SATs Stretches…

As the Year 6 teachers around the country start the serious countdown (and consumption of adult beverages) to SATs week I have brought together some of my favourite resources to ease us into the potentially manic after Easter prep…

I truly believe in little and often and think that a carefully planned timetable of SATs prep activities can ensure focused and meaningful use of the school day rather than hours on ploughing through past papers (if you do use SATs papers it is most effective if worked on in pairs).

EGPS:

Really useful daily EGPS sessions are a must and to resource these I have used a variety of ready made resources. If you have a Twinkl subscription then the Year 6 Grammar Revision Guide and Quick Quiz Bumper Pack are great for clear explanations of each key grammar objective and the use SATs style questions to test understanding.

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http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t2-e-2139-year-6-grammer-revision-guide-and-quick-quiz-passive-and-active-voice

 

To mix things up a bit there are Follow Me cards….

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http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/sites/default/files/spagfollowmecards_0.pdf

The fantastic Grammarsaurus have a free YouTube channel with songs to help remember rules and great tutorials giving simple explanations for some of the most complex rules which are essential for the SAT.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMhWKrdwzFr994ZhwqG4nlA/videos

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If you have a subscription to Grammarsaurus then there is an amazing quantity of EGPS resources for you to choose from – the site is well worth investing in.

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Reading:

Again I follow the mantra of little and often when preparing for the reading SAT.  These RIC activities created by MrsP Teach are great at getting children to look at texts in different way, including thinking about the ever elusive inference.  These can be used daily to start English lessons, guided reading or to drop in at any time of day…

http://www.mrspteach.com/2015/04/ric-starter-examples.html

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Use SATs style questions with the text you are using in English or guided reading lessons.  These question stems from Primary English Educational Consultancy are really useful…

http://primaryenglished.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2015-GR-question-prompts_KS2.pdf

Also there are some great question stems from Alison Philipson Literacy – these are usefully colour coded to show which past paper they were taken from…

Y6 Reading Question Stems Based on Content Domain of the KS2 Test

I have put together my Year 6 reading intervention (written one Summer hols when I had no life…) on TES which encourages fluency and vocabulary focus as well as comprehension.  Some of you might find it useful I hope.

https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/sats-reading-revision-intervention-11532769

Good luck…and remember it takes a team to teach the children not just the Year 6 teacher!

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Mindful magic…

It can be easy to wish time away in school – how quickly the academic year passes – but how much goes unnoticed…

Paying more attention to the present, to your own thoughts and to the world around you, being ‘in the moment’ – can really help to improve your mental well-being.  This is the practice of being mindful.

As teachers we need to work hard to make time for our own mindfulness, but it is also essential that we teach our children this life skill.

There are a few incredibly practical approaches that can very easily be added to your daily teaching.  I have found ‘100 Ideas for Primary Teachers – Mindfulness in the Classroom’ by Tammie Prince essential for dipping into for inspiration.

 

Personally my favourites are:

‘Deep breathing’  – (I have been known to fall asleep whilst doing this!), which is ridiculously easy and can be used in any stressful situation in life.  This consists of breathing in for the count of five, pausing and breathing out for the count of 8 and repeating as necessary (it is brilliant for calming down an angry child!).

‘Body Writing’ – (something I particularly enjoyed as a child) where children in pairs write on each other’s backs – the sense of touch comforts and adds a sense of being in the moment as the child concentrates to decipher the word.

Including these practices can help improve yours and your pupils’ mental health – something to strive for as we start a new year!

 

60 seconds for fluency…

As previously discussed on my blog, fluency is a key area of focus this year – particularly in Year 2 and Year 6 – to ensure that our pupils can access the end of key stage reading tests – too much effort spent trying to decode a text means there is little brainpower left to comprehend.

Twinkl have asked me to review their resources, giving me a subscription so I can access their site with ease and pick out things I think are most useful and I came across just the thing to help to develop fluency.  All views are my own and I will only recommend using things that will (in my humble opinion) have a positive impact on children’s learning.

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I believe that the greatest impact occurs when we to use fluency development strategies little and often (see my previous blog for more details – https://theliteracyleader.com/2017/12/18/fluency-for-comprehension/), but the potential downside of that is the implication for time taken to create or source resources on a regular basis….and that is when I found the super useful 60-second reads on Twinkl.

