Tackle the pre-KS2 SATs weeks like a pro: How to give 2017 Year 6 their best chance yet...
How Year 6 teachers can make the most of their preparation for Key Stage 2 SATs week 2017, with tips for how to handle KS2 English and Maths revision as well as keeping excellent pupil and teacher wellbeing around the National Assessments.
Dear Year 6 Teacher,
Your wellbeing over the next few weeks before the Key Stage 2 SATs in May will depend a lot on the wellbeing of the children in your class, and theirs on yours. If you focus on getting it right for them, it will go a long way to getting it right for yourself.
But to model a positive mental attitude throughout this pre-SATs period, you need to take care of yourself too. So what you can do in the last few weeks of April and May before the KS2 National Assessments to make it a more positive experience? Read on!
This one seems obvious but mustn't be forgotten! Your attitude regarding the 2017 National Assessments by this stage should be: what's done is done. There is nothing to be gained by last minute hyperactivity.
So don't stress yourself out by trying to cram in Maths or English revision of every single thing you've covered during the year - there simply isn't time. You will have been working with your Year 6 throughout the year, and as I've said before, KS2 SATs are not just the responsibility of Year 6 teachers.
By creating a whirlwind of activity in the lead-up to SATs you will only unsettle the children. It's more the case that you need begin to wind down for the national assessments so that the week itself can be a calm affair.
Simplicity in the weeks before Key Stage 2 SATs
For your own mental wellbeing it's much better to keep the few weeks before SATs as simple as possible. There’s enough to think about with the logistics of the week, the logistics of the tests, and maintaining your pupils’ confidence and positivity.
Don't suddenly make massive changes in how you do things. If anything, strip back what you normally do and make everyone's lives easier. Consider the message that last-minute frenetic activity or revision sends to children: my teacher thinks we're not ready yet.
You need to show your pupils that you have faith in the work they have done this year, last minute panicked revision will have the opposite effect.
Prioritise your SATs preparation
If ever your school week is going to look a little different it's in these few weeks before KS2 SATs. As the children aren't tested on their ability to write long pieces of writing you may want to focus instead on spelling, grammar and punctuation (there will still be lots of opportunities for short burst writing so children 'keep their hand in').
For Maths, have another look at the 2016 Maths SATs QLA analysis to see which areas you might need to return to: worded problems, angles, coordinates for example.
Also try to revise in shorter bursts, take the opportunity to do quick daily practice of written calculations in preparation for the arithmetic test.
Target individual support and build confidence
Now is a great time to find out what the children perceive to be their weaknesses. If you can help them to work on the areas they think they need to improve on, you can help boost their confidence and address misconceptions at once.
While there may be a gap in their knowledge that you've identified that they aren't aware of, at this stage it’s more important to prioritise what they think they need to revise. Maintaining their confidence is key.
Try not to teach any new SATs content
If you can help it, the last few weeks till SATs week 2017 are not the time to introduce new content. Don’t risk knocking their confidence by teaching them something they may not potentially understand - especially when they may already feel under pressure to succeed.
Allow the children to feel successful in their lessons before their Key Stage 2 National Assessments.
Be explicit in your positive messages for KS2 SATs
We've already mentioned the messages children receive implicitly from how their time is spent in the run-up to the KS2 SATs tests but it's worth considering how you can be explicit with the messages you give them too.
First and foremost, you don't want your pupils to experience the week of tests negatively, and this very much depends on how you prepare them.
Hopefully you've already spent a year ensuring that you are not putting unnecessary pressure on them. The weeks after Easter can be spent putting the icing on the cake, so to speak.
So be realistic with your positivity: ground everything you are saying in reality by reminding them they’re only being tested on what you have taught them, on what they already know. Plus, tell them how hard they have worked this year and how you have ensured that they have learnt and revised everything they need to know for their assessments.
Recall specific assessment-related successes
Recall specific successes that pupils have had and use them to help them feel confident and ready for the tests - give them an 'I can' attitude. Children respond well to carefully chosen motivational quotes - perhaps you could choose a song or a saying to become your motto for the week.
