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Are you confused by the NAPLAN test and its purpose, how to assist students in getting through without undue anxiety, or are you hunting for information on student preparation and resources? This time of year we get a lot of questions from teachers, parents and even students so we thought we would put together a quick guide to prepare you in the lead up to the 2016 NAPLAN.

You may have already entered the labyrinthine NAPLAN website, only to become completely disoriented and emerge much later feeling frustrated, dazed, and none the wiser. There really is so much helpful information there, but sifting through it can be very time-consuming and ultimately, somewhat overwhelming. NAPLAN, though, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so we might as well become familiar with it, like it or not, for the sake of our students. Hopefully, this will help to clarify a few significant details for you, including whether or not NAPLAN tests can, or should, be studied for.

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What is NAPLAN?

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

Every May since 2008, around a million school students in years three, five, seven and nine, have gathered their collective nerve and poured into exam rooms across Australia to sit our biggest standardised test of literacy and numeracy – NAPLAN. The tests are divided into Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy.

Put simply, this test measures what students have been learning already in school. There is no pass or fail grade, but given the subject matter is very broad many students worry about meeting the challenge when they have no idea what to expect or how to prepare for the tests. There is no actual course of study for it and according to the NAPLAN website, there is no benefit to be gained by trying to study for it by drills or too much targeted practice, because of the purpose of the test.

What NAPLAN Is For and How Results Can Be Used

In a nutshell, the test is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses in students’ abilities, so that parents and teachers can respond individually and the government can act on any apparent problem areas, by addressing them in the curriculum. The marking criteria are available on the NAPLAN website so you can see what features are under scrutiny, if you have a bent for grammar, literacy and maths.

Schools and teachers may get a clearer indication of the effectiveness of their teaching strategies and make whatever adjustments they deem necessary to lesson content and methods to improve students’ learning opportunities and outcomes. That means, scrutinising which errors were made by a particular student, then working on areas of weakness, as well as locating strengths and extending them to a higher level. Individual student’s scores are ranked nationally, so teachers, students and their carers, are free to compare their placing with those of others.

Are test results connected to in-school assessments and grading?

NAPLAN results do not impact upon your students’ school grades or class placement. Individual schools conduct their own assessments for those and NAPLAN is completely unrelated.

What’s Included:

For the Writing component, students will be given the same ‘writing stimulus’ from which to complete their task, and to date, they have always been directed to write one of two text-types, either a Narrative or a Persuasive text. These forms might sound daunting, but children use them all the time. ‘Narrative’ simply means ‘story’, and what child hasn’t used persuasive language when engaging in pester power, or listening to a politician or radio advertisement.

These two genres (Narrative and Persuasive writing) are selected because they are the most suitable for showing what skills and ability a student has and they are deemed essential for successful communication at a higher level, thus improving the students’ opportunities in life.

It’s important to give your students ample learning opportunities for both of these different text-types in order that they can be familiar with the standard format and conventions required for satisfying the task requirements.

The numeracy component assesses problem-solving ability and reasoning across three key learning areas: numbers and algebra; statistics and probability and measurement and geometry.

Preparing for NAPLAN

Students do not need to study for the test but ideally they should be prepared for it. That means, engaging in everyday practice in the areas that will be tested, (literacy and numeracy), and becoming familiar with the test format. The knowledge being tested is developed over time, so it’s simply impossible to ‘cram’ for a NAPLAN test. Completing practice tests beforehand makes it easier for students to go in with an understanding of the format and the kinds of tasks they will be asked to do. Most schools now offer students a practice test, (usually just the test from the previous year) within the fortnight prior to testing.