These are really useful for both measuring fluency, as each text extract is age appropriate, but also for fluency development using choral, cloze, echo or partner reading on a daily basis. As some of the text do come as alternative versions without a word count they lend themselves to fluency development.

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They are organised into KS1, LKS2 and UKS2 and are themed – some of the extracts could link to topics for example, Ancient Egypt, Fantasy, WW2….this works particularly well for EAL learners as it gives a context to the vocabulary read.

I have used them as warm-ups in guided reading sessions as they each come with content domain focused questions too.  Each content domain also links a to a specific  character. These characters can be referred to when questioning at any point across the curriculum, ensuring reading comprehension is taught beyond guided reading or English lessons – remember little and often!!

There are plenty of the 60-second reads to be downloaded and used in a variety of different ways for a variety of abilities – saving an inordinate amount of time in resource prep, allowing you to focus on learning.  Make your return to school in January a stress free one!

 

 

Fluency for comprehension.

How to develop fluency daily in class.

Fluency is the ability to read a text quickly, accurately , and with intonation. It is vital as without it children are unable to comprehend what they are reading – too much mental energy goes in to reading each word, sometimes still painstakingly sounding them out, for there to be much understanding.

After a lack of success last year in our KS2 Reading SAT I decided to investigate things further…QLA pointed out inference, as always, and a lack of answers beyond question 30.  There were many reasons why some of the children couldn’t plough through the text – EAL, SEN, etc but for others it wasn’t clear.  I decided the key was to measure fluency…

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We tested the Year 5 pupils and found that the majority of them had fluency scores well below what would be needed to comfortably access the SATs test next year.  This meant that we needed to ensure that fluency was developed daily in all year groups.

Already, in this relatively short space of time, children have increased in confidence, stamina and expression and can accurately read more words per minute. There are a few easy approaches that we that we use:

  • Choral reading – The children read with the teacher who models expression.  This can be used during English lessons, guided reading, story time or at anytime across the curriculum when texts are shared.
  • Cloze reading – The teacher reads a text and misses out words which are then read aloud by the class.  This approach is great for ensure children focus on the text.  They need to follow it closely with ruler or finger so they can quickly read the missing word. A word of warning is that fluency can be ruined if too many words are left for the children to read – remember the key to success is fantastic modelling of fluency by the adult.
  • Echo reading – The teacher reads a short section e.g. sentence, with lots of expression and the children repeat it. Sometimes it is necessary to break down more complex sentences into clauses or smaller sections so children can remember and repeat effectively with expression.
  • Paired reading – In pairs pupils read to one another.  It often works best when more able readers are paired with weaker readers and use elements of echo reading.  Middle ability pupils often work well reading together.
  • Reader’s Theatre – The children work in groups on a dramatic ‘radio’ reading of a text extract.  This works brilliantly for class assemblies.
  • Poetry recital – Pupils learn a poem by heart.  They then perform these either in groups or alone.  We learn a minimum of one per term.  Again this is great for class assemblies.

We ensure a variety of these approaches are used daily.  The children love them and engage much more positively with reading lessons.

These approaches work just as effectively with new to English, EAL or SEN pupils as they have opportunities to hear brilliant reading and can join in as they feel comfortable, without the fear of everyone listening to them alone.

It is vital that we build class story into our busy days as this is a fantastic opportunity for children to hear fluency modelled and where possible have copies of the books so children can follow as the teacher reads or even have a go at reading aloud themselves.

Audio books are a great way to expose your child to complex language, expressive reading, and amazing stories. Listening to audio books also gives them the valuable experience of using their own imaginations to visualize the people and to play their ‘mind movie’.  It seemed to fall out of fashion to have ‘listening centres’ in classrooms, but the are hugely important – children can even record themselves reading aloud to be listened to by other class members.

A final point for thought….if a child struggles to read accurately and quickly then silent reading, DEAR (drop everything and read) or ERIC (everybody reading in class) will not help them to develop fluency.  This does not mean don’t read silently in class, just consider why you are doing it….

Happy hooks and exciting enhancements…

Looking for inspiration for this year?? Teaching needs to be fun, for both teachers and pupils.  An excited teacher excites the children and it makes the job so much  more enjoyable.  Looking for inspiration?  Here are some of the most exciting and successful themes, topics and hooks I have used….

Space – it really is endless…!!