If you do all of this then, by proxy, you should come to feel less worried about SATs week 2017. You can create a virtuous cycle, boosting pupil confidence and using their positivity to bolster your own. Ultimately, the KS2 National Assessments can be a time of optimism and determination where children have the opportunity to showcase all at they have learned.
Keep the kids on board: before, during & after SATS
Much of this will be achieved by doing the above: maintaining a positive ethos, using work to boost confidence, and avoiding making changes to their routine and work. But how else can you keep pupils engaged and enthused in the run-up to the tests?
First of all, don't stop working. All you can really do is keep going but with tasks that the children enjoy doing. You yourself will know what works well for your children but there are a few things you could try to keep the energy levels up:
'Gamify' revision for SATs
Collaboration is proven to help children learn, so why not get your pupils working in teams to solve test-style problems in maths?
For example, each mark could be worth 5 Lego bricks and the winners could be judged on the best model made at the end. You can pick almost any traditional party game and rework it to involve revision!
A daily reasoning question, like the ones found on the Third Space Learning Facebook page, are just the ticket for quick problem solving tasks.
‘What A Bad One Looks Like’ is always a great choice. Children love to find the mistakes of others and are very good at it, even when they are blind to their own!
Provide some KS2 SATs questions which have been answered incorrectly and get the children to troubleshoot them, correcting them and writing explanations of why they were wrong. If you like a bit of role play then encourage them to think and act like a teacher or examiner marking the questions.
Peer tutoring - use your assessment data
Children often listen to the advice their friends have to give, so don’t underestimate the power of peer tutoring during KS2 SATs preparation.
Using your knowledge of pupil relationships and abilities, you can pair them up in order to produce great learning partnerships. No doubt you've got assessment data coming out of your ears to show children's strengths and weaknesses - so use this to make the right pairings.
While this time of year may be a bit late to introduce this, research shows it is an effective approach and can actually be quite productive at this time of year. You could also have children who are particularly strong on a particular area prepare and present an input to the whole class.
Children love doing anything on a computer - revision for the Key Stage 2 National Assessments included! It depends which resources you buy into as a school as to what you can use but there are plenty of free things out there too. It goes without saying that you should try to match the games' objectives to the needs of the children. This short list of websites is a great place to start for finding the right ICT activities for your pupils:
KS2 SATs revision resources
If you are looking for other Maths revision resources at this stage before SATs then Third Space Learning has also provided many free SATs resources for primary schools. These include, among others, a useful KS2 SATs Revision Guide, a set of 3 Year 6 Topic Based Practice Tests and several practice reasoning and arithmetic tests. These are all derived from lessons learnt teaching 6,000 Year 6 pupils every week in 1-to-1 Maths lessons.
Don’t forget your teacher 5 a day
There never was a better time to get involved in Martyn Reah's teacher 5 a day initiative. The five things you should do each day to ensure your wellbeing levels are high are connect, exercise, notice, learn, volunteer.
Make sure that in the lead-up to KS2 SATs week you stay connected with your friends and family, consider where you can fit in a bit of exercise (even if you have to park the car and walk the last bit of the way to work), notice the beauty of nature around you, attempt to learn something new to keep your mind preoccupied by something else and volunteer - even if it's only something small like helping someone with a lesson idea.
Of course, eating healthily won't affect you negatively either - a good diet will leave you feeling less stressed and ready to support the children, your colleagues and yourself through SATs preparation and National Assessment week.
Plan your pre and post SATs weekend
Although it might not feel like it, there is life beyond SATs week. It's time to start allowing yourself to think beyond 12th May instead of willing time to go as slowly as possible so as to cram as much more learning in as possible.
Make plans for the weekends before and after 2017 SATs, and don't dwell - it won't help anyone. Perhaps try to arrange things that eclipse SATs - things that you absolutely cannot wait for! Thinking back to the those teacher 5 a day headings might help here.
The sunshine of the summer glimmers on dewy grass. Soon those long and endless days will be upon us and the preoccupations of these few weeks will become a hazy and distant memory. This soon will pass, and, if nothing else keeps you going over the next few weeks, let that hope for the future be what keeps you calm, collected and most importantly, stress-free.