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What is SPaG?

SPaG is an abbreviation for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Children have always been taught how to use punctuation and how to spell. However, with the implementation of the new primary curriculum, children are now expected to learn grammar at a reasonably high level. The SPaG test was updated and became more challenging.

Now, primary school children are taught specific skills in spelling, punctuation and grammar and are tested on them in SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) at the end of KS1 (year 2) and the end of KS2 (year 6).

Grammar vs Punctuation - What's the difference?

Grammar refers to the way we put words together in sentences and paragraphs to form meaning. It’s the fundamental structure of language, describing what words should go where, and why.

On the other hand, punctuation refers to all the little symbols we have used to enhance sentences and add clarity. These symbols can indicate pauses between ideas, the relationships between words, and even the emotion sentences convey, among other things.

Is spelling part of grammar?

Grammar applies to language when it's written or spoken, but spelling applies to language only when it's written.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell whether a mistake in writing is because of a spelling mistake or a grammar mistake because they're so closely linked.

However, a word could be spelt correctly but still be grammatically wrong, depending on the context of the sentence it's within.

Let's take a look at some examples:

  • Did you here about the new film that's coming out?

Technically, 'here' in this sentence does spell a correct word, but it's not the right form (it should be 'hear'), so it's a grammar mistake.

When words are used incorrectly or improperly, it's classed as a grammar mistake rather than a spelling mistake.

Now, if the sentence had been written like this:

  • Did you heer about the new film that's coming out?

That's a spelling mistake - 'heer' isn't a word. It's been spelt wrong, not mixed up with its homophone.

While many people may disagree on the question 'is spelling part of grammar?', we can say that grammar applies to language as a whole while spelling only applies to when it's written down.

Here are some more examples where a word is misspelt and a different word is used instead, creating a grammar mistake.

Your vs You're / It's vs Its / They're vs Their vs There

These words are heterographs - they sound the same but are spelt differently. This means they're easy to mix up or get confused. However, wrongly using them can greatly change the meaning of the sentence.

  • Your mum.

  • You're mum.

In the first sentence, the 'your' is possessive. It's the speaker's mum. In the second, 'you're' is a contraction of 'you are' - whoever the sentence is directed to, they are 'mum'.

When you use one version of the word when you meant to use another, it's considered a grammar mistake rather than a spelling one.

What does the SPaG test include?

The SPaG test includes various questions that assess a child's knowledge of:

  • Spelling - Correctly spelling new vocabulary that is introduced to your students.

  • Punctuation - Identifying and writing sentences that are punctuated correctly. Punctuation includes capitals, commas, question marks, exclamation marks, quotation marks and full stops. They are all important factors in ensuring your writing is as clear and understandable as possible.

  • Sentence Grammar - Identifying and writing sentences that are grammatically correct.

  • Vocabulary - Identifying and writing sentences in which a word is used in the correct manner.

What punctuation is taught in SPaG?

There are 14 punctuation marks that are commonly used in English grammar. They are:

  • full stop ( . )

  • question mark ( ? )

  • exclamation mark ( !)

  • comma ( , )

  • semicolon ( ; )

  • colon ( : )

  • dash (– )

  • hyphen ( - )

  • parentheses;

  • brackets ( )

  • braces { }

  • apostrophe ( ' )

  • quotation marks ( ' ' )

  • and ellipsis (...).

The importance of teaching grammar from an early age

Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are crucial building blocks for children learning to speak, write, and listen. Having a good knowledge of grammar allows your child to communicate their ideas and feelings, and helps them choose the right language for any situation.

It's easy to underestimate the importance of teaching grammar from an early age. It's an essential element of the English language.

  • It can change the meaning of sentences, as shown above.

  • A good understanding of grammar will improve children's reading and writing skills.

  • It allows children to be able to be more creative with their writing.

  • Grammar skills will benefit children in the future when they come to apply for jobs or university.

  • Children will be marked on SPaG skills in secondary school and beyond, so the importance of teaching grammar early on shouldn't be understated.

How and why is grammar and punctuation assessed?

By the end of primary school, your child will be expected to understand and be able to use all the grammar and punctuation set out in the National Curriculum. Some grammar words, like fronted adverbial and blending, can seem a bit daunting, but children will learn to use these types of words automatically from their reading and speaking – the tricky part is being able to recognise them.

Your child will be informally tested on spelling, grammar, and punctuation by their teacher throughout their time at school. There is also an optional national test in Year 2, and a compulsory national test in May of Year 6.

How can you help your child with SPaG?

Don’t let your child’s SPaG test worry you both. There are plenty of ways to revise for the test.

  • Create some incorrectly punctuated sentences for them to correct.

  • Encourage your child to write letters or emails to family members and set the aim of adding 5 different adjectives in the sentences.

  • Read a variety of texts with your child - fiction, newspapers, comics - to broaden their vocabulary and standard English.

  • Make learning grammar, punctuation and spelling fun. Playing games can help children to learn about grammar and punctuation in an enjoyable way.


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