This study aimed to describe the nature of teaching English as a second language in Grade 3 to
inform language instruction. Pragmatism guided the study with Differentiated Instruction as the
theoretical framework. A comparative case study, based on an embedded mixed method design,
was used to observe three teachers in two remote primary schools. Qualitative data included
non-participative classroom observations, face-to-face semi-structured interviews, and selected
documents. Supportive quantitative data was collected by means of the Classroom Observation
Schedule-Revised (CLOS-R) to determine the effective literacy instructional practices applied.
Thematic analysis was guided by a-priori codes of effective teaching practices of English as a
second language for academic purposes.
Findings provide evidence-based descriptions of foundation phase teachers’ teaching of an
additional language in two rural schools. They indicate that teachers managed the behaviour of
learners and provide a predictable routine. However, the classroom was not used as a resource to
promote literacy development through the physical arrangement or by creating opportunities for
social interaction. Instructional practice did not appear purposeful and teachers lacked
awareness of the learners’ needs. The teachers did not seem to have sufficient training or
experience to teach English to Grade 3 learners. Their low level of English proficiency
combined with a lack of resources to support language enrichment made it difficult for them to
meet the learning challenges faced by rural learners. Language instruction seemed to focus on
structure, compromising the development of the independent academic language skills needed to
make the transition in Grade 4 to English as the Language of Learning and Teaching. They were
thus unable to fully fulfil their role as a knowledge specialist and a learner expert. The results of
this study are similar to findings in the literature (Fleisch, 2008).