What does a successful 11 Plus routine look like?

(Part 2 of a 4-blog mini-series)

In the first post in this series, we began examining why routine and time are such vital tools in giving your child the best chance of 11-plus success. I promised to show you one such routine, so here we are. The table below shows you what my son and I did together in a typical Y4 week during school term. A holiday plan will look different and I will show you an example of this in the next blog.

I’ve shown you the reasons for each part of the plan. It’s crucial to have a why for each study session if you are going to help your child run out of things they don’t know and can’t do by the end of your preparations. For a few seconds thinking at the beginning, the rewards for focusing are huge.

You’ll see that in Y4 I only put in around 6 hours a week, instead of the 9 hours or more I recommend for Y5. It’s enough at that age, when you are teaching knowledge and subject skills rather than teaching and rehearsing test strategies and time-management.

Here’s the big deal though: I didn’t find those 6hrs all at once. I used bits of time here and there throughout the week. You don’t eat a day’s meals all at once, you eat them one meal at a time, one bite at a time. This is a good analogy for learning. What matters is that you use the time you have while it is there and don’t let it slip away.

Sticking with the meal image, you eat meals throughout the day to make sure your nutrients and energy are delivered slowly and regularly, so you are in the best health. With 11-plus learning, you need spaced learning throughout the weeks and months to allow the brain to digest the information over time. Cramming everything in at once is like gorging breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all at once. Nutrients are wasted, the body suffers and cannot use the energy and vitamins effectively.

Three more reasons why routine is the lifeblood of learning: it helps memory, helps normalise good learning habits and slowly draws your child into the ‘zone’, into a mental space where they are focusing on all things 11-plus as they approach the exam period.

  1. Memory. We forget a lot of what we learn just half an hour later. If we repeat things through routine, we’ll remember more. We just will. We just will. We just will.
  2. Habits. Your child will hopefully resist less and appreciate why learning time is so helpful. They’ll spend more time by design learning, rather than watching tv or playing computer games if time is not planned.
  3. The zone. An imaginary, yet real mental space. In the few weeks before the tests, you want your child focusing on only the exam. Note that I say focusing, not worrying. Never worry. Plan and execute.

“Don’t worry, work.”

Mr Jackson, Dalry Secondary School
(My physics teacher!)

The time you spend worrying you can spend learning something instead. Getting your child used to spending this planned, weekly learning now should make the final approach, the last couple of months leading up to the tests, effortless and smooth. (You are also building their study skills for later use in GCSEs, but as we are only thinking about the 11-plus, that’s just an added extra!)

Okay, have a look at the table below. Think about how you are spending your week, think about where you can find time, and then make a plan and start. Oh, and this is the first time I’ve used a table in a blog, so if it goes a bit strange when you are looking at it, please let me know, I’m still learning!

In part 3 of this mini-series, we’ll consider a holiday routine. Thank you as always for helping your child.

Stay happy, Lee

Plan during school termEnglishSuccess ReasonMathsSuccess Reason Superhero Time used
MondayBond Assessment paper - 100 marksWriting full answers helps think about finding evidence.
Help with spelling & grammar.
Experience of managing time.
45 mins
TuesdayPrefixes. Quick warm up fun activity. (15 min)He couldn't do them in yesterday's test. Fill knowledge gap.Bond Assessment paper - 50 marks.Exposure to different maths to find topics he knows and topics he doesn't.15 mins
45 mins
WednesdayWriting: Sentence Starter football game.Learn new sentence starters and understand that great writing must use a variety of sentence starters.Interior angles of regular shapes.He knew angles of square and triangle, but not pentagon. Taught him formula for any regular polygon.30 mins
20 mins
ThursdaySchofield & Sims Mental Arithmetic Book 4: 1 test. (36 questions)
See if he struggles with any area, then have a mini-lesson on this while it is fresh in his mind.
Experience of managing time: Section 1 - 5 min
Section 2 - 10 min
Section 3 - 15 mins
Practice 2-step word problems.
25 mins
20 mins
FridayDay off, but still do daily shared reading aloud.20 mins reading aloud. (We both read to each other.) Bed time
SaturdayBond Assessment paper - 100 marks.
40 min writing exercise - story.
Visit a cafe for 2 hours for fun and long learning.
Practice in comprehension; revise and learn spelling and grammar. Put the earlier work on sentence starters into a new piece of writing, plus new writing technique: personification to build mood.
Bond: How to do 11 Plus Maths: 40 mins going through topics.Familiarity with doing maths & English on the same day, mirroring the test.
Securing knowledge and finding an area he doesn't know, then spending time on that until he does know.
2 hrs
SundayDictionary work: Find 5 new words and write meaning.
Writing technique: 3 different ways to start a story.
Develop vocabulary; find a favourite word he can use in the test and in other writing; prepare for different writing questions by learning how the same story can start in different ways.Long Division: 2 different methods.He was getting confused with one method. Expose to different solutions. He ended up preferring the first method, but understood it better.10 min
30 min
40 min
Totals6 English Sessions
(Plus daily reading every day)
6 maths sessions6hrs 40 mins