Preparing for the 2022 grammar, punctuation and spelling tests - 4 practical tips

After two years of no national assessments, it seems like the KS2 assessments might be returning this year. Whether they do or not, here are some tips for teaching grammar and some subject knowledge areas to look out for. We asked Shareen Wilkinson to share some tips and subject knowledge to support teachers with grammar subject knowledge.

Here are some top tips to help you to begin with:  

  • Explicitly teach an aspect of grammar, e.g. using adverbs or subordinating conjunctions.
  • Use high quality texts to model how it is used in context.
  • Model and demonstrate the use of grammar or punctuation in shared writing or shared reading.
  • Ask the pupils to apply their new learning to their writing.

Tip number 1: Ensure that pupils understand how words function in a sentence.

One of the main things that I have learnt from Professor Bas Aarts (Grammar Expert, UCL) is to talk to children about how words function within a sentence. This is a salient point as words can change their meaning depending on how they are used within a sentence. Riddles are a good approach to retrieving key information and for using oracy and metacognition and self-regulation to embed key subject knowledge.

Word classes example

Encourage pupils to justify their answers using an example. For example, ‘I think that it is a noun. This is because it can do all things described.’ In this example, ‘bag’ is the noun.

  1. I can be made singular or plural. E.g., one bag, two bags, three bags.
  2. I can be in the possessive form. E.g., my bag, your bag.
  3. I can follow a determiner. E.g., the bag, a bag, four bags.
  4. I can be followed by a prepositional phrase. E.g., the bag with blue spots.
  5. I can be modified by an adjective. E.g., blue bag.

This supports pupils to embed their knowledge of different word classes.

Find more Grammar Riddles to use with your class here.

Tip number 2: Use the correct terminology.

Whilst it can be tempting to use the term ‘connective’ these have now been broken down into adverbs, conjunctions and prepositions. This is certainly a term that I used when I first started teaching (20 years ago) but we have moved on since then.

Terminology table

Tip number 3: Audit and revise areas from the whole of KS1 and KS2

Audit and revise KS1 and KS2

As you can see from the table above, the KS2 GPS test covers areas from both KS1 and KS2. However, there are a few areas that are not made that explicit in the national curriculum, but have been tested in previous years. In addition to the key terminology in the national curriculum, it’s a good idea to ensure that pupils know and understand these terms:

  • grammatical term
  • word class
  • possessive pronoun
  • tense.

Pupils seem to be familiar with past tense or present tense but ‘tense’ on its own has been tricky.

Tip number 4: Ensure grammar is taught well across the whole school

The KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test covers areas from both KS1 and KS2. This analysis represents where an area is first introduced. For example: noun phrases are first introduced in Year 2 but are also mentioned in Year 4. The analysis records this as Year 2. Where a question requires knowledge of the terminology, this analysis records where the terminology is first introduced as a statutory requirement. E.g. the term conjunction is not a statutory term until Year 3 but is first introduced in Key Stage 1.

Mark breakdown for 2018 and 2019 SATs

Resources to support schools:

Implications for teaching grammar 2019 by Shareen Wilkinson

Achieve grammar, punctuation and spelling by Madeleine Barnes and Marie Lallaway

5 tips for teaching spelling blog

Grammar in the national curriculum 2021


Key reading:

  • Grammar Survival for Primary Teachers by Jo Shackleton
  • UCL English Knowledge Organiser


Shareen Wilkinson is an independent primary English adviser, a director for a multi-academy trust and a KS1 and KS2 moderation manager in London. She is an established educational author and has co-authored the Achieve Reading books and the Reading Planet KS2 teacher guidance. In addition, she is series editor of the NTS Assessments for reading at KS2 and has worked on the national STA on KS1 and KS2 tests for the past decade. This includes being on the teacher panel, expert reviewer and subject expert proofer. Follow Shareen on Twitter at @ShareenAdvice.


Achieve, gps, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, Grammar, key stage 1, key stage 2, KS1, ks2, primary, Punctuation, revision, sats, spelling

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