blog & tips

Five reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus entrance tests

Dear parent/carer,

A plea from a tutor’s heart. The message is simple – if you can, start teaching and preparing your child for the 11plus in Year 4. Whether that’s at home, with a tutor, or both, it is undoubtedly an easier – and possibly more successful – process than if you wait until Year 5. Please note, I am not suggesting you need a tutor in Year 4. You may, of course, decide you would like a tutor (the four corners of that learning team – child, teacher, parent/carer, tutor – can do amazing things) but as a parent or carer, there is so, so much you can do to help your child. Remember that they spend more time with you than any tutor will, so a lot of your child’s progress – and in some cases all of their progress – will come from a combination of your child’s school, you – and your child!

I know many parents will already be at the Year 5 stage. In that case, the best time to start is always now. Today. This moment. Pick up a book and get learning. I know, too, that many children can be successful with just one year. Some children are faster learners, as are some adults, and will already be ahead or secure in many concepts. If your child loves their learning and are doing fantastically at school, then this may be the case.

But…many children need longer. In any case, all children will benefit in some way from an early start. Over the next 5 days, in 5 mini-blogs, I want to spell out five powerful reasons why you are advised to get ahead and get going a couple of years before an eleven plus exam. (Actually, looking back at that sentence, perhaps there are six; getting ahead is, in itself, important.) You probably know, or suspect, most of these reasons already, but perhaps you are holding back, or are just unsure. My hope in writing is to guide you to see that taking action now in your own home with your child is the safest plan.

Reason 1: Simply put, it can be expecting too much to ask some children to learn everything in a year. While most topics are covered in primary schools, your child needs to remember and be able to apply their knowledge quickly and methodically. For that reason, you must go over these topics again in detail in Year 5. Thus, using Y4 to make sure lots of learning is covered and secured is vital.

It’s also true that many children can learn concepts not covered until Y5 or Y6 earlier if given the chance. Sometimes, the chronological nature of the curriculum is about organisation, not simply age. So, as you practise multiplication for example, why not introduce square or cube numbers, simple alegbra, two or three step word problems that need multiplication to solve?

It is also the case that your child needs a good grasp of Year 6 topics for the test, yet many of the tests come at the start of Year 6. An early start at home in Y4 can help clear a path for learning the Y6 curriculum in Year 5.

If everything is left until Year 5, there is a chance your child can simply run out of time to learn everything well in a way that will allow them to apply maths or English knowledge to new questions and comprehensions they will meet for the first time on the day of the entrance test. (If your child’s school of choice tests using verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning, starting early is crucial; they will not have been learning these subjects and techniques in any meaningful sense as part of the primary curriculum.)

The situation can become fretful if, as you approach the day itself, your child is grappling with new concepts. Of course, all of the time, even on the day of the test, your child can and will learn or revise something, a gap in knowledge can be filled, a pronoun or adverb can be discovered. However, what happens if there is one area of learning in which your child, rightly, needs more time with to understand fully?

(Quick question: how long does a child need to learn something?

Answer: As long as they need.)

With this extra time, she or he might be as competent as anyone in this area. If the time is limited, however, it may not be possible to short-cut. An outcome is the result of a process. Learning is often a spiral process, whereby you return to a subject periodically or from different angles, allowing the skills and information to become more embedded each time, over time.

Okay, there’s your first reason not to wait. Please come back to 11plushappy! tomorrow for reason 2 – your child can’t afford you to miss this reason.

Why not sign up to the blog to get the reasons automatically sent to your email? (Remember to check spam or the gmail promotions tab, and to whitelist the blog post.)

You can also grab a free email course on why time is so important to the 11plus – and what you and your child can do about it. If you’re reading this on the 11plushappy! website, check out the yellow box to the right of this blog post.

