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Removing the fear: 5 things to take the angst out of SATs

As we all work towards the dreaded SATs let us not forget some important things.

1. SATs is not just a year 6 responsibility no matter how much you might think it feels this way. It is a culmination of all the teaching each child has had from the day they stepped foot in primary until now therefore these benchmark tests are a whole school responsibility.


2. Don't panic. You may be thinking 'I haven't taught the whole curriculum!' or 'My children just aren't ready!' but focus your priority areas. You know the areas that are most tested over the years and where your children are weakest. At this time of the year I used to create a revision grid mapping out all the weeks leading up to the exam and set targets for each day across the key subjects. It made sure I could easily see what was revised and what was needed as a fresh teach so that by March all areas were ready for just a run through in the mornings with practice tests in the afternoons. As for the children - remember they will absorb your attitude towards the test so try to keep a positive growth mindset during revision times so the children feel like they are able to try again until they get something correct leading up to May.


3. Have down times. Children can start to not take tests seriously if we over-test on paper. Let's keep the fun in learning we always have going so the children enjoy revision. Make it interesting. If you are a tech savvy teacher - use quizzes like Kahoot, Quizlet, Quiznetic and Gimkit to name a few and create a healthy competitiveness around answering questions while rewarding the efforts of the children. If you prefer the resource junkie approach then make your own flash cards. This blog breaks it down well so you can make them meaningful to target whatever skills you wish. I used to jumble mine up with answers on the back and have the children ask and answer themselves then sometimes a bit of table versus table for points scoring as they became more confident.


4. Narrow down your teaching. If you are one of those teachers using Maths No Problem, I am sure by now you recognise exactly what the actual problem is. So many methods and not enough time. By now you need to have your go to method for specific calculations and narrow down how the children solve. Exploration is great in terms of concrete, pictorial and abstract and helpful especially for word problems but you want that arithmetic quick fire and as accurate as possible. Teach them the golden rules of working out - line up your numbers using columns where needed - and no you don't need to write out 5001 - 1 as a column , work from the ones column, don't forget to exchange, dividing or multiplying by 10, 100, 1000 etc does not need a written method (these are just the ones that irk me).


5. Personify SATs. You would be surprised how this simple trick of the mind helped my students to remove the fear from the test. I called SATs, 'the SATs Man' and drew a pic of him too. He looked a bit of a geeky superhero with knobby knees and a very smiley disposition with a question mark on his chest. We often laughed at our hero for trying to trick us and often felt victorious when we outsmarted his tricky questions. In other words - personifying the test made it less intimidating and more approachable while keeping the fun in errors we made so it remained a point of learning not one for feeling as though they let themselves or me down.


You can do this - but remember we are all in this together!


Kala Williams is a Primary based Education Consultant specialising in the teaching of reading for able children who works across primary schools in Coventry, UK. She teaches, trains and coaches teachers daily to be their best in the classroom. Follow her at @rogue_reading