In this blog (a direct follow up to her popular entry from last year) Jane Andrews once again analyses the questions served up in the KS2 reading paper and updates her question stem resource for 2017, for use in school. 

Another season of SATs tests behind us, and time to reflect again.  Last year’s reading test gave us all a jolt when we realised that although the actual texts were no harder to decode than the previous year, the vocabulary caused significant issues.  Children not only had to cope with some strange contexts but a range of synonyms they may not be familiar with.  As a result, many schools have focused on building vocabulary and fluency, which has had a positive effect on the children’s confidence this year.

In my blog last year, I included some question stems to support adults and children alike to ask similar questions from any text (including film).  These stems have been updated as a result of the 2017 test.  A pdf of the resource can be found here: 2017 Reading Paper Question Stems.  Very little addition was required. The question design is very similar.

This year, I want to focus on the demands of the inference questions in domain 2d (22 marks this year ; 18 last year).  The other two domain areas that award the majority of the marks are 2a – Give/Explain the meaning of the words in context remained the same at 10 marks and 2b – Retrieve and record information 15 marks in 2016 and 14 marks in 2017.

The question stems for 2d ask us to delve into how characters / animals/ creatures are portrayed and how this provides us with the fine detail of their motivations, thoughts, words and actions.   The fact that they are inferential questions (How can you tell?  What impressions of …?  What evidence is there to show that …? Why does X do this? In what way does X think …?)   means they ask us to reach a conclusion based on evidence and our own reasoning. This is where the link from reading in to writing and, in particular, the art of modelled and shared writing come into their own.  I say ‘art’ because it really is.  It’s a creative technique of writing with and for children, which we need to refine and adapt on a daily basis.  Having watched the masters at work such as Pie Corbett, James Clements, my colleagues and many great teachers on my visits to schools, I have seen how this transforms the quality of children’s writing.  Once we have helped children to see how the author has given us the impression of somebody being brave / scared / intimidating, they learn a variety of ways of doing the same thing themselves.  Conversely, this feeds back into the reading as they are increasingly familiar with these techniques, having recognised them often and experimented themselves.

Therefore, from:

  • our modelled reading (the teacher saying aloud how I understand what I do)
  • into modelled writing (saying out loud why I am choosing the words / word order to create the impression / feeling I want) and
  • through to the shared reading and writing (hearing the same details back from the children),

we create a path to an understanding of the author’s craft and a deeper knowledge of how to do that for ourselves.  I say ‘ourselves’ because, as a teacher, I have never stopped learning.  So, as well as the modelled and shared reading and writing above, let’s keep up the great strategies that allow the children to enter into the written world like hot seating, conscience alley, freeze framing etc.

To support you with your endeavours, we look forward to seeing you on one of our reading or writing courses this autumn

Herts for Learning is a not for profit organisation that provides a wide range of training and CPD courses, events and conferences  to support teachers and school staff in their professional development and also offers an extensive range of resources to support their offering through the HfL e-Shop.  Please visit the website for more information.