Spelling Punctuation and Grammar (SPAG)
Please use the following documents to support your understanding of the grammar terminology used in school and the spelling curriculum.
Guide for teachers when planning spelling patterns each term: Spelling patterns
Have a go at this Quiz to identify a phrase and a clause!
All children are tested on their spelling, punctuation and grammar as part of the SATs in Year 2 and Year 6 and through ongoing summative assessment in every year group, each term.
So what will your child need to know, and how can you help them brush up their skills?
What is the SPAG test?
The new English grammar, punctuation and spelling test (informally known as the SPAG test) was introduced in May 2013 as part of the KS2 SATs programme for Year 6 pupils, replacing the previous English writing test.
‘The Government wants all children to leave primary school with a sound grasp of essential English skills,’ says a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson. ‘The test will put an additional focus on writing skills and encourage good teaching.’
For children taking KS2 SATs from May 2016, the SPAG test has been updated (in line with the new primary curriculum) and will be more challenging.
From 2016 children will also be tested on spelling, grammar and punctuation as part of the KS1 SATs in Year 2.
What does the SPAG test examine?
The SPAG test includes questions that assess the following elements of the English curriculum:
- Sentence grammarthrough both identifying and writing sentences that are grammatically correct
- Punctuationthrough identifying and writing sentences that are correctly punctuated
- Vocabularythrough identifying and writing sentences in which a word is used correctly
- Spelling through a year group specific word list and spelling patterns
What sort of questions will your child need to answer?
Children taking Key Stage 1 SATs will sit two separate papers in grammar, spelling and punctuation:
- Paper 1: a 20-word spelling test taking approximately 15 minutes and worth 10 marks.
- Paper 2: a grammar, punctuation and vocabulary test, in two sections of around 10 minutes each (with a break between, if necessary), worth 20 marks. This will involve a mixture of selecting the right answers e.g. through multiple choice, and writing short answers
In KS2 the SPAG test consists of two papers.
- Paper 1requires multiple choice or short sentence answers, covering areas such as using connectives (because, despite, however, etc), using pronouns (I/me) correctly, capitalising the correct words in a sentence and explaining why, putting the correct punctuation into a given sentence, writing sentences that illustrate two different meanings of the same word (such as ‘present’), identifying the verb/noun/adjective/clauses in a sentence, and using plurals correctly. For example:
Q: Which ending would make the word lazy an adverb?
Correct answer: lazily
- Paper 2is a spelling test, where children will have to spell words dictated by the examiner (presented within sentences). For example:
Pria turned on the television to watch her favourite cartoon.
What skills and knowledge do children need to succeed?
‘The ability to write with purpose, accuracy and clarity, drawing on a wide range of vocabulary, is integral to success,’ says a DfE spokesperson.
But for your child to do well in the SPAG test, they don’t 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. Please have a look at our Grammar Glossary to help understand the terminology being used in school.
How can you help your child practise at home?
- Follow this link for some examples of SATS questions: http://www.sats-papers.co.uk
- Copy some sentences from a book and get him to underline either the main or subordinate clause.
- Write down some unpunctuated sentences for your child to punctuate correctly.
- Call out a word and ask your child to tell you a synonym (a word that means the same) or an antonym (a word that means the opposite).
- When writing letters or emails, encourage your child to add an adjective or adverb to a sentence (e.g. ‘Thank you for my wonderfulbirthday present’)
- If your child asks you a question, ask how he would rephrase it as a command (e.g. ‘Can you make me a drink?’ becomes, ‘Make me a drink!’)
- Make spelling part of everyday life! Try a few unusual strategies to improve your child's spelling, put a few teachers' spelling tricksto the test or play some great spelling games.
- Encourage your child to read a variety of texts – fiction, information books, comics, newspapers, magazines, etc – to broaden their vocabulary.