Proven revision strategies to support students and staff during SATs
Are you looking for ways to support primary school teachers and students in the run-up to SATs? This post gives you a realistic take on implementing strategies to support both revision and well-being.
SATs, which stands for standard assessment tests, is an acronym that strikes fear into the hearts of teachers, parents and students alike. Whether you agree or disagree with standardised testing on children, in primary schools in England it is compulsory for those aged 6–7 (KS1) and 10–11 (KS2) to sit SATs in maths and English.
This year, KS1 SATs will be held across two weeks in May, at the school’s discretion. For maths, children will sit one arithmetic paper and one reasoning paper. The KS2 SATs take place 9–12 May and Year 6 students will sit one arithmetic paper and two reasoning papers to assess their maths. Teachers will already be busy implementing revision sessions using practice papers — but what else can be done to support students and staff at this stressful time?
As teachers, we talk about ‘test technique’ a lot but how do children learn how to take a test? To normalise test papers and show children how to take a test you will need to model it to them.
Using a visualiser or screenshots on the screen, gather your class in small groups (if you’re lucky enough to have a TA) or as a class if needed. I would suggest creating mixed-ability pairs who have access to the practice test papers so they can follow along with you and support one another.
Using your interactive whiteboard and pen, read each question aloud and actively speak through your thought processes. Show your workings and return to double-check — children love seeing teachers make mistakes, so why not highlight a misconception you’ve noticed your pupils make and let them correct you?
Top exam techniques to share
- Read the question twice
- Circle the mathematical symbol — often children will add instead of subtract when under pressure
- Underline the key information
- Time management is key — don’t waste time on questions you don’t understand, you can return to them at the end
- Put your hand up — for primary school children, often having an adult read the question will be all they needs
- Check, check and check!
We all know that feeling at the end of sitting a maths paper when you ask yourself, “have I gone through and checked my answers?” Children always say yes, but what they often mean is, “yes, I’ve flicked through the pages and can see that I have an answer in each box!” Checking is another key step to add to your maths practice and study time in class. Suggest using the inverse operation if there is time.
Using gap analysis from your spring assessments is the perfect way to identify children who need intervention. Our Insights tool shows you each question and National Curriculum strand and will help you to identify common misconceptions. You can also use your spring assessments as a lesson and go through the papers with individual pupils or your whole class. KS2 will benefit from seeing their past papers and identifying areas they excelled in and areas where they may have made mistakes, so they remember for next time.
SATs results and data aside, the most important thing to teachers and parents throughout the whole school year and SATs week is the children’s well-being. Leaders should support their Year 2 and Year 6 teachers during this time by making it clear the whole school is responsible for SATs results and not just the individual teacher. So what can be done to support staff and students in your school?
In our preparation guide below, we outline some tips for students and teachers and some advice for parents.
In the run-up, for staff
- Make a whole school action plan and revision timetable — leaders who have left the classroom could take intervention groups based on targeted gaps for small groups and individuals
- Any additional staff including student teachers and parent helpers could be sent to Year 2 and Year 6 to support staff and students
- Keep parents updated, invite them in for a meeting about SATs so they know what to expect and how they can help
- Send past papers home so parents can support their children not only academically — going over practice questions to help them get the correct answer — but to normalise the SATs tests and make it less scary and elusive!
- Make individual meetings with your SEN parents to ensure all their worries are discussed and their child’s needs are met
- Keep morale high, encourage everyone to rally around the Year 2 and Year 6 staff — bring them that cuppa, cover their break duties and get some cakes in the staff room!
In the run-up, for students
- Normalise the SATs, share practice tests and past papers, joke about them and make them accessible by answering questions and giving reassurance
- Practise moving the desks around or sitting like they will during the SATs outside of practice tests — choose a fun art lesson and make the SATs seating plan exciting instead of scary!
- Introduce students to the staff member who will oversee their groups during SATs — this is especially important for SEN children who require a reader, scribe or prompt
- Dangle the carrot — plan fun activities for the afternoons of SATs weeks. Choose structured but fun activities such as visiting the local park, rounders tournaments on the field, art afternoons or even cooking
- Encourage children to put their hand up during the SATs — often an adult coming over to them and reading a question can really boost a child. Practise this hands-up technique so they get used to asking for help but also not becoming discouraged if they have to wait for an adult to come
In the run-up, for parents
- Communicate with your child’s teacher — what next steps or gaps do they have in their learning? Based on this information, you can work with your child at home and even ask the teacher for additional resources to support them
- Download past papers and our assessments to share and work through with your child so you know what the expectations are and how you can support them
- Don’t stress! If you’re stressed then of course your child will pick up on this. Practise positive talk and explain that in your family, you value effort over perfection
- Remind them to stay hydrated and send them to school with their water bottle
- Make big breakfasts on the mornings of the SATs and pop some extra snacks in their lunch box. Why not put a motivational message in their pencil case too?
During SATS week
- Remind children about all they’ve learnt in the run-up — encourage them to do their best and not compare themselves to others or worry too much about getting the correct answer
- Remember there will be children who come into school hungry. So they have enough energy, consider asking the whole class to come in for a breakfast with their teacher before SATs every morning. Milkshakes, brioche, fruit and cereal are great snacks to include and add a sense of excitement
- Create a calm and happy atmosphere, play music, chat and gently give the class any reminders
- Practice mindfulness before and after. My class used to love videos from The Mindful Teacher
- Manifestation. I'm not about to suggest your Year 6 class reads The Secret but you can encourage children to make positive statements such as “I’m going to do really well” and then turning to a classmate and telling them “You’re going to do really well!’ This creates a fun and supportive atmosphere if nothing else
- For KS1 classes I suggest asking them to put on their ‘maths hats’ before the arithmetic and reasoning tests, as well as sprinkling invisible good luck around the classroom!
Although SATs are a huge part of children’s education, in the grand scheme of things, they are just tests! You know your class and what works for them. We salute our teachers, especially our end of Key Stage educators, who support children at the most stressful times of their primary school years. You’ve got this!
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