Vocabulary in the KS2 2016 reading test - sprint or marathon?

Thanks to Shareen Mayers for this article on vocabulary in the KS2 reading test.

Since the release of the 2016 KS2 reading test, I have been thinking about the vocabulary element in great depth. I have read endlessly about encouraging pupils to read for pleasure, shared reading, skimming and scanning and engendering a love of books, and I whole-heartedly agree with this but something told me to look deeper at the actual words that pupils were expected to know and understand. Indeed, they all seemed a little closer to home than I expected!

To my surprise, most of the words tested were a part of the national curriculum spelling appendix for KS1 and KS2. Words like ‘dangerous,’ ‘curious’ and ‘unique’ are even listed as non-statutory words within the national curriculum and the spelling rules/areas shown in the table below are all in the national curriculum. Of course, we cannot predict the vocabulary but this was interesting to note.

When teaching spellings, it is also important that pupils understand their meaning in different contexts as well as being able to spell them and use some/most of them in their writing.

Vocabulary in the 2016 Reading Test – Created by Shareen Mayers

Word (s) Curriculum link
ancestors NC history (a local history study) and NC science (evolution and inheritance)
rival NC history and NC spelling year 2, words that end in ‘al’
competing NC spelling year 2, drop the ‘e’ before –ing.
hush NC phonics year 1
glassy surface NC year 5 and 6 reading (how authors use language, considering the impact)
milled NC spelling –ed and year 2 verb tense (more complex vocabulary)
bewilderment NC spelling year 2, suffixes –ment
dangerous NC spelling year 3 and 4 -ous words (non-statutory word)
triumphant NC spelling year 5 and 6, words ending in –ant
spat NC phonics year 1
curious NC spelling year 3 and 4, -ous words (non-statutory word)
unafraid NC spelling year 1, prefix un- (no change to root word)
unique NC spelling year 3 and 4, French –que sound (non-statutory word)
invaders NC history
parched NC spelling year 1, –ed ending (more complex root word to increase difficulty)NC says to review KS1 suffixes and prefixes in KS2
rehabilitate NC spelling year 3 and 4, prefix re- (more complex root word)

Note: In the year 3 and 4 spelling appendix, it explicitly mentions that teachers should pay special attention to the rules for adding suffixes. Therefore, when looking at words ending -ing, -ed, -ly etc the pitch can be increased at KS2 through using the words from the KS2 spelling appendix, e.g. dangerously, anxiously, apparently, suspiciously, accompanied, answered, described, breathing, doubting.

The words in the table above have been listed in the general order that they appeared in the 2016 KS2 reading paper so that you can see the increase in complexity. Most significantly, it is important to note that it is a whole school approach and that it’s more like a marathon than a sprint!  The vocabulary in the test was the responsibility of the whole school and not just year 6.

These spelling rules could be modelled in whole class shared writing and explicitly taught and discussed in shared reading sessions.  Pupils need to be able to explain them in different contexts. Admittedly, the pupils had only been exposed to a few years of the national curriculum last year but it’s useful to share this with the whole school, to support with the pitch needed for vocabulary across all year groups.

Further reading:

Rising Stars Implications for Teaching: Reading - detailed analysis of the 2016 KS2 reading test.

What can we learn from the KS2 reading test?

KS1 and KS2 National Curriculum Spelling Rules on one sheet


Primary English consultant and assessment adviser to Rising Stars

Shareen will be presenting at the Rising Stars Implications for Teaching of the New KS2 Test training in London and Birmingham in January 2017. She will share proven and engaging strategies to improve reading and grammar in fun and creative ways.

Find out more here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/rising-stars-7997619175


english, grammar, key stage 1, key stage 2, reading, spelling

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