You could buy expensive sample practice-test packages online and books full of NAPLAN study tasks, but the highest advantage is most likely gained by focusing on everyday curriculum requirements and using the free test samples available on the NAPLAN website via the following link:

According to the education specialists who manage NAPLAN, the best way you can assist your child to prepare for the test is to support them well in gaining and increasing their literacy and numeracy skills. The links included above and those below, are for Australian websites that aim to do just that:

Another valuable resource is the online learning platform, Skwirk, which is used in homes and schools. Skwirk offers an enormous opportunity for students supporting literacy and numeracy across the board, while catering to different student’s individual learning styles. Although it does not specifically target NAPLAN, the underlying learning principles are the same as those sought in the testing and students are able to easily access engaging content across all areas of the NAPLAN testing components.

What is the worst thing that can happen if a student fares poorly in a NAPLAN test?

Some significant areas of difficulty have been pinpointed, enabling parents and educators to assist them towards clarification, understanding and move towards a fully functional use of those areas. And remember, the test scores don’t only indicate what a child can’t do, but show us what they have mastered, and provide records of their ongoing progress.

Felicity Wright has taught High School English and English Language for fourteen years, during which, she worked extensively on the range of state and national skills tests including NAPLAN. Now, Felicity works as a freelance writer.

Currently teachers, parents and home educators can subscribe to Skwirk using the discount code NAPLAN for a 20% discount off all individual subscriptions. Offer ends 12th May.

The reason why Skwirk has become one of the most popular and well-respected education companies in Australia is that it combines fun and inspiration with real learning. In addition to providing teachers, home educators and students with more than 18,000 educational resources, Skwirk has also developed an array of powerful reporting and assessment tools for all levels. These tools support student-led learning and a flexible classroom, while making sure that concrete progress is being made.

Where inspiration meets progress

It’s no secret that Skwirk works hard to inspire students. That’s why over 25% of schools in New South Wales benefit from a subscription.

However, the expert Skwirk team knows that all the inspiration in the world doesn’t equate to progress, without accountability. It’s easy enough to see if a student is enjoying their lessons. You can tell, just by watching them and talking to them. But it’s not so easy to see from the outside if they’re really absorbing what they’re learning. That’s where reporting and assessment are absolutely crucial.

Reporting and assessment – up to the minute

Skwirk’s thousands of resources, all developed to meet the Australian curriculum, are impeccably organised according to year level, learning outcomes and topic areas. So, even if a student is using resources independently, and is engaged in student-led learning, the teacher or parent can tell exactly what level they’re working at and how their learning fits into the curriculum. There’s never any need to be stabbing about in the dark.

Skwirk’s up to the minute assessment tools provide you with this kind of specific information, so you can direct student-led learning and organise your flexible classroom accordingly. Without accurate assessment and reporting, you risk repeating content unnecessarily, which can lead to student boredom. After all, who wants to revise an area in which they already feel confident? The focus should be on teaching students new skills and knowledge, so they are constantly developing, growing and maintaining their enthusiasm for learning.

Questions?

Would you like to know more about Skwirk’s up to the minute learning and assessment tools? Are you wondering if a Skwirk subscription is right for your school or home? Our friendly, passionate, expert team would love to talk to you at a time that suits you. Why not get in touch with us today? Take a free trial, click here.

A growing number of teachers across Australia are finding that the internet not only provides a useful medium for accessing relevant information, but helps many students to engage more fully with learning. Skwirk, an online education site that offers premium content on most subjects in the Australian curriculum, is a popular choice for many schools. One of the biggest advantages of Skwirk is its versatility. If you’re new to using IT extensively as part of your lesson delivery, take a look at five ways that other teachers across the country are utilising this exciting resource.

Laptops and PCs

Whether your school has a traditional computer lab or a couple of PC’s in your classroom, Skwirk provides an ideal solution to the problem of providing a single online resource that’s suitable for every pupil in the class. Because information is presented in a number of different ways (text, videos, pictures and animations), differentiation is straight-forward. It’s also ideal for individual learning, enabling each student to enjoy a resource that meets their specific needs.

Interactive whiteboards

A great tool for group learning, whole class teaching and plenary activity, interactive whiteboards can be a forum for using Skwirk resources to bring enrichment into learning. The site is easy to navigate and training for teachers is provided, so there are no worries about wasting time accessing the information you need for smooth lesson delivery.

