If I were a wizard, I’d make SATS an unforgivable curse. Dealing in this dark art would result in the strictest of penalties. Alas, I am a mere muggle and it is only a few more days until baby’s first SATS. (Yes, I am indeed aware that I just referred to myself as a baby. Looking at my face, it’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination.)
Although there are many elements of the SATS tests that I do not personally agree with, I want to ensure that my children are best prepared academically and – even more importantly – emotionally for these assessments.
Here are my three favourite SATS related activities that I have utilised.
1. Laminated SATS Questions and Answers
Following two tricky practise papers early in the summer term, one of our headteachers suggested that we create a more collaborative environment when approaching our SATS revision sessions. She suggested cutting up various SATS questions and allowing the children to free-flow around and answer them in groups or independently, deciding which questions they wished to attempt.
I suggested the notion of laminating each of the questions to allow the children to try out ideas and write down answers without the fear of it being permanently recorded. Obviously, I encourage my children to embrace mistakes each and every day, but this gave the children an opportunity to put complete focus on their learning and not on presentation. It also distanced themselves from the fact that their SATS papers will be completed in a more permanent manner.
I can’t recall whether it was myself or one of the headteachers who suggested also recording the answers on the back for children to self-mark. (It was probably the latter; brainwaves like that don’t come along every often for me.) The children were able to instantly feedback to themselves whether they had answered the question correctly and they could then approach an adult or another child for help with the problem. The most incredible thing to see was that, as upper school had instilled such strong learning values within the children as a whole, they did not cheat and instantly look at the answers. They only used them in order to check their understanding once the question had been completed.
Children mingled around the class in partners or independently, collecting laminated task cards and answering them at their own pace. It allowed myself and other adults to effectively target misconceptions that arose, whilst enabling those who were more confident to also teach others. I had many positive comments from the children in my class in regards to this style of revision.
We had a number of revision lessons in this style for SPAG, arithmetic and reasoning, which were broken down into a number of sub-categories:
SPAG: word classes, sentence structures, punctuation and miscellaneous.
Arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; fractions, decimals and percentages and finally ‘simple solutions’, which included place value and adjusting questions.
Reasoning: graphs, co-ordinates, rounding and averages along with a lesson of much more mixed concepts.
Reading: We realised that reading may be a more difficult area to copy this style of lesson due to the wide range of potential correct answers for the majority of questions. Instead, I completed a reading paper myself and presented it to the year 6s, explaining that I had done an incredibly shoddy job. I asked them to work through the paper and correct my answers and explain where I went wrong. The children took a hilarious amount of pleasure in correcting me and left me some comical – and also very intuitive – remarks in regards to how I could improve. We repeated this for the second time today and a number of my Year 6s were thrilled to hear we were doing this activity again. Hopefully, the humour of this task will remain in their memories in order to prevent them from making similar silly mistakes in their papers.
2. SATS Shredding
Despite trying my hardest to shield my pupils from the stress of SATS, I still had a couple of children who voiced their worries to me and had ‘wobbles’ last week regarding the upcoming assessments. I spoke to them about the fact that they had made incredible progress throughout the year that they should be very proud of. I also reminded them that all they had to do was try their best. Furthermore, I reminded them that the SATS were more of a judgement of how well teachers had taught than how the children performed. These pupils gave me a smile and went back to their work but I could tell that they still had worries swirling around in their heads, despite the fact I’d essentially instantaneously composed an inspiring monologue that was quite honestly oscar-worthy. Therefore, I decided that actions spoke louder than words.
I went to the front of the classroom, asked for the Year 6s to pop their pens down and promptly ripped a practise SATS paper right before their very eyes. They sat in shock for a few seconds and then an expression of pure joy rippled across their faces. I told them that it was a just a paper, it couldn’t hurt them, and invited them all to come up and rip up their practise papers if they wished to. What followed were five magical minutes of laughter. I got goosebumps at the cathartic nature of the activity and the children were leaping around, making it snow SATS papers and some even created ‘SATS angels’ by laying in the shreds of paper.
Some people might complain that that was a waste of paper. I personally think that some (if not, most) of the elements of SATs are a waste of children’s mental health so if ripping up some paper allows them to feel better, so be it! I certainly wasn’t going to mark the papers – we’d agreed that we were going to shift to the more collaborative style of revision rather than practice tests anyways. Even if I were able to mark the tests, I wouldn’t have been able to analyse them effectively enough to target gaps any more efficiently than how the newly created revision sessions had allowed.
Following this activity, I had another teacher’s pupil exclaim to me that I was the best teacher. While I know this is certainly not the case (said pupil belongs to my NQT mentor/idol/man crush/marigold https://teachingtrafford.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/meet-the-marigolds-part-one/) it’s amazing to think that just by ripping up some papers I achieved this incredible, if not grossly exaggerated, title. Ah, the simple things in life.
3. Chill Time
I decided that it would be beneficial to create a relaxing atmosphere for my year 5s and 6s to look back on in order to calm themselves during any moments of stress they may encounter in any context. I played a youtube video in the background and asked the children to do whatever they wanted to do for 10 minutes, as long as they did it silently.
This is the video I used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjj7zIWO88s
I left the screen up so that they could gaze at the image if they wished. Some children read whilst some drew. One child asked if they could just sit and think. Another braided another child’s hair at their request. Three collected an origami making kit I had left on the bookshelf and began constructing these quietly. I mentioned that they could reflect back on this moment any time they needed to and then left them to it. I spent my reflective time observing my children and appreciating how far they had come since the start of the year.
All too quickly, lunchtime arrived and I whispered to the children that they could go out to lunch. I also gave them the option that, as they were second sitting, they could stay here for a little longer until it was time for them to eat. A handful drifted off to go outside but 2/3 of the class remained for another twenty minutes into their lunch as they were so relaxed and content. Even though I was rather hungry, I couldn’t possibly break the soothing atmosphere they were experiencing. I didn’t want to break it for myself, too.
It’s amazing that, even though I’ve found the run up to SATS one of the most daunting and taxing experiences in my NQT year so far, I also feel that these three SATS prep activities were three of the most rewarding and enjoyable moments I have encountered during my time teaching.