What do the 2016 Teacher Assessment Exemplifications for KS2 Reading tell us?

The exemplifications for the end-of-KS2 tests have just been released with videos to support the paperwork, and while we’re fairly familiar with the curriculum this is the first time we have seen examples of what those objectives look like in practice. So what have we learned?

That talking about what has been read as part of a group discussion develops comprehension

One of the most interesting pieces of the exemplifications is their use of videos which show children discussing their understanding of a text. There are very few written comprehension examples in the exemplifications, with the exception of the example used to show the retrieval of information from non-fiction. What the videos show is the power of talk in helping children develop their understanding of text and their strategies for comprehension through peer to peer interaction, building on each other’s ideas as you see the children talking and listening to each other.

This talk-based approach is core to Bug Club Comprehension which focuses on discussion of a text to develop understanding, while also helping children make the transition from spoken comprehension to written comprehension - preparing them for the end-of-key-stage tests.

Children need to be able to read aloud with fluency and with intonation...

...But that’s only half of the story, as reading comprehension is equally important in these standards.

The exemplifications provide some video examples of what ‘good’ reading looks like, focusing on children’s pronunciation and their ability to read with expression, taking note of punctuation in the text and self-correcting where needed. What this tells us is that it’s still important to hear children read aloud, even at Key Stage 2 to check their word-reading skills and their ability to pick up cues in the text which will aid their understanding.

Bug Club Guided Reading gives a great opportunity to hear children read from a range of texts both one to one, and in a group setting, and the varied genres, text types and lengths mean plenty of practice across the piece.

Vocabulary development is an essential part of the reading journey

A number of the videos focus on how important it is for children to have a wide vocabulary in order to understand what they are reading. With a focus on clarifying, the children discuss what they think the words mean, drawing contextual clues from the text, and using their prior knowledge and wider reading to help inform their understanding. 

Bug Club Comprehension supports the development of vocabulary with dedicated activities within the weekly teaching cycle which help to build children’s vocabularies and help them to develop the skills needed to work out the meaning of a word from contextual, pictorial and morphological clues.

The prior knowledge a child brings to their reading is an essential part of their understanding and interpretation of text

Throughout all the videos we see the children drawing on their prior knowledge to help them understand the text they are reading – whether that’s knowing what an expression means, using knowledge of how language is used, or drawing on their personal experiences to empathise with a character or a situation.

The strategy of activating prior knowledge is a key focus in Bug Club Comprehension as the talk-based teaching cycle helps children to draw on their prior knowledge and understand its relevance when discussing texts with their peers.

Making connections both within and between books develops comprehension

Connections are the key to making inferences, as an inference connects together two (seemingly) unconnected pieces of information to expose a hidden meaning or read ‘between the lines’. Throughout the video examples we see the children making connections both within the book they have read, but also drawing comparisons with other texts they have read to better understand the text.

Within Bug Club Comprehension, connecting is a key inference-making strategy, and through discussion and structured activities children are encouraged to make connections in text (and between texts) to draw out reasoned inferences.

Threaded throughout all of the examples are comprehension strategies which we see used again and again:

  • activating prior knowledge to understand a text
  • using clarifying techniques to demystify tricky vocabulary
  • summarising what’s been read
  • forming reasoned predictions 
  • connecting together information within and between books to draw inferences and opinions.

These comprehension strategies form the core of Bug Club Comprehension and are developed and revisited again and again throughout the materials so children develop a comprehensive toolkit of strategies.

Combined with Bug Club Guided Reading, which provides a huge text variety and opportunities for reading out loud, the Bug Club family offers a winning combination to help children and teachers meet the standards set by the KS2 exemplifications, and prepare them for the end-of-key-stage tests.