Worksheets

The clear, relevant worksheets that can be downloaded from Skwirk offer a perfect method of extending and reinforcing whole class learning. The worksheets are ideal as a homework assignment, or can be used for revision. Some teachers prefer to flip the classroom and ask students to research a topic on Skwirk at home, then come to class to discuss their findings and complete a worksheet to reinforce their out of school studies.

iPads and tablets

Whether you want to reward individual learners or provide an engaging small group activity, the use of iPads or tablets in the classroom works well with any pedagogy. Interactive screens are a larger part of many children’s lives, so using them for learning is frequently more effective than more traditional methods. Particularly in core subjects such as numeracy and literacy, Skwirk’s appealing format encourages study, even in children who usually find such tasks a challenge.

Class assignments

As it’s so versatile, Skwirk is a fantastic option for assignments in the classroom or at home. Revision, independent learning, fresh study or reinforcement can all be easily undertaken through the site. Regular emails on pupil progress can let you see whether learning is taking place when online work is set. If you want to add some fresh, exciting options to your repertoire of assignment methods, Skwirk can provide them.

With so many different choices for relevant, flexible and curriculum linked learning, many teachers across Australia and overseas already rely on Skwirk heavily to enrich the learning experience they offer their pupils. Delivering premium educational content that supports the Australian curriculum for four to 14-year olds, Skwirk is the online provider of choice for many successful schools.

Every parent wants their child to do well at school, so it’s good to know that online learning through Skwirk can help to significantly improve grades in a wide range of academic subjects. Whether your child is struggling to keep up and could do with some extra assistance, or is already doing well but wants to aim high, discover below how Skwirk can help them achieve more in an exciting and appealing manner.

High calibre content

When you opt to use Skwirk, you can be confident of accessing more than 16,000 premium learning resources which are closely aligned to the current Australian curriculum. Subjects covered include English, Maths, Science, History and Geography, enabling students to always find topics that are relevant to their needs. The content is regularly updated, providing excellent materials to inspire and stimulate learning.

Assessment as well as learning

In addition to plenty of fresh, interesting learning material, Skwirk also includes comprehensive assessment material that enables students to consolidate their learning and check their grasp of a particular subject area. Quizzes, questions and tasks can be completed online, or printed off to provide valuable revision material at a later date. Progress updates are generated each week and emailed to parents or teachers, providing useful feedback on what is being achieved and where further assistance may be needed. This ensures that 1-1 teaching time or tutoring can be effectively targeted to where it is most needed.

Engaging formats

Skwirk’s fresh approach to curriculum material engages users and invites them to find out more. Video clips, photos and animation provide a cutting-edge visual experience which many students find absolutely irresistible. The site is easy to navigate, tempting many students to extend their learning to cover new material. The differentiated nature of Skwirk challenges children of all abilities, gently pushing them towards fresh challenges. Children who find it difficult to concentrate in a classroom situation often thrive when they’re able to use Skwirk to enhance their learning.

Focus on problem areas

Often, if a child doesn’t grasp a concept first time round, there’s only limited time during the school day to go over it again or provide the necessary support for the material to be successfully mastered. Because Skwirk can be used independently, students can spend time going over areas of difficulty until they’ve managed them successfully. Skwirk is available anywhere that there is an internet connection, so students can study at home, at the library, on public transport or in a child care setting.

Skwirk not only provides an entertaining and attractive option for learning new material, it also has a powerful part to play in helping students improve on their weaker areas. The close correlation between Skwirk and the curriculum means it’s easy to find relevant material to reinforce what’s being learned at school, providing a seamless learning transition between home and the classroom. Skwirk provides an effective learning aid which can noticeably improve a child’s educational attainment as well as offer an entertaining and attractive online resource.

The approach of the new term is always an exciting time, but also one of the busiest. With so many different things to remember before the children come back, sometimes trying to make sure nothing important gets overlooked can be a real challenge. To help ensure that all the vital tasks aren’t neglected, take a look at our check list of essential jobs to undertake before the new term gets under way.

