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Navigating NAPLAN

The NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy & Numeracy) is held each year during May for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Students take part in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions (Spelling, Grammar & Punctuation) and Numeracy tests over the course of three days.

NAPLAN can be a useful tool in determining whether your child may need help in aspects of their schooling. It can provide experience in test situations, helping your child understand the concept of a time limit for completing work. At the end of the day it is just another test and your child should not feel stressed about the experience.

The type of tasks your child will be asked to complete over the three days are set out below:

Reading

The reading paper is a test of comprehension, and in fact includes many tests of comprehension, as students need to read several passages and answer questions based on these passages.

Language Conventions: Punctuation

The punctuation section of the language conventions paper involves inserting correct punctuation in sentences and identifying incorrect punctuation.

Language Conventions: Spelling

The spelling section of the language conventions paper involves correcting spelling words. In some cases the errors will already have been identified and at other times your child will need to find the misspelt word before correcting it.

Language Conventions: Grammar

The grammar section of the language conventions paper involves cloze style questions (fill in the blanks) and multiple-choice questions where the student is required to correct the grammar of completed sentences. Previous papers have not included labelling words with specific grammatical terminology (nouns, verbs …) but instead have language in written texts.

Writing

The writing paper of the NAPLAN involves the same stimulus for all students, with different expectations of the complexity and difficulty for each grade. In 2014 the writing stimulus will involve the creation of an expository piece of writing, this is where your child needs to form an opinion and present their arguments or a narrative, which is a story.

Numeracy

There is a numeracy paper for all students who sit NAPLAN (3, 5, 7, 9). Additionally in Years 7 & 9 there is also a non-calculator paper. Most of the questions are worded problems (even the non-calculator paper) with visual diagrams for interpretation. The numeracy paper relies, in a large part, on reading ability and comprehension.

A good nights sleep is important before all of the tests. Try to maintain a calm environment at home during the week, giving plenty of down time before going to bed.

A good breakfast in the morning provides fuel for the rest of the day. If your child isn’t hungry in the morning, pack nutritious snacks for the morning break to keep them fuelled.

On the way home from school, be guided by your child and how they are feeling. Ask them if they tried their best; this is all they could possibly have done. Talking about specific questions after the test can often only serve to increase anxiety; there’s that nothing can be done about that question now!

Try to schedule something fun after the tests; e.g., a treat for your child. It’s definitely a homework free week, but maybe another treat is in order such as extra time in the park, a milkshake…….

NAPLAN Anxiety

Many children can become anxious about the upcoming NAPLAN tests. This is natural as a lot of emphasis is placed on the tests in school and media. Treat this as an opportunity to help your child build resilience towards test anxiety –this is just one of many more tests your child will undertake during their school life.

Acknowledge your child’ concerns. Explain to your primary age child that this is good practice learning to perform under test conditions, as this is what high school will be like and it is just a practice for this. Explain to your high school teenager that NAPLAN tests are another practice of test conditions and these ones don’t appear on the end of school report.

It is important to provide your child with an opportunity to express their concerns about the NAPLAN tests. There is no need to avoid discussing these or pretending they aren’t happening, much of the school day for your child may involve practising for the NAPLAN. There’s no real chance they will forget it is coming and need opportunities to talk about how they are feeling.

Make sure you emphasise to your child that they can only do their best in the NAPLAN test; the test is just checking on how they are doing at school and if they do their best they can do no more than that. Emphasise that you are confident your child has the ability to do their best during the test.

Preparation – a tiny bit!

There is an abundance of NAPLAN preparation courses, books and websites. Show your child a practice paper if they have not seen one yet. It is likely this has already been covered at school, but if it doubt go to the ACARA website. The site has specimen papers to show your child what they could expect on the day of NAPLAN.

For children with learning support needs it is important to maintain focus on the core skills of reading, spelling, writing, number facts and problem solving skills. These are the skills that will support them most for undertaking the test. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Show your child how to colour in a multiple-choice form –colour only one circle, not too heavy and not too light.
  • Read the questions before the texts in the reading comprehension, this way you know what to look for when you read.

Navigating NAPLAN

If you’re not sure of an answer, leave it and go back when you’re finished (just make sure you leave the multiple choice box empty!!)

Multiple choice questions often have two answers completely wrong find these first and then decide which one you’ll choose –now there are only two to choose from!

If you decide to persevere with practice questions Excel Test Zone includes a range of online practice tests where feedback can be obtained: http://www.exceltestzone.com.au

Some of these are also now available as iPad apps.

iPad apps can also assist in strengthening spelling, grammar and numeracy skills. Some standout apps include Super Duper Apps (Do & Does, Homophones, Has & Have, Irregular Verbs, Plurals, Regular Past Verbs, Using I and Me), Reading Eggs Spelling (primary grades), PopMath (primary grades), Math Practice (high school grades) and myBlee Problems (upper primary/early high school grades).

By Samantha Hornery, Education and Therapy Manager