I just remembered – the 11plus is fun!

The best of mornings to 11 plus children and parents everywhere. A very quick post, before my student arrives, to share a lesson from a lesson. Yesterday, a student was experiencing and working through her first cloze exercise. I was in full serious teacher mode (spoiler: not the best mode!) as we explored how to examine the words outside the gap as much as the words given to fill in the gap. Three plus one brief tips to rehearse with your child, though this is not the point of this post, as you’ll see in a moment:

  1. If it’s a passage or paragraph containing several blank spaces to fill in, read the whole piece first, or at least the first few sentences. This allows your brain to work out what kinds of words would suit the blank (verbs, adjectives, etc.) as well as helping you understand the meaning, mood and tense of the whole piece. Avoid rushing into answer the first question.
  2. Make sure the word you choose fits both parts of the sentence – the part before the gap AND the part after the gap. Many words fit one half of the sentence, which could be enough to trick you into choosing a wrong word.
  3. The search for small words is a big thing. Look at small words before and after the gap, as well as any small words that are part of the answer options. For example, if there is “a” before the gap, then the word you are looking for will at least start with a consonant, whereas if “an” appears, the next word must be a vowel. Small words can also help you match tense and quantity among other things. For example:

Most moons have/has/will has/having been spinning for hundreds of thousands of years.

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Before the gap, we see a plural ‘moons’. We must match this with the ‘have’ form of the verb, which rules out ‘has’. The word ‘been’ after the gap tells us it is some form of past tense, thus will has’ is ruled out (‘will has’ is just a wrong joining.) While ‘having been’ makes sense, vital punctuation is missing which prevents it from being the correct choice. We would probably need an embedded clause with two commas –

Most moons, having been spinning for hundreds of thousands of years,

plus a second second part of the sentence –

Most moons, having been spinning the same way for hundreds of thousands of years, can be thought of as old fashioned, stubborn rocks set in their ways.

(If you’re a scientist who knows moons never spin the same way, please let me know.)

Therefore, ‘have’ is the right answer, as it provides a completed, grammatically correct sentence that makes sense.

Tip 4, then, is pay attention to punctuation. This will guide you as to whether you should be creating a longer complex sentence, or a smaller, simpler one.

Anyway, to the point of this post. After finishing a piece of work, full teacher mode often sees me ask two follow-on questions:

What was tricky about this?

What helped you?

It’s really good practice to spend a minute or so at the end of any session to review what has been learned. (I call this a Magic Minute After Brain Boost, in the chapter Grab a Mab in my book, Success in Multiple Choice English – 59 Easy Ways to Score High in your 11plus Exam). A Mab helps convert the topic into memory, while also allowing the brain to relate to what has been taught, as it reminds the learner that it is how they interact with the information that makes the difference. Good learning is an active and mutual process.

My Y4 student’s brilliant reply instantly taught me a new question! Her answer to what helped her was that it was fun to learn new information about St Paul’s Cathedral (the topic of the cloze passage).

Fun.

Of course. She wanted to keep reading because she was enjoying learning about the cathedral’s history. So, the third question I am going to ask from now on, and which I hope you will ask your child from now on, is

What was fun about this?

With my own kids, I did this all the time. I loved learning, my son loved learning – always. We had fun. Our attitude was that it should probably be impossible not to pass the 11plus, if only because we spent so many fun hours learning and being fascinated by information, skills and making improvements to our writing, our timing, our scores.

The 11plus is fun! Please, please enjoy it. Enjoy the extra time you are both sharing, the path you are on. Asking what was fun or enjoyable about a learning session immediately focuses the brain on actually finding something that was fun. Children love fun. If learning is fun, they will stay at it longer, and may absorb deeper learning.

Keep it consistent, keep discovering things your child doesn’t know, keep learning to fill those gaps one at a time…and keep it fun.

Have an amazing 11 plus day. Click here for targeted English resources on Multiple choice and both fiction and non-fiction creative writing ‘must-have’ skills.

Lee