As we enter 2022, schools all over the country are preparing for both the KS1 and KS2 assessments. This blog is focussed on preparing year 6 children for the KS2 reading test. However, other KS2 teachers will also find elements of this useful. Whether you are an experienced year 6 teacher or a new-to-year 6 teacher, we hope that these tips will support you over the next two terms. As there were no KS2 SATs in 2021 or 2020 and the model of teaching has evolved over the last two years, it is timely to consider our provision for reading. In my role as an advisor, I have worked with many schools nationally and often hear refrains of, ‘Oh, we used to do this before COVID…’ which we hope you will also exclaim at the end of these five tips to support preparation for the KS2 reading test.
1. Variety and Pitch of text:
Ensure that the diet of texts used represent high-quality fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The KS2 reading text booklet is made up of three separate texts that get progressively more difficult. Although there are always two fiction texts and one non -fiction text in the KS2 reading text booklet, we must remember that in 2018 the poem ‘Grannie,’ by Vernon Scannell was the middle extract in the booklet. Referring to previous extracts used in tests is a good place to start when ensuring that the pitch of texts is challenging enough to prepare pupils for the test. This table reminds us of the texts that have been used since 2016. When these extracts are printed and sequenced in this order, it is clear to identify how fiction texts get progressively more demanding.
2. A balance between test technique and reading for pleasure:
Ensuring that year 6 pupils feel prepared for the KS2 reading test is an important factor of the year 6 diet. However, it is timely to remember that the test is a KS2 test and not a ‘Year 6 test.’ This demonstrates that this balance between test technique and reading for pleasure is something that all KS2 teachers will need to manage. This does not mean that years 3, 4 and 5 need to test their pupils weekly! However, using guided reading sessions as a vehicle to expose all KS2 pupils to test-style questions will ensure that they are familiar with question types. Schools can also use Rising Stars year-group reading tests at specific milestones across the academic year to support teacher assessment judgements in years 1-6. It is really important that pupils experience reading for pleasure too. This can be achieved when high-quality texts are available for pupils to read independently or as a class. There are a wide number of ways to establish a reading culture across the school and the wider community.
3. Reading for meaning:
It is really important that teachers can identify who can read and who can read for meaning. This judgement can be supported and confirmed by using the Rising Stars SSRT where pupils are assessed for both their ability to technically read (word recognition) and their comprehension skills. If we take the scenario that there are two pupils (Pupil A and Pupil B) who have both been assessed as working towards the end of KS2 standard for reading. After completing the SSRT, we discover the following information:
Although both pupils are working towards the end of KS2, it is clear from this assessment that they do not need the same intervention. Pupil A needs more comprehension skills focussed activities (this could be an intervention such as Rising Stars SHINE or Achieve) and Pupil B needs more decoding skills. Ensuring that interventions cater for pupil’s individual needs as precisely as possible is a priority.
4. Modelling comprehension strategies:
In their ‘Improving Literacy in KS2 Recommendations Summary,’ the EEF recommends that teaching reading comprehension strategies through modelling and supported practice has very extensive evidence for impact on pupils. This means that adults can model what a good answer looks like for pupils with scaffolds until pupils are ready to do this independently. Some pupils can verbally explain an answer to a question but find it difficult to transfer their verbal response into a coherent written answer. Staff can support this process by modelling how to create a coherent response. The Rising Stars Shine intervention mirrors this approach by using a modelled activity followed by an independent one (teaching specific skills through modelling and then application of the same skills through independent activities.
5. Reading aloud to pupils:
This will probably be most teachers favourite tip! Pupils of all ages love being read to! Reading aloud to pupils is one way to promote reading for pleasure. Choosing a high-quality text that pupils are eager to read together is a priceless moment in the classroom. Once the book has been chosen, in order to maintain enthusiasm, we must ensure that we read it regularly so that a novel is not spanning across three to four months or more! Whilst reading aloud to pupils, staff can also:
Comment on writer’s choice of language – pause to discuss why a writer has chosen a specific word/phrase or clause
Identify unfamiliar and challenging vocabulary- discuss the meaning of words in context
Identify how dialogue is used to convey character and move the action on – this will also impact on the pupils understanding for how to use dialogue in their own writing
The writer-reader relationship – discuss how the writer impacts on us as the readers. Are we entertained/betrayed/scared/comforted etc…
Using great books with pupils will give us a head-start to ensuring that pupils are prepared for the KS2 reading test. However, one or more of the tips above may enhance the provision that you already have in place.
All the very best,
Maddy Barnes, January 2022
Refresh and boost knowledge with Achieve SATs Revision Reading, including a Revision Book to refresh and boost knowledge, a Question Workbook to allow pupils to apply this knowledge and Practice Papers designed to mirror the SATs. View samples and order online.