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. Lee

How a simple dice transformed my children’s 11plus learning and brought us closer together

Along with time, a second superhero of eleven plus success is going to be vocabulary. The more words you know, the more precise, nuanced and expansive are your thoughts. Leading on from this is the certainty that equipping your child with words, words and more words is going to help in at least six areas of the entrance test (one for each face of the dice):

  1. In creative writing, your child is going to write better descriptions of everything – the five senses, moods, locations and scenes, persuasive reasons for or against. In dialogue and action, synonyms for said and synonyms for verbs will help convert writing from satisfactory to outstanding. Your child will write higher quality metaphors, similes, personification and alliteration because they have a greater choice of words with which to do the job.
  2. In comprehension, unknown words catch out many, many children. Answer options in multiple choice make this worse by playing tricks, for instance, offering the easy misunderstandings that result from not knowing a word, such as choosing a similar sounding word, or a similar looking word. It therefore follows that the more words your child knows, the more likely it is that they will understand the words in a comprehension, which means they will answer more questions correctly in a time-efficient way.
  3. In choosing a word to fill a gap in the text (cloze), they will have a higher chance of selecting the correct option and rejecting incorrect options because they will know the meanings of both the right and wrong answers on offer.
  4. A good understanding of the most common prefixes and suffixes will help them select the correct prefix/suffix needed to complete a word, as well as to choose the correct meaning for a word that uses a particular prefix.
  5. The more words your child knows, the more they will be able to say what type of word a word is: nouns, adjectives, adverbs of time, abstract nouns, etc.
  6. The more words they know, the more they will recognise right and wrong spellings, which is going to help them with any spelling questions. (For example, meeting lots words ending in -cial or -ious is going to cement that spelling string in their minds.) They will also spell more words correctly in any writing.

ENTER THE DICE…

With a dice, any list in the universe is a game. How?

  1. Focus on one area at a time. For example, abstract nouns.
  2. Google a list, print off a copy. This list is your game board.
  3. Choose your path, or let your child decide. Player 1 could start at the first word, player 2 could start at the last word. First to reach the opposite end is the winner. Or perhaps it’s simply a race, with you both starting on the same word.
  4. Roll your dice (or die, to use the singular – you only need one). Each word is a step on the board. Roll a 5, move your counter on to the fifth word.
  5. Either say or write a sentence using this. Anything you don’t know, you pit stop and look up, or write down to look at after and move on. Perhaps you only allow 2 chances to move on in the game, otherwise you have to take a pit stop and look up the definition.
  6. At the end of the game, add the words you have used to a new list, or let your child choose their favourite five. The next step is for your child to use all of these in their next piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. (P.S. Get informed about the 21 must-haves your child needs to have in every piece of fiction or non-fiction piece of writing.)
  7. You could vary this by having two copies of the same list, which you hide from each other. Use the dice to find six words from the list, at which point use a dictionary or your own knowledge to write or read a description of the word out loud. The other player has to find the word that matches your description.
  8. Use different lists over the days and weeks to make sure you cover all types of word.

My son’s favourite type of writing was description (which came to even greater fruition a few years later in GCSE English Language writing; everything your child learns is leading them to greatness), so he loved finding new adjectives and verbs to help him with this. My daughter loved the games more than the writing, but still ended up knowing and being able to use her words very competently! Either way, it kept us laughing and having fun while learning. This made it easier to spend more time together learning; ultimately, she learned more. (I don’t say this to gloat that teaching her was easy; it wasn’t. Most of the time, it was more like guerrilla tactics. I had to helicopter in, teach her something, then get out before she realised I had taught her something, as she was quite a rebel. (I love you, dear daughter, you know that!)

I love dice. I have yet to teach anyone who doesn’t get carried away by the gaming transformation and potential of this most portable of friends. You can take dice anywhere you want to go and learn. Better still, keep one in your pocket or pencil case. Few people want to read lists; nearly everyone loves to play games.