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Aliens are endlessly fascinating from a friendly ‘Alien’s Love Underpants’ to the beautiful and thought-provoking video on the planet Pandora (taken from ‘Avatar’).

There are opportunities for journalistic writing with UFO sightings in newspapers and hundreds of documentaries on YouTube…

A word of caution when setting up a UFO crash sight in the playground…my previous school’s Year 6 staff were so believable a pupil (male) cried.

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In an effort to try to prepare my Year 6 pupils for the high level text in the Reading SAT I have used H.G. Wells extracts from ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The First Men in the Moon’ in guided reading time. Surprisingly, both were thoroughly enjoyed (I will be explaining more about the mastery approach to reading in a blog coming soon!)!

Cryptids and other mysteries….

And if you are not sure what a cryptid is think Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot…Children love monsters and mysteries.  It is possible to write information texts on these weird and wonderful creatures, a bit like Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing ‘dragons’, simply substitute one for the other.

Shadows…

My absolute favourite book of all time is ‘The Graveyard Book’ by Neil Gaiman.

‘When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?’

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My older pupils have always loved ghosts and vampires, witches and wizards.  This book contains them all plus skillful storytelling that hooks the reader from the very first line. I generally use this with ‘The Night of the Gargoyles’ black and white picture book and give the children chance to make their own clay gargoyles.

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The picture is great to use for activating schema before introducing spine-chilling books.  It reminds me of the Stephen King book ‘It’ where the clown lures the children into the drains with balloons….I detest clowns!

A spooky, creepy animation which can inspire stories is ‘Alma’…

This topic also gives great opportunities for using the brilliantly tense and shadowy ‘Francis’…

If you are looking for a class novel for Year 4 or 5 and you are just about to go on residential the look no further than ‘Room 13’ by Robert Swindells….this is fabulous for ensuring that the children stay in bed at night…mwah ha ha!!

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Colin Thompson….

Any of this author / illustrator’s books will whisk you away to another world and inspire you to create wonderful things…

Fantasy worlds….

We all want somewhere to escape to where anything is possible.  My favourite world to inhabit is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, but for younger pupils Narnia is a great place to start, followed by Hogworts and Middle Earth…

The Legend of King Arthur…

I have always been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur and love the Kevin Crossley-Holland books based on the life of the young king…

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My son and I also enjoyed the recent BBC series ‘Merlin’ where John Hurt is the voice of the enslaved dragon.  Merlin is a fascinating character who is the inspiration for many famous literary wizards e.g. Dumbledore, Gandalf and can inspire pupils to create powerful magical characters of their own.

Some of the best books to share with children ….

Favourite animations…

Hopefully there are some ideas to light your fire and keep you on your toes!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assessing reading…a quick guide.

I think reading is really difficult to assess and I have been doing it for years!  I decided to put together a quick guide to help out other teachers who are struggling to get to grips with making a judgement for reading.  I don’t think anything is new or particularly revolutionary….just useful (I hope!).  I have tried to consider a few ways in which you can demonstrate progress too.

I also want to draw your attention to the work of MrsPteach and her brilliant blogs on reading.  She has created lots of lovely resources too for using R. I. C. (Retrieve, Interpret, Choice) to help focus teaching on particular question types…

http://www.mrspteach.com/2014/06/guided-reading-and-new-curriculum.html

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Here is my list…

  • Look at the level/ stage of the reading book they can comfortably read (90% accuracy – a running record can be used to check this). Use the reading scheme guide (often a poster) which explains the reading age of each level.
  • What is their phonic level (if they are not beyond phase 5)? Does their reading book reflect their phonic level?
  • The Salford reading test will give a reading age and is therefore really useful to evidence the impact of interventions. It does not measure understanding.  Again, check that their reading book reflects their reading age!
  • YARC comprehension and reading test will give you specific feedback on areas of weakness and on-line will produce a useful report. The initial YARC phonic assessment can be used to ascertain if they can access the test and will give you a clear picture of phonic gaps.
  • GL assessment will give an age related standardised score – this assesses comprehension. This may not be directly comparable with the newest SAT tests (2016) in Y1 and Y6, but is still a useful tool to target those who are struggling at the beginning of the year and may be used to evidence progress if repeated at the end of the year.
  • Reading exemplification (for the interim framework) on YouTube, produced by the government, is useful for moderation of teacher assessment and assessment for learning approaches that can be useful in the classroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9KRimNLkJQ&list=PL6gGtLyXoeq8k9ykPys3NvQIfIvAGCUjN

  • Learning and Progression Steps (Lancashire County Council) break down statements from the National Curriculum to show smaller steps of progression throughout the year. This can inform planning, help in making age related teacher assessment judgements and, if the grids are filled in, show evidence of progress over the year.

