blog & tips

Who what where when why how: Does 11plus learning ever change?

6 questions every child is taught in KS2. 5WH (5 whats, 1 how). 6 questions we probably ask ourselves a lot right now. 6 questions that perhaps we can use as guides when planning 11+ learning. Think of this as a thought exercise that might bring calm and clarity amid the chaos.

I don’t know how to write about COVID-19 and its many horrible consequences. I know many reading this will have expertise and experience that I could never match. Notwithstanding this, our 6 KS2 questions have helped many societies and individuals for centuries. They are helpful tools to investigate the moment. The moment close to our hearts on this site is helping your child be as ready and as happy as they can be for their 11plus, whether the exam is this year, next year or later.

I offer the 6 questions as a way to to explore whether the answers ever change much, even if the circumstances in which we ask them change greatly.

Focusing in, we may ask:

  1. Who will help my child learn and prepare for the 11plus?
  2. What is to be done to help my child be ready for the 11plus?
  3. Where will this learning and help take place?
  4. When is the learning and preparation for the 11plus going to happen?
  5. Why are we guiding our children towards sitting the 11plus? What reasons?
  6. How does my child prepare for the 11plus?

I could probably stop writing at this point and give you space to think about each question, to reflect on where each one of the 5WHs takes you, and to consider how you might answer each one.

That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I need more time to think about these myself; but I didn’t want to wait to share the questions with you.

This being the case, please read the questions again. Perhaps ask your family, your child, for their thoughts as well.

I’ll write again tomorrow.

Best, Lee

London 2021

11 Plus ‘Sutton Test’ Stage 2 Creative Writing Bundle NOW AVAILABLE!

Hi 11plus families. Congratulations on completing Stage 1 of your 11+ marathon, but please, keep your learning burning! Here’s your 3-set bundle at a crazy, crazy happy price, covering only targeted creative writing and the must-haves your child needs to write in the Stage 2 Creative Writing task. Put £23 off the normal price straight in your pocket and please, please, use the time wisely. Don’t wait until next week to find out the result of Stage 1 – use this weekend to get ahead with learning and practising stand-out creative writing. Let’s give your child all the help we can while we can. Stage 2 is approaching, so please start learning now! To your success.

11 Plus ‘Sutton Test’ Stage 2 Creative Writing Bundle NOW AVAILABLE!

Hi 11plus families! Now Stage 1 is complete, keep your learning burning! Here is a 3-set bundle at a crazy, crazy happy price, covering only targeted creative writing and the must-haves your child needs to write in the Stage 2 Creative Writing task. Put £23 off the normal price straight in your pocket and please, please, use the time wisely. Don’t wait until next week to find out the result of Stage 1 – use this weekend to get ahead with learning and practising stand-out creative writing. Let’s give your child all the help we can while we can. Stage 2 is approaching, so please start learning now! To your success.

My best, Lee, London

Sutton Test Stage 2 Creative Writing Must-Writes

Congratulations on making it through Stage 1 of the Sutton Test. Please don’t take your foot off the pedal and wait for the results before revising for Stage 2. You can’t get this week back again. You have to assume your child has passed if you are to get the most out of the two weeks before Stage 2. Your child will be writing a piece of creative writing that has to do two jobs:

  1. Show the marker they can handle all the punctuation, grammar and writing rules taught during KS2, including Year 6 (even though they have only started Year 6).
  2. Stand out from the thousands of other pieces of writing.

Below are links to three targeted, printable ebooks showing models of fiction, description and non-fiction, so your child can see what successful writing looks like.

With each piece of modelled writing, I include pages of detailed explanation about what why a feature has been included, why the feature works and what it shows the marker. The Guide itself has the 21 must-haves of dazzle-writing. Give your child the best opportunity they have by equipping them with skills and making them aware of what they need to put into their writing. Help them feel happier and less stressed by being more prepared and confident about what writing.

