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KS2 reading comprehension – Teaching ideas for primary school English

Give your Key Stage 2 students the key skills they need to get the most out of any text...
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By Sue Drury

Last updated 12 August 2020

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Reading is a pleasure. Of course, it is also an important life skill. But to get to that stage, we all have to learn to read and, typically, prove to others that we can do it.

That can sometimes be less than a pleasure … but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some ideas to help you not just confirm that your pupils can read to the required standard, but also enjoy themselves along the way.

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The comprehension question – Do you know what’s required?

As you know, reading, as assessed in the UK, is much more involved than just being able to recall particular facts.

In fact, there are eight criteria on which reading ability is tested at KS2. Could you name them all? If not, get to know them.

If you don’t have the information anywhere else to hand, you’ll find them detailed in the mark scheme of a recent KS2 SATs paper listed as ‘content domains’.

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Comprehension strategy for assessment

Not only does the mark scheme say what the content domains are, but they also give an indication of the proportion in which each one is assessed. For example, questions on key fact retrieval and inference each typically account for about 40% of the marks. Sequencing might yield around 5% of the marks. Other content domains might account for only a couple of percent of the overall marks, if at all.

Why is this important? While you will see it as your professional responsibility to cover the full range of expectations, it does make sense to allocate your time and effort proportionally. So, spending lesson after lesson focusing on ‘how meaning is enhanced through choice of words or phrases’ might not be the most efficient use of your teaching resources.

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Comprehension practice

While life is not just about the SATs, they are a fact of life. Much as it might go against your instincts, don’t be afraid to go with the grain, especially in your choice of questioning. Yes, we all enjoy to have in-depth debates about things we have read. There is also a time and a place for expressing and justifying our opinions about a text. The biggest favour you can do for your class, however, is to acclimatise them to the types of questions that they can expect to face. That’s not cheating, it’s being sensible. And, it saves you having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to providing questions with which to test their comprehension skills.

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SATs reading comprehension worksheet resource

The best way to practise school-style reading comprehension skills is to use past papers or SATs practise resources specially designed to mimic the official tests as accurately as possible. That means that you can be sure you’ll be assessing at an appropriate level and in the correct proportion when it comes to question types. Official papers are available on the internet but, of course, there is only a limited supply and it might be that your school uses them for more formal assessments at key points in the year. In which case, why not try our own reading comprehension resources?

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Comprehension reading resource

Just because they are designed to mimic official assessments, that doesn’t mean that SATs preparation resources need to be stuffy. Our resources have been designed to cover a variety of genres, styles and subject matter, relevant to children’s lives and interests.

Take our non fiction texts: famous lives reading comprehension activity packs, for example. Their main purpose is to give pupils the chance to develop their reading skills whilst enjoying a wide range of topics, from Greta Thunberg to Laika, the first dog in space.

And with a broad selection of other differentiated reading comprehension resources available, you’re bound to find something to meet the needs of all your pupils.

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Classic book reading comprehension

One of the best genres with which to test certain content domains, such as the understanding of vocabulary in context, is to study extracts from slightly older texts. That is because there are always words and phrases that are still useful to understand but may well have faded in popularity in recent years. In any case, exposure to classic children’s literature is not just a stated requirement, it’s an excellent reminder of why they are so enduringly popular. We offer reading comprehension resources based around classic texts such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain.

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Poetry reading comprehension

A gentle reminder – don’t neglect poetry. It doesn’t always pop up in tests but it is an excellent way of exercising certain skills, such as inference and appreciating word choices.

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Home-learning comprehension resources

Sadly, these days, many households cannot afford or do not value the importance of having a good selection of suitable reading books at home. Of course, most schools provide books for children to read outside school hours. Even so, it can also help to provide structured comprehension materials for pupils to try at home. Through our extensive collection of home learning packs, we offer a range of practise resources, differentiated for KS1 and KS2.

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Fun reading comprehension activities KS2

For all the emphasis on test preparation and learning criteria outlined above, make sure that you retain a sense of joy and delight when discussing reading. Hopefully, the enormous variety of texts and genres that we offer through our resources will help. But remember, you are an extremely influential figure in your pupils’ lives. How you make them feel about reading now could have a massive impact on how well they engage with it throughout their lives.

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