Pick themes

Particularly if you teach younger children, having a theme to work with can really enrich the learning experience at the same time as ensuring that all the relevant Australian curriculum material for the term is included. If there’s an important national celebration coming up or a local issue that affects the school, making it a theme provides a fantastic method of connecting children to their wider community.

Update resources

Fresh resources can really inspire, innovate and provoke passionate pedagogy, so use the time before the new academic year gets started to look at some of the newer educational resources that are available. Online learning sites, such as Skwirk, are extremely popular with students, as well as providing a flexible and accessible resource that covers most of the main curriculum subjects.

Get trained

New resources may call for fresh teaching skills, so use your time to hone your expertise in areas which may be unfamiliar. If you’ve decided to opt for online material, for example, take advantage of any training that’s available. This ensures that your lesson delivery won’t be impeded by technical difficulties or lack of confidence.

Prepare your classroom

From the right seating arrangement to displays and equipment, preparing a modern classroom so that it meets your needs and those of your pupils is essential if the new year is going to get off to a good start. Printing and laminating resources and notices, dressing tables, constructing wall displays and deciding on a suitable layout are all important matters to get right.

Consider common first day issues

Developing solutions in advance to common issues that can arise on the first day back is an effective method of reducing disruption on one of the most difficult days of the school term. Having a clear set of rules, a considered discipline and reward system, a policy on toilet breaks and similar procedural issues helps to ensure that your class won’t be derailed by an unplanned eventuality.

Obviously there are other matters that will need to be attended to, but those listed above are often cited by teachers as being the most useful in maximising the chances of a successful and relatively stress free start to the year. In particular, taking the time to find fresh, engaging online material can open up a wealth of possibilities for appealing study suited to students of all ages and abilities. If you haven’t considered online educational sites before, it’s worth taking Skwirk’s free trial to discover why so many teachers are adding it to their “must have” resource list.

A fresh partnership initiative between the Ronald Macdonald Learning Program and Skwirk, a well-known online education provider, is aiming to feed the minds of  Australian children who are missing out on learning due to serious illness or prolonged hospitalisation.

Currently over a thousand students across the country are benefiting from the Program, which enables children who are falling behind at school due to ill-health to access the Australian curriculum through personal tutoring, advocacy and support. The Learning Program is one of a number of initiatives funded by Ronald Macdonald House Charities. Each Learning Program participant receives a full educational assessment, 40 hours one-on-one teaching with a registered teacher, advocacy and the services of an occupational therapist and physiotherapist. Skwirk is donating free access to its comprehensive online education facility to both teachers and students involved in the Program.

Skwirk provides premium learning content across all main subject areas, giving students between the ages of four and 14 immediate access to over 16,000 learning resources. Information is relayed through a selection of engaging media, so children can learn through videos and animation as well as text and pictures. Skwirk combines information with assessment and the system also automatically sends regular progress updates to tutors, enabling them to form an accurate view of progress.

Being able to use Skwirk as part of the bespoke learning experiences which the Ronald Macdonald Learning Program offers allows students continuity of learning whether they’re in hospital or convalescing at home, minimising the disruption which prolonged absence from school can cause. Verity Gobbett, South Australian State Manger of the Learning Program, commented, “For children on the Learning Program, online resources such as Skwirk are fantastic as school absence rates are high due to hospitalisations, treatments and recovery times.”

It’s not just the children who find Skwirk a useful resource. One tutor from the Learning Program said, “Skwirk is great! I can maximise the efficiency of the one hour session with my Learning Program student by pre-planning lesson content.” Skwirk’s appealing format, clear structure and close links to the Australian national curriculum mean that many teachers find it an excellent option to use as part of a lesson plan or to provide valuable reinforcement to learning as a homework resource.

Skwirk remains committed to providing high-calibre educational material in a convenient format that gives every student the opportunity to benefit from an enriching, rewarding learning experience.

For more information, please visit the Skwirk Website