It is important that learners have the opportunity to demonstrate their achievement in different ways, and to progress via different routes and pathways. Tests tend to get a lot of bad press, but when used as part of a battery of assessment strategies they serve a very valuable purpose.
Preparing for the 2016 National Curriculum Tests has likely been on your radar since the beginning of term, and quite right too – so long as it doesn’t become an obsessive, soul-destroying exercise of test after test at the expense of authentic learning. Children do, though, need support, familiarisation and confidence, and the Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language Progress Tests provide all this, helping children to become self-assured readers and ambitious writers.
Developed by phonics queen Ruth Miskin, the Progress Tests offer engaging resources to consolidate and assess grammar and punctuation, reading comprehension and writing for Years 2 to 6. And although they’re designed to be used alongside the Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language whole-school programme, they certainly don’t have to be; everything – except, perhaps, the writing assessments – can be used independently. They comprise a bank of photocopiable resources that include reading comprehension assessments (fiction, non-fiction and poetry) plus assessments for writing, grammar and punctuation.
There are three handbooks on offer, which can be purchased as a set for £118.25 or individually at £42.50 and less. There is one book for Year 2, one for Years 3 and 4, and one for Years 5 and 6. There are also online materials, including practice assessment papers and assessment progress trackers.
The handbooks are tidy, supportive and well written with pictures, photos and cartoons dotted throughout to support the text and lighten the mood. They each contain a set of grammar cards, which can be used for quick warm-up activities and act as a diagnostic check to assess knowledge and understanding of parts of speech and punctuation. Then there is a set of photocopiable grammar assessments used for focused practice and consolidation of key grammar concepts. These are perfect for using during your assessment week, followed by an end-of-year grammar test. Mark schemes are provided for all the assessments.
You will find six illustrated reading comprehension assessment tasks, including three fiction extracts, two non-fiction texts and one poem for each year group. This gives children the opportunity to develop a range of reading comprehension skills, and to get used to test-style questions. Fiction extracts are taken from stories by best-loved children’s authors such as Malorie Blackman, Anne Fine and Dick King-Smith. The tests are clearly presented in a no nonsense style and with a very clear targeting of key skills.
A writing assessment bank can be found in the writing composition section. This comprises suggested independent writing tasks, which are linked by theme and genre to the writing children have completed in Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language.
A variety of fiction and non-fiction tasks are offered, as well as ideas for writing evaluation criteria that can be shared with children. The guidance, discussion points and instructions are all helpful when it comes to developing your own tasks that help build children’s confidence in writing for a variety of audiences and purposes.
On the Oxford Owl website (oxfordowl.co.uk) there are Assessment Progress Trackers that map the evaluation criteria to the writing objectives in the 2014 National Curriculum. Challenge activities are also available free online for children who need more stretch.
The Progress Tests have been designed to help children meet higher expectations, and they do a fine job – providing ready-made resources that will support and stretch. The resources could be used just as tests, but I think they will be most useful for the purposes of teaching and assessment for learning. Motivating, accessible and affordable, the Progress Tests are a fabulous supplement to the Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language programme and are flexible enough to be adapted to suit the contexts of other programmes too.