Reading is for life, not just for school. One of the greatest services you can perform for your pupils is to instil within them a love of reading.
Of course, we all know that this is not as straightforward as it might have been a few decades ago. After all, youngsters have so many forms of entertainment available to them these days.
There are still a few things in your favour though. For a start, most of these other distractions require some reading to work out how to use them.
Also, we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of switching off an hour before sleep time – what better way to fill that gap than with a good book? Above all, there are just so many really good books out there.
Offer a variety of books and genres for student reading
We will move on to some of the more procedural and academic reasons for nurturing confident readers but the prime motive must be pleasure. As their Year 6 teacher, you will play a crucial part in your pupils’ lives. They will always remember you. Hopefully, a great deal of what you tell them will stay with them, long after they have moved on. So, make the most of your position of influence - exude unbridled enthusiasm whenever you talk about reading. Don’t hold back your excitement when sharing texts. Make them believe that you love reading and hopefully some of that joy will rub off on them.
We all like different things so don’t assume that your pupils will love the same books that you did when you were their age. Make sure that you enthuse about a range of authors and genres. Suggest that you enjoy curling up with a good biography or non-fiction book as much as any page-turner.
Reading comprehension through classic literature
There has been a greater emphasis on reintroducing classic children’s literature in recent years. View this as a blessing – there are usually very good reasons why books have stood the test of time. What’s more, they can often spark interesting discussions about how life has changed and attitudes have evolved, not to mention the way trends in vocabulary choices come and go. As part of your Year 6 comprehension practice, why not explore our KS2 classic literature comprehension and model text packs?
Reading comprehension Year 6 SATs
However successfully you instil a love of reading in your pupils, there are always the end of key stage tests to bear in mind. As you no doubt know, these cover specific reading skills so you will need to know what they are and the relative frequency with which they appear. They also present questions in a range of formats from multi-choice or selected response versions to ones that require longer written answers worth up to three marks each. It is well worth familiarising your pupils with the style of these questions so that they are less likely to be overwhelmed by them on the big day. With its targeted lessons and sample questions, our KS2 SATs reading skills support pack provides excellent preparation and practice.
Comprehension skills – content domains
The specific skills mentioned in tip 4 above include retrieving key facts, understanding words in context and drawing inferences based on information in the text. However, there are some other ones as well, such as summarising ideas, making comparisons within a text and making predictions. These are referred to as ‘content domains’ by the powers that be and it is very important that you are fully versed in them. Take a close look at the mark scheme of a recent SAT paper and you will find a table telling you exactly what they all are. You will also get a good idea of the proportion of questions that cover each content domain. This will help you to target your efforts because some, such as retrieval and inference, are much more common that others, such as understanding how meaning is enhanced by the choice of words.
Comprehension questions – vocabulary
SATs often include a significant proportion of questions requiring pupils to identify the meaning of words that might be unfamiliar. Obviously, your efforts throughout the year to help them develop a rich vocabulary will be beneficial here. Nevertheless, you could help them further by providing questions that help them to hone their lexical deduction skills. Our non-fiction model text comprehension resources can help you here by providing Y6 SATs type questions. It is also worth getting hold of our tier 2 words comprehension and vocabulary resources.
Reading comprehension exercise – retrieval
Finding key facts in the text is not as straightforward as it seems so it really helps to offer your class plenty of KS2 retrieval activities. For example, ‘find and copy’ questions often lead to more lost marks than one might expect, especially now that they have tightened up how strictly they are being marked. Provide plenty of practice of scanning for key words and copying exactly what is required – not a character more or less. Training them to underline important words or phrases will probably help them enormously.
Comprehension strategies – inference
Reading between the lines is a key reading skill, not just for passing tests but for getting the most out of books throughout our lives. The thing to be careful of when it comes to SATs is that any inference has to be made using information in the text rather than any prior or wider knowledge. Make sure your pupils know that and have had plenty of practice at referring their answers to ideas explicitly stated in the text. Once again, our various comprehension and SATs preparation resources will help you here. In addition, however, you might want to go through selected examples using the official SATs mark schemes as they usually tell you not just what is valid answer but also what would not be accepted.
Hopefully you have read, understood and appreciated these suggestions and feel able to inspire another generation of confident readers.