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the TELL project

Training for Early Literacy Learning

What is TELL?

The TELL project was set up to improve the quality of literacy and biliteracy teaching in Early Childhood Development in South Africa by developing training materials for initial and in-service teacher education. Funding through the British Council Higher Education Link Award scheme has made it possible for colleagues at the University of Reading and PRAESA (Project for Alternative Education in South Africa), an NGO based at the University of Cape Town, to work together on the development of the materials.

Although the materials were initially designed for training teachers in South Africa, it is anticipated they will be of use in many other multilingual settings, particularly in Africa.

The philosophy behind the TELL materials

The project is guided by the following principles:

  • Early literacy is both socio-cultural and developmental. Children learn to read by reading and learn to write by writing.
  • The materials are based on the additive bilingual approaches promoted by the national Language in Education Policy for schools in South Africa and promote mother tongue based bilingual education.
  • The materials are task-based rather than lecture-based and encourage participants to build on their existing knowledge and experience
    • participants are asked to work in pairs, small and large groups to discuss issues, share ideas and problem solve together.
    • tasks are followed by feedback sessions, which provide an opportunity to compare ideas with others, to check answers and clarify areas of difficulty.


The TELL materials are freely downloadable. They are intended to be used in flexible ways: they can be used as the core of a training programme, or they can supplement existing materials in various programmes. They can be used for short workshops or longer courses. Although they are not meant to suggest a fixed curriculum, to be presented in a set order, topics grouped together as modules.

Currently available modules are:
Learning through talk
Learning to read
Learning to write
Learning an additional language
Language, culture and identity
Languages of education
Materials development

In some cases, the same topics are included in several different modules to avoid the problems which sometimes arise when trainers fail to see interrelationships between modules. Materials around emergent literacy, for instance, are relevant for learning to read, learning to write and multiliteracies.

The materials are presented for use in 2 ways:

1) A Trainers Handbook for each training module contains a selection of relevant topics grouped together. These are intended to provide an overview of each module and are downloadable as PDF files. If you decide to teach from a Trainers Handbook, you then need to download and print out the individual wordfile for each topic.

2) 'Pick and mix' to suit your own requirements (the Trainers Handbooks are useful for deciding what you want to use). Choose the topics you need for your training from one or more modules. Download Individual Word files as and when you need them.

How you can help

We welcome feedback on the existing materials. We would also like to encourage those working in this area to submit their own ideas for training. We would also like to know if you think that the materials would be useful translated into other languages.

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