ReadMaster Blogs

Kala Williams is the author of Mastery in Primary Education, Director of Bright I’s Education Consultancy, owner of ReadMaster, school Governor, experienced Primary Educator, mother of two brilliant young men and wife. She is a book enthusiast who lives and breathes Literacy.

Reading SATS: Why Mastery Teachers are the most relaxed right now!

So – have you checked out your Twitter feed lately? So many teachers literally stressed to the highest over the upcoming SATS tests. Pretty understandable considering we have had so much time off school due to the pandemic and teachers have been working tirelessly to close huge gaps in learning. Can’t speak much for other subject areas of the National Curriculum but I can definitely say – there are a new clique of teachers who, when it comes to the Reading Tests, are as cool as cucumbers! Mastery teachers have been seeing the light having decomplicated their teaching of reading from the beginning of this school year. They have realised the importance of teaching comprehension using a systematic approach and as such most children from Mastery classrooms are frankly, not in the least bit intimidated by these test papers. Of course there are always nerves attached to being tested but there are degrees of fear and for good reason.

Mastery teachers have realised that it is essential to interweave domain areas in a way that makes cognitive sense for whole language understanding. The typical model of this is of course the infamous Scarborough’s rope:

Look carefully at the section based on comprehension. This is the key approach to the mastery process. Notice it is separate and apart from phonics too, which by KS2 should ideally be increasingly automatic. We know this is not always the case – but I believe in the model of phonics intervention taking place outside of reading comprehension lessons so as to not limit a child’s access to rich texts that are not simply linked to decodable levels. Background knowledge is all about how the rest of the curriculum areas taught builds a reader’s awareness of the world they live in – so world to text, text to world then text to text relationships. Vocabulary knowledge is all about meaning-making through exposure to words in a wide variety of contexts (so getting children to read and read some more while exploring language in a way that sticks). Language Structures is really about morphology and syntax – how words evolve to take on new meaning and how words are put together to deliver messages and effects and of course how sentences link together creating a genre. Then there is Verbal Reasoning: the core of metacognition. Mastery children are certainly trained well in this as reasoning out loud what they understand and why is interwoven throughout their daily lessons. Finally Literacy Knowledge – essential in their reading for pleasure experience. Choice, diversity, breadth of books and other reading material!

Now take a look at what binds all these elements of language comprehension together – you got it: ‘Increasingly strategic’. Now this is where the Mastery Teacher is the most empowered in any reading teaching classroom. The approach arms them with a wealth of strategies to enable children to manoeuvre through texts in order to extract sound understanding. No – I’m not simply tooting my own horn here because I wrote an entire book on it either. The EEF have persistently been singing this song about explicit teaching methods with strategies as the most effective way to close gaps in attainment (check out their latest on it here). Where teachers struggle is in finding the appropriate strategy which addresses and fixes misconceptions for each domain. The Mastery Teacher however is versed in this. They are trained to identify misconceptions and predict them and therefore come into every teaching session armed with the relevant strategy to progress their young readers.

So – in a nutshell: the Mastery Teacher knows what to teach and in what order, they have a strong awareness of where readers will trip up in understanding, they have a wealth of strategies to tackle misconceptions, they empower children to reason through their comprehension process so their learners are more aware of cognitive demand of questions with more accurate responses. Essentially, children go slower at first to go faster when confident so have proven higher levels of stamina AND they have been using the language of attainment standards in their classrooms from the onset so they  are more test resilient.

Of course many have not heard of it well – that would be because Mastery teachers are not always the loudest. What they get are results from dedicating themselves to pedagogical growth through research-driven methods. They often are the kind of teachers that seek out the paths less travelled and rather than say to others – oh , we aren’t stressed about the Reading SATS – will lend an ear, comfort a colleague and hope to win them over to the way they do things.  Any teacher can be a Mastery Teacher. Read the book, do the training, seek the experts (I am always willing to chat offline)- then breathe!

Check out the book on Amazon and get started on your Mastery journey. Book on to the current Whole Class Reading CPD Series leading up to SATS here. Subscribe to to access all the previous CPD sessions plus Mastery resources!

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