Preparing pupils for the non-fiction text in the KS2 SATs

Comprehension and Non-fiction?

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 1 here.

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 KS2 pupils will be tested on the following:

KS2 Reading Comp domains

Non-fiction and comprehension at KS2

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

Content domain reference 2a 2b 2d 2g
Content domain ‘give/explain the meaning of words in context’ ‘retrieve and record information/ identify key details from non-fiction’ ‘make inferences from the text/ explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text’ ‘identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases’
Examples of questions Quote
In this sentence the word _____ is closest in meaning to:
4 options
According to the text _________ Give 2 examples
Complete a table with information.
Draw lines to match events with year (matching information)
Find and copy a group of words that show_______
Explain how _____ felt at __________.
What does this tell you about ________

At KS2 the questions in the non-fiction paper will be largely related to 2a, 2b, 2d and 2g. However, the emphasis will be on 2b and 2d. Pupils will be expected to build on KS1 reading skills to manipulate the text and skim and scan the content in order to retrieve answers.  

Find and copy questions:

  • 2d: Pupils may need to find and copy a word or a group of words that mean the same as something or describe something. 
  • Find and copy questions can also assess retrieval skills where pupil have to find information rather than a specific word.

2d and two marks:

  • For inference questions that are worth 2 marks, pupils will be expected to identify an appropriate reference inferred from the text and show development by providing a relevant quotation.
  • This is different from PEE where pupils identify an appropriate reference, provide a relevant quotation and explain/expand their answer.

Language of questions:

  • According to the text and referring to the text are common in future questions. It is worth using this language within guided reading and whole class reading activities.
  • Give two reasons, give three ways, give one are all examples from sample questions. Teachers should allow pupils opportunities to practice this style of question as previous tests may have asked pupils to write three reasons rather than give.

Fact or opinion:

  • 2d questions: This is a reading objective for years 5 & 6. Pupils should be able to make inferences from the text and decide if statements are facts or opinions.


Non-fiction texts and KS2

As the KS2 reading test is ramped, the texts are arranged in order of difficulty. In the sample papers for 2016, the easiest text is non-fiction and the middle and hard texts are poetry and fiction. However, this is not a set formula for future tests. So, the non-fiction text could be placed at any point in the tier – easy, medium or indeed hard.

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
The Story of Money, Martin Jenkins and Satoshi Kitamura This book explores the history of money from the beginning to today’s world. It can be used with all year groups within KS2 as teachers can support younger readers or use it as an independent text with upper KS2. Packed with historical facts; humorous illustrations and organised in chapters it provides many opportunities for higher order inference questions. The final chapters address many PSHE and maths issues such as world debts, exchange rates, currencies and the importance of money. There are huge writing and speaking & listening opportunities for debates; reports; explanations and balanced arguments.
Les Miserables, Retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams A marvellous retelling of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. A story told in true William’s style – prose, dialogue and pictures. This book is a transition between fiction and non-fiction , providing upper KS2 pupils with the task of analysing sources to research and check how close to the truth Victor Hugo really was in his writing.  Finding quotations to support appropriate references would be an ideal activity to accompany this book. Full of challenging vocabulary and complex sentences, this is the perfect stimulus to raise standards in writing.
The History Book, Miles Kelly This beast of a book is a necessity in EVERY KS2 classroom. A great example of a reference book and an alternative to using the internet to find answers! The historical content is arranged in chapters of: History Revealed; Unearth History; Building History and Brutal Battles. Each double spread is different in organization, design, portrait pages, landscape pages, fact files, photographs, illustrations, quotations…everything. This is the perfect tool to use to prepare pupils for non-fiction texts. And they will enjoy every single minute reading the various texts because they are well written and presented in a busy way. There is a wealth of content just waiting to have questions written about it!


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

Have you seen Part 1 of Maddy's article on non-fiction at KS1?

GRBCfullsetcoversLooking for extra comprehension practise? Take a look at Record-Breaking Comprehension - levelled comprehension questions all based around the wonderful, amazing records made around the world each year!





English and Literacy, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, More able, Record Breaking Comprehension

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