Last minute tips for SATs success
With SATs just over the horizon, a guest post from Jonathan Ovenden sets out how schools can help their pupils in the remaining weeks. Jonathan is a director at vision2learn for primary. For more information, please visit www.vision2learnforprimary.com. If you have a question for Jonathan, tweet him @v2lprimary. Remember to add the hashtag #SATsHelp
1. Make sure you know exactly who your lower attaining learners are
When I visit a school, I quite often find that it’s those who are achieving the lowest results that have been mistakenly identified to be the lower attaining learners.
Take a detailed look at your historical data. You may find that your real lower attaining learners are actually the quiet boy or girl in the corner or the shy child who doesn’t make a fuss. They might outwardly appear to be doing well as their results are average. However, your historical data may reveal that this group is not making as much progress as the rest of the class and so they are in need of targeted interventions.
2. Ensure you are extremely specific when pinpointing weakness
Adopting a generalist approach by taking a group of lower attaining students to one side and going through the same things with every child at the same time, may not be the most effective way of raising achievement.
It would be better to conduct a diagnostic for every child. Take a look at the evidence you have subject by subject and topic by topic. Examine classroom practice and even ask the previous teacher for their views. Ask yourself the following questions for each marginal child:
A – Where are learners secure in their knowledge?
B – Does the child has some understanding, but can’t use and apply knowledge independently?
C – Do they have no knowledge or competence using that skill?
Then work on each child’s weak areas to ensure they improve.
Spending time pinpointing individual weaknesses will save valuable time on teaching and learning. This is also particularly useful to do at the end of Year Five as it will save Year Six teachers time in the autumn term, so pass this on to your Year Five colleagues.
3. Implement a highly structured learning strategy
The learning materials you choose need to be able to deal with the gaps that you have identified rather than revising the whole topic. And they need to be fun to use so pupils will be happy using them outside the usual classroom setting as well as for more structured study.
Think about putting together a special teaching and support team in the run up to the SATs whose focus will solely be to raise standards.
Collectively, they can take the lead on introducing teaching and learning resources to target any areas of weakness. The team might suggest that this takes place within a whole class setting or perhaps at additional sessions during the school day, such as a breakfast or afterschool club. Alternatively, they may introduce booster sessions at lunchtime or as homework, with parents encouraged to help.
4. Check learning along the way
Conduct detailed testing that is examining sub levels of the curriculum so you can see if the intervention strategies have worked. If so, a child can be allowed to move on. If not, perhaps consider using a different learning technique.
5. Make sure you use different delivery styles
Some learners just do not respond to traditional methods. But by introducing new ways of learning such as using online resources on a tablet, you can add an important dimension to their learning experience. Technology allows them to learn independently and at their own pace. The materials are also much more fun and engaging.
This relatively simple approach has already made a big impact at St Thomas More School in Middlesbrough. They use vision2learn for primary as an additional means of reinforcing what children have learnt in class. The e-learning service is also used to help their vulnerable learners achieve Level Four.
The school has seen a noticeable improvement in the number of children turning up to its breakfast club – especially amongst key marginal pupils since using the online resources. In fact two boys, known for being easily distracted, have become far more attentive.
The system does a lot of the diagnostics and testing for pupils too. This means that a school can create a fun and engaging personalised learning intervention strategy for each child which targets any areas of weakness, without it drawing on teachers’ valuable time.