Stage 2 Creative Writing can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the test, and is a real opportunity to make a difference to their overall score. Remember that markers are passionate, skilled English teachers who love reading great writing!

Make the most of the time remaining before the Stage 2 Sutton test. Download and start learning today. Let’s give your child all the help we can.

4 Weeks to the Sutton test – make sure you and your child re-read or read the 11 Plus English Masterclass Ebook Bundle

Fill this vital month with moments of high learning:

  • Search out and fill gaps in your child’s knowledge;
  • Have your child sit lots of timed tests to bring them into the zone;
  • Revise and be confident of the multiple choice tricks all comprehension tests play,
  • Plan for success in Stage 1 and prepare for the creative writing element of Stage 2.

It’s all in the English Masterclass.

Happy learning. The marathon is almost at the finishing line: finish strong, today and every day this month.

Best, Lee

London, 2020

11plushappy Father’s Day!

At the heart of helping my own children learn, at the heart of every session we had together, was a single, simple and profound truth: I got to spend extra time with them.

There was nothing else I wanted more.

It built our learning relationship, helped give them information, habits and ways of thinking that will hopefully serve them a lifetime, but it also built our relationship, the relationship I had with them as a father.

I could not ask for more. We always have those memories: the memories of the adventure, the memories of daring to go for it, the moments of breakthrough, the moments of frustration, the memories of not running away, of being there for each other.

I got to spend extra time with them.

I hope you enjoy those moments with your own children.

My son just came down the stairs and gave me the biggest hug. We are now heading off for a cycle ride, to grab one more moment of time together.

A very Happy Father’s Day.

Part 2 of seriously un-serious* ways to help your child remember serious words

You know your child, you know what they like. The single rule might be: “Many ways for different brains.”

Here is a happy handful of word-learning games. Feel free to use these as springboards to get into the activity of designing or improvising games with your child as co-inventor.

1. Does your child sing? Have him sing the word, the whole list, or just sing-spell a word. It can be turned into a full impromptu kitchen concert! Try singing a well-known song, but replacing your target word for one of the chorus words, or adding a target word in to rehearse it:

“You’ve got a gregarious friend in me, you’ve got a gregarious friend in me.”

She might write a nonsense (or sensible) song using some of the words.

The extra pattern boost from melody can be powerful. It may get to the point that when she remembers, she’ll sing the word. (I once taught a very musical Y5 student to sing the formula for the area of a triangle; 3 years later, he could still sing the formula!)

2. Allocate words to numbers on a dice. However it lands, the next sentence in a story has to try and use the word in any way possible. It really helps for your child to know and apply; use the serious words in their creative writing. Words are democratic; they belong to us all. Rehearsing them helps solidify spelling, meaning and the confidence to use them again and again. Over time, your child could be encouraged to settle on a handful of lovely, adventurous words to use in more than one story, perhaps saving them for the real writing exam.

3. Use the target words when rehearsing and writing other features.

Inventing a bank of new, favourite similes (fresh, original ones), favourite adjectives (perhaps a couple of compound adjectives), favourite verbs for key actions (e.g. interesting synonyms for walking, running, eating, going, seeing, saying) and moods (happy, sad, angry, frightened, uncertain, euphoric, livid, etc.) is a great way to build options which can be used in all kinds of writing.

You could use a different target word for different features, or…

4. Take a word for a walk. Choose a word each and have a time-controlled, short game of adding the word into as many different techniques as possible. If the word has to change form to make the grammar correct, or so it can be used as a different type of word, even better. Give extra points for handling that!

For example:

Admonish (verb)

Meaning: to warn against doing something, (or in some cases, to do something, but perhaps there may be better words, like advise, for this positive purpose); to disprove of something, but in sort of a kind way. Hmm, this word is looking quite slippery already, but let’s have some fun with it.