If you found this post helpful, please share with friends, family and colleagues; you never know who might be looking for help. Please visit www.11plushappy.com for more posts, as well as niche, bespoke, ebook information targeting your child’s success in the 11plus.

Start learning, stay learning, stay 11plushappy!

Lee, London.

11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle

A huge hello to you as we move into autumn. How is your child’s eleven-plus learning? This is a very small post to let you know that this 4-book bundle deal is now available to help all children, parents, families, teachers and tutors. It replaces the summer learning bundle and contains the same thorough preparation pack, but at an even better price.

Please do visit and review to see how it suits your needs.

I’ll be back with my next proper post in the next few days. I’ve been busy helping students with final preparations for the Sutton Test which took place yesterday.

If your child was involved in that test, remember to keep the foot on the learning pedal and focus on creative writing this week. Don’t wait for the result of stage 1; you have to assume your child was successful and use this week to make crucial progress in creative writing skills. If you wait a week, you’ll never recover the time to learn.

The very best in effort and luck to all children.

Welcome to the 11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle.

One week of summer holiday 11+ learning left!

This is it, superhero – one week left. You have a gift of time to dedicate to your child’s grammar school preparation. Keep going, keep going! Are you continuing to find gaps in your child’s knowledge and skills? Are you continuing to focus on each one as you discover it, and explore all possible ways to help your child learn it? Are you smiling and loving the adventure?

Excellent.

In this last week, it’s time to take full advantage of time and put in four hours a day. Include a maths & English test, or a VR or non-VR test – anything your child will have to do on any one day. That will help them manage time, energy and focus, as well as giving their brains a chance to swap between the subjects they will be tested on on in the real exam. It may also be worth getting them to sit the tests on the morning and the afternoon to simulate the real thing – you are not normally given a choice of time, you will be allocated a time that could be a.m. or p.m. Best prepare.

Figuring this out as a parent, I spread my net wide as to where I found and used resources. I used as many as I could find and afford. I bought books: Bond, Ae, letts, CGP – I would have loved to have bought my own books on how to sit multiple choice tests, rather than just sit them, as well as the eleven plus centred writing manuals, but they didn’t exist at the time, which is why I ended up writing them, to fill the gaps that existed for me; practice tests from websites and amazon; used sites like TES and primary resources for amazing free teacher resources, trawled the web for challenging and different ways to learn; subscribed to maths sites like ixl, as well as using general websites like parentsintouch, theschoolrun and youtube (monitored).

So…over to you. What will you read and do with your child this week? What progress do they need to make? Remember, you don’t have to know everything deeply beforehand – you can learn together with the spirit of adventure. I used to say to my son and daughter that I wasn’t sure I knew everything or anything about percentages, algebra, how to emotionally move someone in writing, etc., but I was very excited to learn together how to figure it out and practise it until I did. Seeing it as a shared learning journey can sometimes help your child relax – if you’re willing to try, then they can be, too. There’s no problem with not knowing because you can learn it and then you will know it. The only danger is not knowing what you don’t know. This is why finding those gaps and celebrating them is so important.

Make the most of your last week of summer holidays – when it’s all over, you’ll know it was worth it. Education changes lives.

Stay learning, stay 11plushappy, Lee

11 Plus Happy! – 88 Essential Grammar School Steps you and your child MUST do Now is free for 5 days on kindle!

YES! YES! YES! It’s free! Please, if you are serious about helping your child to 11 plus success, read my first book for free for a very limited time. Amazon lets authors offer their books once for 5 days in every 90 days. Tomorrow, 15th August, to celebrate A-level results day – begin with the end in mind – those 5 days start. Please don’t wait, it’s never too early to have information – you just don’t want to be too late. Please share this news with anyone you think might benefit. I hope you find practical steps, practical value, that actually makes a difference to your daughter or son’s education.

If you’re a tutor, this is absolutely for you too. I wrote this and my other books as both a parent and a teacher/tutor, and would love this book and my others to serve as a useful bridge between you, your students and their families. Families – you are everything. Nothing happens without you, without your support, motivation, persistence and love.

