading instead of Guided Reading. 

Paired and Independent Reading 

Paired and independent Reading provides a way of giving children reading practice and encouraging reading for enjoyment. In paired reading, two children read together or take turns to read. 

Learners should use this time to do two things: 1) re-read the reader from the Group Guided Reading session until they can read it fluently 2) read for pleasure from books in the reading corner/class library. The text should be at a lower level than that used for shared and Group Guided Reading. 

Providing opportunities for children to read books on their own also develops fluency, provided that the books are easy enough for the children to read without help. Short, simple books with predictable text and colourful illustrations are ideal. Some teachers like to give children individual reading to do at home – to re-read the group reading book or read simple, ‘fun’ books. This extra reading practice, done regularly every day, plays an essential role in learning to read. 


The first stage of learning to decode written language is oral – learning to isolate the different sounds of the language (phonemic awareness). The learner then has to relate the sounds to the letters that represent them (e.g. ‘t’, ‘o’, ‘p’ or ‘sh’) and then blend letters to form words (e.g. ‘top’, ‘shop’) (phonics). The learner has to understand the words (comprehension) and encounter them so often in print that they recognise them automatically (automaticity). Finally, the learner has to read the words in sentences quickly with comprehension (fluency). However, these elements of learning to read do not happen in a step by step sequence. For example, children learn to recognise and understand whole words from environmental print and shared Reading when they are still very young. Nevertheless, a systematic phonics programme is essential in learning to read in one’s home language, reading, writing, and listening to stories being read. 

When children begin to read and write in their additional language, they already know how to decode their home language. They already understand concepts of print and have considerable prior knowledge of sound-spelling relationships. They need in their First Additional Language phonics class to apply this knowledge to learning to decode text in English (e.g. blending known sounds to make words). Children also need to understand where sound-spelling relationships are different in their home and additional languages. For example, ‘th’ in English represents two different sounds, which are different to the sound which ‘th’ represents in African languages (e.g. thank, that, thatha). English vowels are particularly challenging for African language speakers. This is made more difficult by the variety of ways these vowels are spelt (e.g. see, sea, key, me). 

It is important that in Grade and 1, children develop a solid oral foundation in their additional language. Otherwise, they will not understand the words they are decoding in English in Grade 2 and the work they do in phonics will become ‘barking at print’. Children will also benefit from learning to identify the sounds of English (phonemic awareness) in Grade 1. This is best achieved through songs and rhymes, which help them to isolate the sounds (e.g. I’m going to the zoo, zoo, zoo; You can come too, too, too). 

The teacher needs to keep in mind that her role is to build awareness over time of sound-spelling relationships in the additional language, not to drill for complete accuracy. Phonics should take the form of short, regular activities throughout the Foundation Phase

Daily/weekly phonics activities 

Specific attention should be given to phonics throughout the Foundation Phase. A programme is provided in the First Additional Language CAPs. in Grade 1, the focus is on developing phonemic awareness. A phonics programme is provided in Grades 2 and 3, which builds on what learners have already done in their home language. Since there is limited time available for teaching phonics, teachers are encouraged to integrate phonics teaching into Listening, Speaking and Shared Reading activities. 

Word recognition 

English has many words that are not spelt as they sound (e.g. one, two). It is, therefore, challenging and sometimes impossible to decode them phonetically. Children learn to recognise sight words (or ‘look and say’ words) by seeing them repeatedly. Words that frequently appear in texts (high-frequency words) can be learned in this way. The more children read in their additional language, the more sight words they will acquire. 


Children are often able to decode in their additional language but are unable to understand what they read. This results in what some people call ‘barking at print’. The main reason that children are unable to comprehend text is that their language skills are weak. They lack sufficient vocabulary and grammar to make sense of what they read. 

Therefore, the teacher must build their vocabulary and grammar by exposing them to plenty of English at the right level. Strategies such as making a ‘word wall’ in the classroom and encouraging learners to keep personal dictionaries (or vocabulary books) are also helpful. Getting children to read more in their additional language is perhaps the best way of improving their vocabulary. However, this strategy will only work if the texts are at a suitable level for independent reading. 

Another vital way of developing children’s reading comprehension is by asking questions that enable learners to engage with the text. The teacher should begin with simple questions, e.g. ‘Who ….?’ (e.g. Who ate the porridge?) ‘What ….?’ (e.g. What did Goldilocks eat?) and ‘Where ….?’ (e.g. Where did Goldilocks go to sleep?) Gradually, as learners get used to question forms and develop the language necessary to answer them, more complex questions can be asked. By the time learners are in Grade 3, they should be able to answer ‘Why …?’ questions (e.g. ‘Why didn’t Goldilocks eat Daddy Bear’s porridge?). 


Children learn the skills of letter formation and handwriting in their Home Language. They can apply this knowledge when they begin to write in their First Additional Language in the third term of Grade 1. the writing activities in Grade 1 are straightforward since learners need to focus on writing in their home Language

In Grade 2, writing in the First Additional Language receives more focus. Writing is guided; for example, learners write using sentence frames such as ‘I like _______./I don’t like ______.’ In Grade 3, writing becomes more challenging. With support, learners are expected to write a simple set of instructions and a personal recount. Together with the teacher (shared Writing), they write a simple story. 

Many writing skills are transferred from the Home Language. For example, children learn how to write a text such as a recount first in their Home Language, and they draw on this knowledge when, at a later stage, they learn to write a recount in their First Additional Language. Similarly, children learn how to draft, write, edit and publish their work (the writing process) in their Home Language, and they then apply these skills when writing in the First Additional Language. 

Language structure and use 

A good knowledge of vocabulary and grammar provides the foundation for skills development (listening, speaking, reading and writing) in the First Additional Language. in Grade 1, vocabulary and grammar are learned incidentally through exposure to the spoken language. In Grades 2 and 3, learners also acquire vocabulary and grammar through reading English. In Grade 3, there are specific activities focused on Language Use. 

Vocabulary targets are set for each grade, and a list of high-frequency words in English is provided in section 3 of this document. Learners need to reach these targets if they will be capable of using English as the LoLT in Grade 4. Teachers need strategies for developing learners’ vocabulary, for example: 

  • word walls and labels in the classroom 
  • vocabulary games, e.g. word quizzes 
  • independent reading 
  • keeping personal dictionaries (vocabulary books) 
  • using children’s illustrated dictionaries (both monolingual and bilingual) 

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