Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (SPaG)
The new English grammar, punctuation and spelling test (also known as the SPaG test) (or GaPS) was introduced in May 2013 as part of the KS2 SATs programme for Year 6 pupils, replacing the previous English writing test. The government is aiming for all children to leave primary school with a sound grasp of essential English skills. The SPAG test includes questions that assess the following elements of the English curriculum:
- Sentence grammar through both identifying and writing sentences that are grammatically correct,
- Punctuation through identifying and writing sentences that are correctly punctuated,
- Spelling through identifying and writing correctly spelt words.
- SPaG will be taught across the whole school and year will develop pupil’s knowledge and build on previous years learning.
What skills and knowledge do children need to succeed? For your child to do well within the grammar, punctuation and spelling teaching, they do not just have to be good at writing; they also need a technical understanding of how the English language works. As well as being able to spell words correctly, use a wide range of vocabulary and punctuate well, they need to grasp the meaning of grammatical terms such as noun, verb, adjective, prefix, pronoun and adverb, know what phrases and clauses are and how to use them, understand what connectives are and how they work, know how to turn a question into a command, and so on. This terminology can be a stumbling block even for children who are otherwise good at reading and writing, and make the questions hard to understand. The curriculum has been carefully mapped out in order for the children to progress through the year groups and build on their knowledge on this area.
In context - When we learn our first language as children, we do so by picking it up through context. This is the most effective way to learn and forms an important part of our learning here at East Wichel. Each time we write, the children focus on a few grammar skills which are relevant to the text type we're writing. After practising them thoroughly, the children then get a chance to use them within the context of their final piece of writing. The important link to recognising grammar previously learned is also fully exploited in our daily Booktalk sessions, where children notice and discuss how and why the author has used particular language structures.
Daily quizzes - In addition to learning grammar in context, the children are given further opportunities to make their learning stick through a daily grammar quiz which takes place during the English lesson. This grammar session is called Grammar 5 as each year group focuses on 5 areas of grammar termly. In these sessions, there is no new learning; instead the focus is on providing the children with time to practise previously learned concepts. Each quiz is carefully thought out, and in line with the East Wichel principles of teaching that thread through all of our learning: making learning fun so it sticks, lots of opportunities to practise retrieving knowledge, peer work and using the spacing gap to ensure knowledge isn't forgotten.
Why? - As well as being able to use grammar correctly, the 2014 National Curriculum expects the children to be able to identify, name and talk about different grammatical concepts (see English appendix 2). Knowing this 'language about language' allows children to discuss concepts clearly and deepen their understanding, eventually leading to them becoming strong, confident communicators.
How Spelling is taugh the East Wichel way:
At East Wichel, our teachers aim to provide writing experiences that enables our pupils to feel motivated and excited to write. We believe very strongly that developing pupils’ spelling has a significant impact on the quality of their reading and writing as well as building their confidence. Learning to spell helps to cement the connection between the letters and their sounds, and learning high-frequency “sight words” to mastery level improves both reading and writing. If we teach each pupil to spell well, we will enable them to read and write fluently. For this reason, we have adopted the Read Write Inc. Spelling programme for pupils from Year 2 to Year 6. This is a proven approach underpinned by phonics and fast-paced fun lessons.
The Read Write Inc. Spelling programme is broken down into different units which focus on one spelling rule, pupils are introduced to the rule by watching a short video, the etymology of words or the rule is introduced to enhance understanding and application. Within each unit pupils are giving the opportunity to practice the rule by working individually, with a partner or in a group to play a number of games, write through dictation or find the missing words. These lessons are 15 minutes long fun and fast-paced, they are daily which has a huge impact on the number of spellings the pupils are able to learn and retain.