Sats: Why Year 6 still need picture books and stories

We never know what will be in Sats - but a wide range of reading is the best way to prepare pupils, says Emily Weston

Sats: Why a wide range of reading is the best way to prepare pupils for the Sats tests

Every May, Year 6 teachers hold their breath as they pull the reading paper out of the packet and see the themes and pieces of text for the first time. 

If you’re anything like me, each year you’ll have been trying to predict what might come up and prepare the children as best you can, but it isn’t an exact science: we just won’t ever truly know what it will contain until we open that paper (although, and I might jinx myself here, there seems to be an eco focus every year now).

But let’s be honest, one of the most likely scenarios is that there will be themes within the paper that aren’t relatable or easy to understand for all the children.


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If we’re lucky, it will be something that interests them: that makes our job easier.

Getting pupils ready for Sats

So, if we can’t predict the paper, what can we do? Simply getting children to read widely, with variety, often.

Children who read a wide range of texts will be exposed to a variety of experiences, vocabulary and language features, and they will also become more familiar with the way different authors’ voices can affect the text they are reading. 

If a child only reads one author, no matter how many books they read, they will find it more difficult to interpret meaning in a Sats paper.

Children who read a wide variety of books, despite their life experiences, are more likely to become familiar with a larger variety of themes. When they read more books, their vocabularies become bigger.

A love of reading 

Inspiring a love of reading can sometimes be a challenge in the classroom. There are always some children in the class who won’t enjoy reading, who just feel safe with an author they know or won’t pick up poetry or non-fiction. Some of us, as adults, feel the same.

But it is our job to facilitate encounters with a broad and interesting spectrum of books, giving children the chance to listen to, read and interact with different genres and text types.

This doesn’t always have to be in whole class or guided reading, where it is more common to include longer pieces of text. Even in Year 6 we should be embracing story time.

Picture books

Try picking up a picture book sometimes. Not only will the class love it, but the inference can still be on par with a longer text.

Graphic novels, poetry and non-fiction books are all fantastic to focus on, too. Sometimes, you don’t need a book at all to practise reading skills.

While doing all this, you’ll spot children who were at first reluctant to read starting to pick up books independently and wanting to discuss and enjoy them with others, too.

When this happens, it’s fantastic. And if it doesn’t, don’t worry. Keep showing them the wonders of reading and that wide variety of texts, and they’ll soak in knowledge that will benefit them when the test arrives.

Emily Weston is a Year 6 teacher at Tadpole Farm CE Primary Academy in Wiltshire

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