A genre-based approach to writing across the curriculum in isiXhosa in the Cape Peninsula schools

Mali-Jali, Nomfundo (2007-12)

Thesis (DLitt (African Languages))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


This study aims to investigate properties of writing relating to genre-based literacy in isiXhosa as a first language (that is, as home language) for Grade eleven learners. The research investigates the problem of writing in isiXhosa at secondary school level, and the associated instruction, to grade eleven learners, whose first (home) language is isiXhosa. The educational context of these learners is such that the language of instruction in content subjects is English, which is as an additional language to these learners. Furthermore, they take English as a language subject. The learners’ home language is, however, only taught as a subject in this context. The language of instruction officially is English in all the content subjects, hence language proficiency problems in English are often encountered not only by the learners, but by educators as well. The genre-based theoretical framework and associated methodology is explored and employed in this study to establish the extent to which the isiXhosa first language learners are able to transfer the skills they have acquired in their first language, isiXhosa, to writing in the content subjects. Thus, the study has the following five main aims: (i) The study investigates the question of the extent to which high school learners can use their isiXhosa as their home language for the purpose of writing in their content subjects in a bilingual education system, where English as their second or additional language is the prescribed medium of instruction for content subjects; (ii) The study addresses the questions of how genre-based writing skills of learners with isiXhosa as home language are realized in their writing in the home language, isiXhosa as subject, assuming a genre-based approach to language learning and teaching; (iii) This study examines the writing of learners whose first (home) language is isiXhosa with regards to the extent to which they can transfer the genre-based writing skills they have acquired in writing in isiXhosa as language subject to writing in their content subjects; (iv) This study aims to determine the textlinguistic properties of writing in isiXhosa. Thus, the study will investigate genre-related concerns about the extent to which explicit genre-based instruction in isiXhosa will result in improving genre-based writing across the curriculum while enhancing the educational performance and achievement of learners; (v) This study explores the gap in knowledge and insights as regard the role of writing across the curriculum in isiXhosa as home language (first language), providing theoretically-motivated arguments for the importance of a strong focus on genre-pedagogy for African languages as language subjects, more generally.Therefore, this study aims to address the question of the role of writing in isiXhosa, as learners’ home language in a bilingual education in the learning and teaching context, a central point of concern in the South African education system. The methodology of this study entails the examination of three stages of the learners’ writing in isiXhosa, in both the biographical recount and the expository genres. The three stages are termed stage one, stage two and stage three, respectively, of the learners’ writing. For the purpose of data collection the writing in isiXhosa, two secondary schools in the Cape Peninsula, Bulumko Secondary School in Khayelitsha and Kayamandi Secondary School in Stellenbosch have been examined, focusing on the writing of the grade eleven learners. For all the three stages of writing in each secondary school a class of fourty grade 11 learners was instructed to write essays in isiXhosa on both the biographical recount genre and the expository genre. After the learners had written their essays the effectiveness of the essays was classified according to the levels of learners’ performance, for the purpose of analysis. In stage one, learners write the essay without being taught the genre-based properties of writing. In the stage two essay writing, the learners wrote the biographical recount and the expository essays after they have been taught the genre-based properties of writing. In the stage three essay writing, the learners applied the skills they have been taught in stage two regarding genre-based properties of writing. The teacher and learners brainstormed, discussed and exchanged views with each other on genre-based properties before the learners engaged in the writing in the third stage. As mentioned above, the stage one, two and three essays were categorised according to the learners’ performance, that is the good essays, the middle standard essays and the less or lower performance essays were classified for the purpose of the analysis. This study explores the genre-specific writing in isiXhosa by grade 11 learners with isiXhosa as first language, assuming as framework the genre properties by Feez and Joyce (1998), Grabe and Kaplan (1996), and Hyland (2005), the latter concerning metadiscourse. These models are discussed in chapter two and employed in chapter three for the analysis of both the biographical recount and the expository genres of grade eleven learners. Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) linguistic and ethnographic construction of texts, the overall structure of texts and the generic move structures were examined in the content of the isiXhosa text. The parameters of the ethnography of writing, “Who writes what to whom, for what purpose, why, when, where and when and how?” posited by Grabe and Kaplan are also employed in this study in the analysis of the essays written in isiXhosa. In addition, the isiXhosa essays have been analysed with respect to Grabe and Kaplan’s (1996) components of information structuring under the writes parameter; topic sentence structure, topic continuity, topic structure analysis, topic-comment analysis, given-new relations, theme-rheme relations and focus-presupposition. In addition to the textlinguistic components of the write parameter, the writing in isiXhosa was analysed as regard the elements of text structure, which form part of the textuality and the structuralism of a text, as well as text cohesion, text coherence and the lexicon. In addition, the writing in isiXhosa was examined as regard Feez and Joyce’s (1998) overall design and language components of a biographical recount, including the three stages that reflect the rhetorical structure. The analysis of the isiXhosa essays has taken into account Hyland’s (2005) classification of metadiscourse according to two dimensions of interaction: the interactive dimension and the interactional dimension. The evaluative discussion invoked evidence from the analysis of the isiXhosa essays conducted in chapter three to demonstrate the view that, despite the variations in the three stages of both the learner’s expository and biographical recount essays, a steady progress and improvement from the stage 1 to the stage 2, and from the stage 2 to the stage 3 was evidenced. The findings of this study confirmed the effective realization and effective transfer of genre-based skills across the curriculum, in accordance with the objectives and aims stated for the study.

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