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Prepare for KS2 SATs with an Experienced Y6 Teacher

Apr 17th 2024

It’s that time of year again when SATs week is looming and year 6 teachers across the country start to feel the pressure. It feels like such a frantic time of year but what can you do to make sure you go into the week geared up and confident that you’ve done all that you can to prepare your pupils for the tests?

Preparation is key

Start by analysing the results from last year’s papers. Which areas did your pupils do well in and which are the areas for improvement. For the reading paper, you can compare how pupils performed across different content domains and in comparison with pupils nationally. This can be really helpful in determining which areas of the curriculum it would be most useful to focus on in developing pupils’ skills.

Develop reading fluency

Developing pupils’ reading fluency is key to success not just in the reading test but in all assessments where they are required to read the questions. Where pupils’ reading lacks accuracy and speed, the vast amount of text required for pupils to take in during the reading test in particular will be insurmountable. See our previous blog on developing reading fluency through whole class sessions.

Make the most of past papers

Although providing pupils with past papers as an assessment of their current attainment and next steps can be useful, they can also be used to develop pupils’ understanding of how the test papers work and the expectations for completing them. Breaking papers up and focusing on key elements can be more beneficial to pupils.

Look at questions individually with pupils. How are the questions worded? What skills is it asking me to use? How many marks is it worth? Are there multiple answers? Show pupils sections of the mark scheme so that they understand the type of answers expected of them. This is particularly useful for the reading paper as many of the questions are worded in ways that are not always straightforward to interpret.

With some of the tricky 2- and 3-mark questions on the reading paper, pupils benefit greatly from collaborating on them. Answer questions in pairs or small groups, giving plenty of time to deliberate and justify their answers with others.

Develop test techniques

This does not mean giving pupils lots of tests to complete. Integrate teaching of techniques that will support pupils in test situations into your regular teaching. For example, give pupils a set number of questions to complete in a given time frame. Next time, can they beat their own time? Add on time to their total for incorrect answers where pupils have clearly rushed to finish, encouraging them to go back and check their answers.

Work on time management techniques. In the reading paper, before reading each text, encourage pupils to read the questions first. As they read, they will then be aware of what information is pertinent to answering the questions – they could mark or highlight the text as they read so they know which parts to go back to later. This speeds up their ability to answer the questions. You can practise this in regular reading sessions by providing pupils with the questions prior to reading a section of text.

When practising under test conditions, give pupils strategies for getting the most marks they can out of a paper in the time frame. Telling them to move on and return to questions they don’t know how to answer. In the remaining minutes of the test, encourage pupils to only answer questions which are multiple choice or single word answers, rather than attempting more complex questions.

Reduce stress

SATs week can be a stressful time for both pupils and teachers. For pupils, a whirlwind of activity can be unsettling and induce exam-related anxiety. Try to keep things calm and keep the explicit focus on testing to a minimum. Beginning subtle preparation from September is more beneficial to pupils than a sudden burst of activity after Easter. This is a pupil’s first experience of exam pressure, that will only build as they reach high school, so spending time developing relaxation techniques with them to reduce stress will be invaluable.

Remember to look after yourself too. Many year 6 teachers feel overwhelmed by the idea that external data rests on their shoulders. KS2 results are the responsibility of everyone who works in your school; you can only do your best with these pupils and there is only so much you can realistically achieve in the eight months you have with them before SATs week. Take time for you during this busy period. What do you do to relax? Do you make enough time for that?

From all the team at The Literacy Company, we wish you and your pupils well for the upcoming assessment period and don’t hesitate to get in touch if there’s any way in which we can support you.

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