Assessment for Learning – useful reading assessment activities in the classroom.

  • Orally re-tell using a text map
  • Wanted posters
  • Acting out with small world play
  • Role-on-the-wall
  • Hot seating
  • Freeze framing
  • Role play
  • Retelling in story board / comic book frames
  • Write a letter to or from a character
  • Use information books to research a famous person
  • What does the character – ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘say’?
  • What can you sense in a setting? What can a character see, hear, smell, and feel?
  • Choose a sentence from your book that you like, tell someone or write down why you chose it.
  • Write a character description
  • Summarise a chapter or the plot
  • Thought bubbles
  • Sequencing and sorting jumbled pictures, lines, sentences or paragraphs from a text
  • Text marking with a focus e.g. the impact of punctuation or cohesive devices.
  • Collaborative group discussions
  • Suggesting alternative words, phrases or sentences
  • Book reviews (can shadow on-line book awards and join Leeds Book Awards)

Useful question stems for inference, deduction and interpreting events / ideas.

  • What does this tell you about what….was thinking?
  • What words give you that impression?
  • Can you explain why?
  • What makes you think that?
  • Do you agree with this opinion?
  • Predict what you think might happen next.
  • Who would you most like to meet from the story?
  • If it were you what would you be thinking?
  • Would you want to visit this place? Why?
  • How did……change through the story?
  • Which is your favourite part? Why?
  • If your book had a sequel how do you think it would end?
  • Did the book end the way you thought it would? What clues did the author give you that made you predict the ending?
  • What do you think is the author’s main message? Why do you think that?
  • What character did you interpret as ‘bad’? What did the author do to give you that impression?
  • What are the two emotions that….has felt. Why do you think….felt that way?

 

 

Don’t fear exemplification!!

Having spent a few hours trawling through the reading exemplification that the government has published to support teacher assessment using the interim framework I decided to create some positive action points from what I watched and read.  Okay it may have involved a couple of medicinal gins to get my creative juices flowing, but I managed to make a brief list of key points that, as a literacy leader in school, I need to ensure we consider in our teaching of reading.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2016-teacher-assessment-exemplification-ks1-english-reading

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2016-teacher-assessment-exemplification-ks2-english-reading

I initially felt rather disheartened when I listen to the children on the videos read with lovely expressive voices and confidently discuss their clearly thought out views in well-trained groups.  I could not see any links between those children and mine. However, I don’t stay down for long and really, when I looked closer, I realised that we do lots of the good stuff.

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So key points are as follows….

  • Prior knowledge is vital –  for understanding of language expression and for the ability to empathise. We teach through our creative curriculum so all texts are experienced in a context as our pupils lack life experiences.  It helps EAL and new to English pupils to make sense of what they read as well as focused teaching of idioms.
  • Phonic skills – they need to be confident in applying their skills to read unfamiliar words.  This means it is essential to have really good tracking and monitoring of those who begin to fall behind in Year 1.  We have found that Dandelion Phonics worked well as an intervention for some children as well as using alphabet arc. I have blogged some of my approaches to teaching those who experience learning difficulties. https://theliteracyleader.com/2016/02/21/literacy-difficulties/
  • Fluency and expression – this is something that my pupils struggle with as they are mainly EAL or new to English.  I have decided that we need a greater focus on drama and reading and performing playscripts and poetry.  Our assemblies need to showcase fantastic reading and performance rather than mumbling into a tatty piece of paper!!!
  • Vocabulary – a wide breadth of vocabulary is needed to help the children understand what they are reading.  I have blogged some useful approaches to playing with words. https://theliteracyleader.com/2015/12/02/playing-with-words/
  • Modelling answers – it is vital for teachers to model their thought processes when they answer questions.  Google Pie Corbett and ‘book talk’ – there are lots of really interesting ideas on developing your questioning.
  • The importance of talk – talk helps children develop their understanding of a text so group discussion is vital.

I am no longer afraid of the exemplification materials!! Hurray!!