Start a countdown timer. Give enough time to write a few different features, but not so long that you lose time to learn something else, and definitely not until your child falls asleep because they’ve written a hundred sentences! Either side of 4/5 minutes should work, but in the moment, you’ll know what’s best. Here’s my shot…

  1. Councils have left up signs to admonish people who continually drop litter in the parks. (Main verb)
  2. Mr Round, the head teacher, admonished Stephan for drawing only triangles in his maths book. (-ed past tense)
  3. Carter’s ears drooped, his tail ceased wagging and his head dropped, looking like an admonished school boy. (Simile) (Admonished becomes an adjective here!)
  4. The storm was an admonishment from Mother Earth for the farmer’s failure to gather her harvest in time. (Metaphor) (admonishment is a noun)
  5. Deeper and deeper, the wind forced its way into the forest, moaning and shrieking through the branches as if it were admonishing the trees for standing too close together. (Personification)
  6. Caring and graceful, kind and thoughtful, Marjory Duck quacked an admonishment at her ducklings to waste no time in entering the water, in case the clever, winter-starved fox had left its den in search of a delicate, youth-flavoured dinner! (With a paired adjective sentence.)

I definitely know the word admonish better than I did before writing that.

5. Collect challenging words alphabetically. You could supply a list and your child can see if there is a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

6. Similar to above, but use another prompt: the letters of your child’s name, or their favourite food, etc.

7. Rhyme as many words as you can with your target word in 30 seconds.

8. Draw quick pictures or diagrams around a word to illustrate what the word means: imagine you are translating the word for a person who doesn’t speak any language apart from pictures.

9. Have your child host a quick quiz for you and another grown up. You have to supply the meaning to words she gives from a challenging list. If you don’t know them, she gets a point; if you know them, you get a point.

Occasionally giving a wrong meaning on purpose can help your child learn a word by giving you the correct meaning. It is okay if you don’t know the meaning of a word. We need to let our children feel relaxed about not knowing something and share an excitement for moments when we do learn something.

10. Draw a word tower from the top, starting with the 1st letter, then 2 letters, 3 letters, etc., until the whole word is at the bottom.

It looks cool and can make syllables and suffixes clearer. The last, full word could be drawn in a different colour to help it stand out. Let your child discover that the last letter of each row also spells the word! These designs can be put up around the house – an un-serious exhibition of serious words.

11. Do you have a licence to use that word? If there are words she loves and would like to use, then you could do a spontaneous spelling permit game at odd times in the week. Stop what you are both doing, and say something like: Excuse Me miss, Pedantic Permit Police Patrol, can I see your license to use this word? She has to spell or write it out and show you. You could be given the list at the start of the week and use that to check the licences for each word.

12. Who needs Wimbledon? Word tennis is fun as well. You don’t even need a bat or ball, although you could do it with the real thing in a garden, or a paper ball in your hands. Take a list of anything – connectives, adverbs, etc, that you want to focus on.

Speak out a sentence either beginning with a word/word type, or else use the word somewhere in a sentence. Your opponent can’t hit back until they use another word. If you want, each have a list or a single umpire list that you can run to if you can’t remember the word. Give a time-limit to how long the person has to speak a sentence. Award tennis points however you want.

P.S. No word is too serious. You can have fun with anything. Be playful and listen to the sounds of words, the look of words. Fastidious is not a better word than fussy, or even the phrase incredibly clean, or spotless. If your child knows them all and can use them with their slightly different meanings, it gives him options for creating similes, alliteration, etc., that sparkle. A fastidious flower arranger is a beautiful phrase, but then a gardener who was fussy could also be described as being a fusspot for flowerpots, which has a different sound and feel and contains a pun on words as alliteration.

True, VVV (Very Varied Vocabulary) is a powerful tool with which to dazzle the exam marker, but it is also simply more fun to use!

Hope these help.

*Big disclaimer: Before you tell me off, before you admonish me against using incorrect prefixes, un-serious is not really a word, I just like the sound of it! The preferred prefix is non-serious, so perhaps teach your child that one, although possibly hold onto the hyphen to be safe, rather than nonserious.