SATs – Why Should You Start Using Assistive Technology at Primary Level Examinations?

I’ve been very fortunate to work alongside Scanning Pens Ltd for nearly 5 years, and in that time I have undertaken a study with a primary aged dyslexic girl.  She is currently in Year 5 and, due to the school’s support of her accessing to the ReaderPen in class, they purchased ExamReader Pens for use throughout the school.  Therefore, it was a natural transition to commence a ‘how are you training your Year 6’s in using the ExamReader for the forthcoming SATs examinations?’ conversation with the SENDCo of the school.

Working with the SENDCo and the Year 6 teacher, who co-ordinates the SATs examination, I am exceedingly privileged to be invited into the school on a weekly basis to support two students who have been using their ExamReader Pens in the classroom environment for approximately 18 months.  Both students are confident with the pen, however, as we know sitting in an exam situation can be entirely different from the relaxed classroom approaches.  It felt to me it was important to have focused sessions on getting the most out of their ExamReader Pens.  I have therefore developed several strategies to help prepare the students, when using their pens, and would like to take this opportunity to share with you.

·       How are you holding your pen?

It may seem an obvious question, but we may sometimes assume the student was having 100% success when scanning a word or line of text so getting back to basics is imperative!  Re-train your student in holding the pen as upright as possible; this will not only enable them to focus on the word or words they wish to de-code but also encourages the student to pause, think, and proceed with an increased success rate of scanning and hearing that word correctly.

·       Have you checked the settings are appropriate to your student’s individual needs?

The ExamReader Pen has some fabulous settings within the Text Reader menu, such as:

Read Delay – will your student benefit from a pause between the pen being scanned and read?

Speed and Volume – ask your student to try different speed settings to see what suits them best.  Ensure the headphones are plugged fully in and the volume is set at a comfortable level.

Word pause – would your student benefit from an increased pause between each word?

Punctuation pause – perhaps a pause when a comma or full stop occurs will enable your student to be confident with the natural rhythm of a sentence or statement?

Take time to go through the menu with your student and ensure the settings are geared towards their individual needs.

·       Practice using the pen in old test papers*.

Nothing increases confidence for the learner then to ‘know’ what a test paper or examination question format is going to look like.  Make use of past test papers or online sites who offer examples of test papers.  However, do note some old test papers make use of ‘italics’ in their questions (which is no longer used) and this can be misread with the ExamReader Pen.  Check what you are offering your students to ensure you are helping and not adding to their exam anxiety.

·       Use the pen in every lesson!

Building habitual behaviours is the way forward, to help the student become increasingly independent and to develop a strategy for their education and their future!  Introduce a system where the pen is readily available to them on their desk in every lesson.  Getting into habits of using the pen with words and large bodies of text to enable them to keep up with their peers is a valuable skill; begin pushing your students to think for themselves and to make the most of their ReaderPen or ExamReader Pen in as many varying situations as possible!

Good luck SENDCos and Year 6 teachers and remember the more actively confident you are with reader pens, the greater outcomes for your students!

Christine Franklin