Preparing pupils for the non-fiction text in the KS1 SATs

Thank you to Maddy Barnes Deputy Head and English Marker on the Expert Panel at the DFE for the 2016 tests, for the following article. 

Non-fiction texts have always been part of both the KS1 and KS2 reading tests. You can read the artilce on preparing for Key Stage 2 here.

owever, as the sample materials and new frameworks have been released we will need to ensure that pupils are taught comprehension skills in line with the content domains. 

At KS1 pupils will be tested on the following:

KS1 Reading Comp Domains

Non-fiction and comprehension at KS1

Pupils will be required to answer a range of question types that represent the various reading content domains.

Content domain reference 1a 1b 1d
Content domain ‘draw on knowledge of vocabulary to understand texts’ ‘identify/ explain key aspects of non-fiction texts, such as characters, events, titles and information’ ‘make inferences from the text’
Examples of questions Find and copy a word that means/explains
What is _____?
Why is _______?
Find and copy _______ (retrieve)
How can ______?

At KS1 the majority of questions in the non-fiction paper will be related to 1b. Pupils will be expected to manipulate the text and skim and scan the content in order to retrieve answers.  

Find and copy questions:

  • 1a – pupils may be asked to find and copy a word that means or explains something, for example, ‘Find and copy one word that explains how strong an elephant is.’ For these questions, pupils will need to draw on the vocabulary within the text and identify a word that explains the elephant is strong.
  • 1b – pupils may be asked to find and copy information, for example, ‘Find and copy two things that an elephant eats.’ These questions are different to the above as pupils will need to retrieve information from the text rather than search for a specific word or group of words.

Inference and non-fiction:

  • It is much easier to ask (and answer) questions that require inference from a fiction text. There are limited options to pose an inference question from a non-fiction text.  However, pupils may be asked questions such as, ‘How is an Indian elephant similar/different to an Asian elephant?’ The text might have information about both types of elephants and pupils may need to infer the similarities and differences.


Non-fiction texts and KS1

After looking at the sample materials (Plastics) it is clear that year 2 pupils are expected to skim and scan a challenging non-fiction text as part of the ‘Paper 2’ reading test.KS1 Non-fiction plastic sample

So, what are the implications for teaching comprehension skills and non-fiction? Pupils will need to be exposed to a range of authentic non-fiction texts. These texts may be cross-curricular based and related to a humanities or science topic.

However, teachers should also choose high quality non-fiction texts as a stimulus to teach English. New Primary English is a helpful toolkit that provides teachers with resources to teach the reading and writing journey through a picture book or novel. Teachers could adapt these units and choose a non-fiction text as the stimulus.

Here are three examples of how this can be done:

Title and author Opportunities for reading and writing
Mad about Monkeys, Owen Davey The contents page in this book is a resource in itself, with creative chapter titles such as, ‘Meet the Gang, King of the Swingers, Top of the Class and Thief! He stole my Handbag.’  The contents page would initiate great opportunities for inference questions. The book is organised in double spreads full of technical vocabulary and facts about monkeys! Teachers could prepare a range of 1b style questions related to a double spread from this book. The illustrations and captions provide more opportunities for questions. Pupils will be motivated by this non-fiction text and will produce high quality non-fiction writing related to the content: newspaper reports about a specific event/monkey; explanation texts; non-chronological reports; survival guides and instructions!
A Walk in New York, and A Walk in London, Salvatore Rubbino There is also a 3rd book, ‘A Walk in Paris’. These books are an amazing geography resource, including maps, postcards, drawings of landmarks, historical & geographical facts and a detailed index page. A range of fonts are used in this book so that pupils can identify facts clearly. These double spread pages will be perfect for skimming and scanning. Teachers may choose a specific word for a pupil to find on the page. This could be an interactive activity where the pupils are competing in a ‘fastest finger first’ style. Once pupils’ skimming and scanning skills are practiced, teachers may then ask pupils to find a word that means the same as ____ on the page. This will prepare pupils for those questions in the test. These books will inspire pupils to create information pages of their own linked to their geography topic, for example A Walk in the rainforest/ Arctic/ Madrid/ Kerala/ Manchester etc…
Queen Victoria’s Knickers, Jackie French & Bruce Whatley This is a picture book where historical facts are woven within a story. KS1 pupils would LOVE this book (especially since the last page is a lift the flap to see the Queen’s knickers!) There is a very helpful author’s note at the end of the book explaining the historical facts related to ‘knickers’. This book is great as an introduction to research where pupils could find and copy information through basic retrieval, for example, ‘Find and  copy what information was embroidered into each pair of knickers.’ There are many writing opportunities related to this book, newspaper reports; letters to Queen Victoria about the designs; letter of complaint from Queen Victoria about her knickers; explanations and instructions.

Maddy Barnes, Deputy Head and English Marker on the Expert Panel at the DFE for the 2016 tests.

Look out for Part 2 - non-fiction at KS2!

Cracking Comprehension Packshot Have you seen Cracking Comprehension? A range of resources to help you model, practise and assess reading comprehension skills. 



Cracking Comprehension, English and Literacy

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