The dream is to get your child into a grammar school, preferably their first choice. As I say in the book, the first step to making that dream come true is to stop seeing it as a dream and start seeing it as a goal, to be achieved with steps, lots of learning, time and lots of smiles.

When you’ve read it, please get in touch and let me know your favourite step, or if there’s a step that’s not clear. I look forward to helping you in your dream goal. Remember, you can get it free from 15th August for 5 days.

Start learning, stay learning, stay 11 plus happy!

Lee https://11plushappy.com/

Do you really, really believe your child will succeed in the 11 Plus exam?

Good morning, 11plus families and all those supporting them.

Quick question?

Are you visualising your child’s success in the entrance test?

Seriously, do you believe it can happen? It’s vital you do and here’s the most important reason why –

if you fully believe it can happen, even will happen, then you will DO MORE, TAKE MORE ACTIONS to make it happen. Which is, of course, the single best thing you can do to make it happen. 


When I was teaching my daughter, a lot of me was quite worried. It was a horrible feeling, which I know led to tension and me picking at my daughter. I was thankfully able to catch myself doing that and I changed my approach completely.

I used to run daily before tutoring, sometimes out at 5 a.m. to make sure I had time to teach the hours I knew she needed. Here’s the thing – at the end of every run, the last half mile, I played the same scene over and over again of the head teacher of the grammar school we were aiming for shaking my daughter’s hand and saying: “Well done, welcome to Nonsuch.” ( Both my children did the sutton test.)
Every run. I know it inspired me to do more, to work harder to find things in English and Maths that she didn’t know, so we could learn them together. The picture became a promise – I had the successful outcome so clearly that it was as if I gave myself no wiggle room, no possibility of not doing everything I could. I couldn’t let down my own vision.
The funny thing is we did a lot more learning, but with less tension and more fun. This is when I started really thinking about the idea of 11plushappy! as a way to help both my daughter and I enjoy the process and enjoy being excited about the idea of achieving the goal. It was the approach that led me to write the 11 plus books on my website. It was much less to do with fear-based “What if she doesn’t?” scenarios and much more to do with “How amazing would it be if she did/will it be when she does?” 


I encourage anyone reading this who has embraced the 11 plus challenge to really see it happening for your child, and let the vision motivate you to add in the extra learning time required to give the best chance of that outcome.

All in is the only way to be.

I say this a lot, but someone else probably said it first!


Have an amazing day of learning. Best, Lee

Do the keyword dance: How to use (and not use) keywords to answer multiple choice comprehension questions

PLEASE READ THIS – YOUR CHILD’S 11 PLUS SUCCESS MAY DEPEND ON IT.

Forgive the capitals and the warning, but I’m writing this immediately after a teaching session, in which my very capable student learned a hack and then did something unexpected that your child must not do!

To set the context, I’m including the entire hack here, so you can teach your child and understand the Keyword Dance fully. You’ll hopefully see this is a very practical step that your child can actually do on their own, once you have looked at it together. This is Happy Hack 12 from the instantly downloadable book, Grammar School Success in Multiple Choice English – 59 Easy Ways to Score High in your 11 Plus English Exam. It’s also on kindle at amazon,

as well as being part of a summer learning deal at less than half price.

At the end of the hack, we’ll discuss the unexpected thing my student did. To be clear,

keywords are important words in the question

that tell you exactly what the question wants to look for. Once you have identified these (I show you how in the book, in a separate hack), you have something to look for. Okay, here’s your hack…

Happy Hack 12:

Back and forwards, back and forwards

Do the Keyword Dance!

No, not the keyboard dance, the keyword dance. Get off your computer now, silly.

