Reason 2 of “5 Reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus exams”

Yesterday, we admitted the important truth that starting to prepare in Year 5 could be simply expecting too much for some children, given the amount of material to be covered versus the amount of time available. Today’s reason, Reason 2, is actually an extra one I realised while writing the reason 2 I was going to tell you about today. I was planning to add a couple of sentences onto yesterday’s post, a sort of P.S. to Reason 1, but there was too much to say on the subject. It was too important to brush over. So, in fact, there are 6 reasons not to wait. Expect this 5-part miniblog series to now have 6 parts!

Reason 2: The age factor. How old is your child? If your child is younger in their year – sometimes they are nearly a year younger than others – that can be an influence on how much they can learn within a given time. As importantly, as a teaching consideration, are the ways they may learn best at a younger age. If you start in Year 4, you have time to develop learning games in the home that can hook their imagination, sense of fun and need to play. You can still maintain a lot of these throughout Year 5, while at the same time developing their stamina to sit longer exam papers.

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Two powerful effects of play-based learning:

  • It’s more fun and will often lead to longer sessions, as well as helping to build your learning relationship;
  • It’s more likely to be practical, and for many children, this ‘concrete’ experience of doing things will help them thrive.

Here’s a link to a simplypsychology article on Kolb’s Learning styles, giving a brief overview of this ‘concrete’ learning style, alongside other learning styles, in case you’d like to have some context. As an illustration, my daughter and I, towards the end of Year 4, opened a Problem Shop in the kitchen. She was the owner, ‘the boss’, and I would post written maths problems in an envelope through her shop door. She would then call me up on a pretend phone (sometimes a real one) and try and explain how she would solve it for me. I would sometimes ask if I could come to the shop so she could show me on paper, which she always agreed to because she was in role as a polite shop owner! This matched her love of drama and was an excellent way to have several, very short ‘lessons’ at spare points in the day. When similar problems were met in practice papers, I would remind her of the similarity to a problem her Problem Shop had solved for me.

Children love to play, and sometimes fun, unusual approaches will stick in the memory longer or clearer than only sitting with a book. (You still need to do this, of course.) To help with measurement, estimation and approximation, we measured spaghetti sticks and then predicted how many we would need to make a path to reach the garden. It goes without saying that we had a lot of fun making the path, especially when it came to going down the stairs. We were also able to discuss how much the pasta would weigh, using the mass of one pack. (Food can be an amazing learning tool.) A similar game was to make a Book Path, laying out every book we had in the house, then learning probability from trying to work out the likelihood of landing on a fiction or non-fiction title, or a title by a favourite or least-favourite author.

It goes without saying (teach your child this sentence opener as a rhetorical phrase they can use in persuasive letters – because, of course, I am going to say it) that what made these games so enjoyable and effective was that I had started long before the test, so I knew I had time to meander and spend important time going through this process. There was less pressure than if we had started a few months before.

Age is not the defining factor, but it is most definitely a strong influence. As I wrote yesterday, part of the reason for starting earlier than Year 5 is simply because you can. So many children can learn ideas and topics not covered until Year 5 or 6 when they are in Year 4 or earlier. Perhaps a more precise way to think about it is that it is more to do with stage than age. What stage of learning is your child at? Of course, you may not know until you try them with material from later years, so go ahead and introduce these materials. For example, I use the picture-rich CGP KS2 Maths Book on children in Year 3. At this point, they have only entered KS2, but the book covers material right up to Year 6, a lot of which children can grasp, or at least begin to grasp as they move on into Year 4.

Okay, that’s the end of an extra reason not to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for eleven-plus entrance tests. Thanks for letting me add an extra reason. Please come back tomorrow for Reason 3 – the one I said at the end of Reason 1 that your child cannot afford to you to miss.

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Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving your child the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is the eleven-plus. Have an amazing week of learning together. Stay learning, stay happy, Lee