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10 Things Every Teacher Should Know About the KS1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test

Don’t get caught out by the KS1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test. Here are 10 things every teacher should know...

  • 10 Things Every Teacher Should Know About the KS1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test
  • 10 Things Every Teacher Should Know About the KS1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test

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After all the discussion and debate surrounding the KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test, schools were set for the introduction of its KS1 counterpart – until, that is, it was discovered it had already been introduced, appearing online as a sample paper. Oops.

Despite the error, which led to the paper being withdrawn, some schools decided to take the test anyway as their pupils had prepared for it; others saw this as a golden opportunity to enjoy the rest of the term and do something else.

At the time of writing, however, the KS1 grammar test is still set to go ahead next year, and the content remains unfamiliar territory, even for experienced teachers. It contains two papers: a spelling test with words placed within contextualised sentences; and a grammar, punctuation and vocabulary test that has a series of questions for pupils to answer. So, for anyone feeling at all uncertain about either of these aspects, here’s a closer look at what your pupils are expected to know and understand by the end of KS1.

1. Spelling and grammar are key

The Paper 1 spelling test – which has 20 words in contextualised sentences – is worth 50 per cent of the overall marks; the Paper 2 grammar test carries between 25 per cent to 38 per cent of the marks. Many teachers were surprised by the increased focus on spellings. From my own deep analysis of the sample spelling paper, 50 per cent of the spelling questions cover content from Year 1, and 50 per cent focus on content from Year 2.

If your school is concentrating on teaching phonics in Year 1, it’s possible the spelling sections in the new curriculum will have been overlooked. But since these will be included in the test, it’s worth ensuring they are covered.

2. Teaching in context is essential

Words can mean different things depending on the context. It is no longer beneficial to have a list of words on display that are not contextualised, as this could be confusing for pupils. For example, in the following sentence (taken from the sample KS1 grammar paper), pupils are expected to identify the verbs:

‘Yesterday was the school sports day and Jo wore her new running shoes.’ (Answers in bold).

Clearly, quite a few pupils would circle ‘running’, but if they are aware that they need to look at how words are used in context, this might support their understanding. Luckily, there were no questions like this in the 2016 feature.

3. Year 1 and Year 2 content is covered in the test

The test will cover areas from both Year 1 and Year 2. From analysis of the Paper 2 2016 grammar test, 90 per cent of the questions are from Year 2, and 10 per cent are from Year 1. The weighting may change, but it demonstrates that putting all your efforts into Year 2 will not be enough.

4. Use creative ways to teach test techniques

A fabulous book for developing test techniques is The Great Fairy Tale Search by Chuck Whelon. Pupils might not be familiar with ticking, circling or filling out questions with missing gaps. This book offers a practical way for pupils to develop these skills. Pupils can find three ducks by ticking them or they can circle two Gingerbread men. This way, they are learning test techniques through more engaging means.

5. KS1 is also tested in the KS2 test

Many of the areas within KS1 are also tested in the KS2 grammar test – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, capital letters and full stops all feature. In Year 2, pupils are introduced to the past and present progressive (e.g. she was running / she is running). They do not need to know this term in KS1, but they do by the end of KS2.

6. Challenging the most able

The level of difficulty is increased by questions that require pupils to write, rewrite and explain – such as these examples from the 2016 paper:

  • ‘Write a question they could ask their teacher in the speech bubble. Remember to use the correct punctuation.’
  • ‘Write the words ‘did not’ as one word, using an apostrophe’
  • ‘Circle all the full stops that are in the wrong places’

Teachers can challenge pupils by asking them to rewrite, write or explain the grammar and punctuation they have used.

7. Connectives are out

Within the programmes of study for English, pupils learn the full range of what used to be called connectives in Year 3. These have now been broken down into conjunctions, adverbs and prepositions. However, within the KS1 grammar test, conjunctions are called ‘joining words’. Pupils can be exposed to the term ‘joining words’ in KS1 as they do not need to know the term ‘conjunction’ until Year 3.

8. Use the correct terminology

To stress the point, it’s now time to let go of time connectives! (E.g. first, second, next, etc.) From presenting at conferences across the country, I know that teachers love them. Despite this, the term ‘adverb’ is now a statutory term for Year 2, so what were ‘connectives’ are mainly called adverbs of time – or time adverbs.

9. Not all verbs are ‘doing’ words

That pupils should understand ‘doing’ verbs and ‘being’ verbs is not really explicit in the National Curriculum, but children do need to be familiar with ‘being’ verbs such as: is, am, was and are, etc. (This was seen in the 2016 paper). In addition, this is a great way to teach present and past tense so that pupils are able to apply this knowledge to their writing.

10. The difference between exclamation marks and exclamations!

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the KS1 grammar test was the introduction of exclamations as a type of sentence / phrase. This is because these types of sentences do not appear to be within the vernacular of many Year 2 pupils. The most salient point to note here is that pupils need to know the difference between the exclamation mark and the exclamation as a type of sentence or phrase. According to the national curriculum, exclamations must start with ‘what’ or ‘how.’ Be careful! Pupils need to be able to write exclamations (with verbs) to be at the expected standard in writing by the end of KS1.

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