After you’ve read and spotted and underlined keywords in the question and the writing, do the Keyword Dance as you attack each question.  Here’s how:

1. Find the question keyword or phrase in the passage.

2. Read the whole sentence the word is in.

3. Read a sentence or two before it (Back).

4. Read a sentence or two after it (Forwards).   

Doing this is sometimes enough to find the information you need to answer correctly.   

Say you want to answer the question:

Q. How do the people near the tiger feel?

a) Terrified.

b) Confused.

c) Happy.

d) Really tired because they’ve been running away from it all day.

Your gut, common sense brain might think terrified is the most appropriate answer – it’s a tiger after all. But wait, do the keyword dance.

You look for the word ‘tiger’. You find it. Great, but it doesn’t tell you enough yet. Read before and after to find out about the special world this word lives in.

Is the tiger in a zoo? In the wild? About to eat its lunch? Shopping in Asda? Only a pretend tiger, really it’s your teacher dressed up for charity? This will make a huge difference to your answer. 

What happens if the Keyword Dance doesn’t work?

Relax.  

Maybe the keyword is in more than one place. You’d expect to find the word ‘tiger’ a few times in an article about tigers, wouldn’t you? Maybe the first place you find it is telling you what tigers eat. Not what you are looking for.

Just look for the keyword somewhere else, along with other keywords in the question. In the question above, we could be looking for the word ‘near’ as well, or a phrase like it, e.g. close to.

TIP: Quite often, we need two keywords to be together to find the right answer.

This is one way the answers try to trick you, by giving you one keyword and hoping it will turn you into a Rushie.

No, thank you.

Each time you find the keyword or words, do the dance – before the word, after the word, then the sentence before, the sentence after, occasionally two sentences before and after. 

It’s only one hack of many, yet it’s one of the most helpful in finding the info you need to answer the question.  

…Okay, welcome back to the blog post. You can see that keywords are amazingly helpful. In the lesson I was giving this morning, we were rehearsing a couple of hacks, one of which was the Keyword Dance. The question asked why the bay was good for fishing boats. The paragraph that we were asked to look at had lots of info about types of fish, types of boats, types of fishermen, as well as info on the weather and time of day. My student explored the paragraph twice, but was adamant that he couldn’t find the answer.

Why? This is what he did – he didn’t look even once for the keyword: bay. He was confused by all the info, felt there was too much, became sidetracked with the similarity of fishing boats with fisherman and fish, and was thrown off course by the weather info.

I asked him to go back to the question. What was the one word that was most important – what did the question actually want him to know? He looked again: “Aaah, BAY!” he yelled. Immediately, he found that word, which only appeared once in the paragraph, did the keyword dance and found the answer – the bay was sheltered.

So simple, if you actually use the hack. If you actually look for the keywords. Otherwise, you’ve wasted seconds underlining keywords that can’t help you even though they want to because you don’t use them.

Two large, lovely lessons from today that absolutely work as a team:

  • Teach your child the Keyword Dance. Practise it in your practice papers.
  • Children – USE IT. Actually look for the words that matter. You are not trying to answer a random question – the questions are very specific. Find the keywords in the question you are answering and find them again in the text. The answer will be there, promise!

Was this blog post helpful? You can sign up to the blog for free to keep yourself informed of more tips. There are lots more (58 more, as you will have worked out from the title of the book!) happy hacks waiting to help your child reach their highest mark in Grammar School Success in Multiple Choice English – 59 Easy Ways to Score High in your 11 Plus English Exam. You can buy it alone, or as part of the crazy summer learning deal, which gives you all four books in the series for better than half-price.

Thank you for investing your time in these words and thank you for nurturing your child’s Great Eleven Plus Moment!

Stay happy, Lee

Know when to take a break – when 11 plus learning gets too much…

I know – we have to keep up daily learning with our children, especially over the summer holidays, if we are to reach our goal of running out of things our child doesn’t know by the time the exam comes round. In fact, you may never actually need the kind of break I’m talking about.

