Tips for Foundation Phase reading lessons using a Windows 10 tablet offline – as inspired by the IkhweziLesizwe Foundation Phase teachers

Submitted by Fiona Beal

Tablets are revolutionary devices that hold great potential for transforming learning. In the hands of skilled teachers and interested learners, tablets can be used to create some fantastic learning opportunities.

Learners at IkhweziLesizwe Primary School

Western Cape Microsoft Windows tablet devices

Recently Microsoft and the Western Cape Education Department delivered 99 Windows 10 tablets, in three cabinets, to 42 Western Cape Schools that would otherwise never be able to afford such devices. Selected Grade 1,2 and 3 teachers from each school, along with teachers from other schools in the vicinity, were provided with a day’s training presented by SchoolNet facilitators. These teachers shared what they had learned with the rest of their staff when they returned to their schools; and then, a few weeks later, each school was visited by a SchoolNet facilitator to see how the teachers and classes were managing with the tablets.Mostly, no Internet is available in the classrooms at these schools, so the teachers have to use offline apps in their lessons. The Windows 10 tablet is well-suited to offline use as it is very similar to using a Windows 10 computer offline.

My visit to IkhweziLesizwe Primary School 

I was privileged to visit IkhweziLesizwe Primary School situated in Khayelitsha, one of the poorest areas of Cape Town, as part of this visitation programme. The minute that I stepped out of my car I knew I was in a happy school environment. People greeted me and smiled and I could hear the happy buzz of children learning in the classroom. 

IkhweziLesizwe Primary School, Khayelitsha

Generally, like in most Khayelitsha schools, the class sizes are large, ranging from 40 – 47 learners. The principal Mrs Mayeye is a very pleasant person who is extremely proud of her school and its achievements. 

Mrs Mayeye showing photos of the school’s hockey and drama achievements

As we talked in her office and I told her of some of the exciting things that are happening in technology around the world in classrooms, such as the ever-popular mystery Skype sessions, she grew very excited and begged me to come back once Internet has been installed at their school, to get them involved in these opportunities. I found that teachers at the school had developed a tablet timetable from Grade R to Grade 3 and and they were well into using the tablets routinely every week. They mainly used an offline program called Talking Stories on the tablet, for reading lessons; but they were very keen to hear more about how they could use the other apps in their lessons when I presented the coaching session after school. As I watched the teachers using the tablets, whilst observing them in their classrooms, I had the idea of writing a post about using the tablet offline for reading in a Foundation Phase classroom.

How the IkhweziLesizwe teachers use the tablets for reading

Some teachers use the tablets for group reading sessions while others use them for whole-class reading. The reading app installed on the tablets, Talking Stories, has been installed in such a way that it can be used offline; and since there is no WIFI in the classrooms at the school, this is a great advantage. Although the teachers enjoyed this app with its English stories they really longed to also have isiXhosa stories on their devices especially as Grade 1-3 learners learn in their mother tongue. Since the classes are so big the learners have to use the tablets in pairs.

Grade 2 learners

Grade 3 learners

Different ways to use tablets for reading

Here are a few ideas for reading:

1. Read aloud

The teacher reads to the whole class, modeling fluency, thinking processes, and the type of expressive reading necessary for comprehension and engagement. The read aloud often builds upon the learners’ existing knowledge and skills, but it also serves as a useful way to introduce new types of text and reading strategies. In the read aloud the teacher often thinks out loud so that students can learn they techniques they use to make connections, visualize stories, make inferences, use fix-up strategies when they don’t understand what they read, determine unknown words, and formulate questions about the text.

2. Paired reading

It really helps when learners can read to someone. A reading partner, sometimes called a reading buddy, is a good choice in the classroom. The learners can read to one another and help one another.

Two learners doing paired reading

3. Shared reading

Shared Reading is an interactive reading experience that occurs when all the learners join in or share the reading of a big book or other enlarged text while guided and supported by a teacher or other experienced reader. Students observe an expert reading the text with fluency and expression. The text must be large enough for all the students to see clearly, so they can share in the reading of the text. I noticed that the teachers had the BIG Book versions of the Talking Stories which would enable shared reading to proceed smoothly. (If one didn’t have a Big Book available a data projector projecting on to a screen could work,) The Department of Education developed an excellent booklet called Teaching Reading in the Early Grades some years ago. It explains the process of shared reading really well. It can be accessed at .

4. Group-guided reading

Group-guided reading is an instructional approach that involves a teacher working with a small group of learners who demonstrate similar reading behaviours and can all read similar levels of texts. (The challenge to a teachers is always what to do with the rest of the class while group-guided reading is taking place.) Very often, the teacher will begin a session by introducing the text and modeling a particular strategy. The teacher and student engage in meaningful conversations about what they are reading, and the teacher can build on their use of different reading strategies over time. This time of classroom reading instruction is essential to promoting essential reading skills.

5. Independent reading

Independent reading gives learners the opportunity to practice the strategies they’ve learned through group-guided reading, shared reading, and teacher read alouds. In independent reading time the learners choose their own stories.

Components of a successful reading lesson

There are said to be five components to a successful reading lesson, and teachers need to incorporate these into their lessons; namely phonemic awareness, word recognition of both sight words and phonics, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. Teachers will use various activities during their reading lessons to develop these components. For example, to develop comprehension teachers might use ‘retelling’. The learners retell the story in different ways to a partner, a group or the teacher.

Reading strategies

A reading strategy is a plan of action designed to help learners understand the material and direct their attention to the details.. Strategies usually combine a number of skills simultaneously. It is important that teachers are aware of different reading strategies. The essential thing is that teachers have a plan of what they will do to start the reading lesson, during the reading lesson and after the reading lesson. A post by Teachthought ‘25 Reading Strategies That Work In Every Content Area’ shows some useful reading strategies such as:

25 Reading Strategies That Work In Every Content Area via TeachThought

Finding digital isiXhosa reading material for Grades 1-3

When the teachers mentioned that they would dearly love digital reading material in Isixhosa, I immediately thought of the African storybook project developed right here in South Africa for Grade 1-3 learners.

Isixhosa books on the African Storybook website – all free

The stories are all free in the languages of Africa, and they are downloadable, with beautiful illustrations. The project has an app for Android and iTunes but I don’t see one for Windows devices. The only way I can imagine downloading these lovely stories in isiXhosa to the tablets, with my limited understanding, is as follows:

Download the stories to a computer using WIFI and then:

a) Transfer them to a SD card and store them in a Windows device with a link on the home screen


b) Transfer the stories via Bluetooth to another Windows device.

Download the African Storybook Project app from the African Storybook website

Further Reading lesson resources for teachers

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