Now the tests are over …

Well that’s that over for another year. But what now? Amongst the class trips, leavers’ plays and special assemblies, here are some ideas for making the last few weeks as enjoyable and valuable as possible for everyone involved.

With the children:

Get the class outside – extra PE sessions, studying the natural world, drawing plants and trees, reading under a tree; with the tests finished it’s time to get outside and enjoy the beautiful British summertime. What, it’s raining? Oh.

Read a wonderful book aloud – time to share a great story. It might be a classic like Treasure Island or The Secret Garden, or something new like Rooftoppers or The River Singers. Listening to a story being read aloud is great for developing children’s comprehension skills, improving their vocabulary, and broadening their reading palate, introducing them to books they might not pick up otherwise. And it can be a joyful time that the whole class share in – perfect for the end of the year.

Put those new maths skills to good use – it’s wonderful that the class can perform the calculations demanded of them by the national curriculum and it’s fantastic that they can use them to solve problems in a test, but the mark of a great primary school mathematician is being able to do the calculation and know when to do it. Open-ended maths tasks that require a range of different maths skills will help you to see not only who has mastered a particular operation, but also who knows when it’s a useful method to solve a particular problem. Planning a class party, designing and costing a new theme park, calculating the flight of paper planes and plotting them on a graph, or working out the chances of each team winning Euro 2016 will all tell you lots about children’s maths skills.

Write for pleasure – it’s just possible that the assessment demands for Year 6 this year mean you’ve spent a bit more time than normal making sure children write in the passive voice and use hyphens …

In the last few weeks of the year, there’s the opportunity to get children writing for pleasure – writing that is instigated by the children and follows their interests. It might be writing in response to a wonderful film, or writing a non-fiction book about their favourite topic, showcasing their knowledge. It could be writing for a real purpose, like the school website, or making a class magazine. If we want children to become writers, rather than being people who do some writing when they’re told to, then everything we can do to help them form a positive attitude to writing is going to help. A significant part of that is time and freedom to write about what they want.

Fill in the gaps – most importantly, there’s still half a term before the children disappear off to secondary school. Everyone in the class will have areas of the curriculum where they’re not so strong, so now is the time to keep chipping away and hopefully squeeze in some last drops of knowledge or skills. It’s never too late to learn something or become quicker or more efficient.

As a teacher:

Reflect on the year – a key part of becoming the best teacher you can be is being able to reflect on your teaching, identifying what went well and what you might do differently next time. That’s a difficult thing to do amongst the everyday busyness of teaching, but it’s important to make time for it before the memory of the year fades away amongst well-deserved holidays (and the visits to the dentist and bank that have had to wait for the summer). Was the approach to teaching spelling that you adopted the most effective? Was there an aspect of maths you could find a new way to introduce? Did you make the best use of support staff? Time spent reflecting and planning ahead now could make all the difference to next year.

Be kind to yourself – remember that you’re coming to the end of a year that brought unprecedented change. The 2014 National Curriculum (and the accompanying assessment regime) have provided challenges both through the demands they made on children and teachers and the nature of their introduction. So more than anything else, take a deep breath, have some days where you get out of school early, teach the things you love teaching, and try to enjoy the last few weeks of term. You deserve it.

James Clements is a member of the Advisory Board for Oxford Owl, Oxford Primary’s online school improvement service. He has worked as a teacher and senior leader in an outstanding inner-city primary school, as a Local Authority Lead Teacher. James is now a writer, English adviser, and the creative director of education website Shakespeare and More. Follow James on Twitter @James_ShMore

We’re working with James on a training toolkit to help you reflect and plan ahead for your spelling teaching next year – and it will be available completely free on Oxford Owl.  

Sign up here to be told when the resources are available!

When you’re ready to start planning, you’ll find a wealth of resources and support from Oxford Primary to help you make the teaching and learning in your school even stronger, and in turn, make next year’s national assessments as stress-free as possible.