Have you ever found yourself in a head to head argument with your child over doing their learning? You set them a task and they dig their heels in, or cry, or have a tantrum. Ordinarily, they are fine at studying – they go along with the recommended hours, they have bought in to the whole project of giving it everything – but today, in that moment, rebellion breaks out. Does this sound familiar? If it does, there are two tips that may be worth trying. I didn’t know about these before teaching my daughter; I had to learn them to keep us both sane in those…moments!

Teaching the child that you care for is, at times, a very intense experience for both grown-up and child. You have so much invested in their success, you love them so much, it can be hard to know when to step back.

Okay, I admit, I’m talking about how it was for me and I’m imagining it might be the same for you, at least occasionally. Due to that intensity, to the commitment to the goal of giving everything to the process, I found it hard to deviate from the timetable I created. This was noble, brave and mostly effective. However, it was also at times born out of fear and panic that if I let the moment slip, the time would never come back (true), meaning I might not be able to teach her everything she needed to know. Regardless, there are moments when you have to take control of the situation and think long term, not get caught up in the panic of the moment. So here are two strategies I’d absolutely recommend you try to keep your happiness, sanity, relationship and progress intact and healthy.

1. Acknowledge from time to time that it’s true, it is hard/annoying/tiring/ boring/ taking a lot of time – use your child’s language, the word they have used to describe the situation. Then, use AND to bring them back to continuing with it, rather than using ‘but’ or something stronger like ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘I don’t care’.

Examples:

  • “Yes, it is taking a lot of time AND as soon as we’re finished and sure we’ve learned how to calculate the area and perimeter of a circle, we’re going for a swim.”
  • “It’s true, it can be tiring to focus on a whole test AND it’s true that it’s also really helping us reach the top mark, isn’t it?”

The ‘and‘ can diffuse small grumbles and truly help your child understand the purpose of a session. You can even teach them to use it themselves, so they learn that even when we do feel a bit grumbly, we can still be brilliant learners and give ourselves the best chance. They might develop a phrase to keep themselves going: “I’m tired and I’m continuing, I’m tired and I’m still focusing,” or something similar. You can have fun with it: “Yes, I’m snappy, and I’m 11plushappy!”

There may be times when ‘and‘ isn’t enough. If a tantrum is breaking out, or you feel you are about to yell at them how important this all is, etc., then try tip 2:

2. STOP. Smile, put down the pencil and completely change the subject or do something else for 5 minutes, perhaps for as long as half an hour. It’s important (and difficult!) to be relaxed about this.

Control the moment and you can take away the fuel of the anger/upset. (The fuel may be panic, fear, frustration, or just simple reluctance.) Go play football for a moment, do some exercise, challenge them to a handstand competition or draw a picture together. Grab a drink and biscuit or fruit, go for a walk. You can make this explicit sometimes, letting your child know you’ve recognised you are heading the wrong way:

“Oh, look, this is funny, we’ve both got cross faces, let’s have a silly face competition for a minute.”

“Ahh, I’ve just remembered, we need a five-minute silly noise break, look at us – we’ve forgot how much we love each other.”

Or you can just action the break.

“Let’s have ten minutes to draw.”

“Time out – see you in ten minutes.”

Recognising how you are both feeling – this is about you as well – can be so helpful in getting the learning back on track. When angry or rebelling or upset, it’s unlikely that teaching and learning will be the best anyway. The brain is not as good at taking information in when upset as it is when smiling and relaxed. A short break in an intense moment can give you the space to breathe out and relax, resetting the mind, which could mean that when you come back, you could both end up doing far more than you intended. This last point is worth remembering. If you stop for ten minutes, it doesn’t mean you lose those ten minutes. You can subtly add them on to the session when you come back.

Step 2 is not for using all the time; you won’t need it all the time. Mostly, step 1 can help you keep on track. But nevertheless, there are key moments when you can learn to see you are both getting wound up. During every second of an argument, no learning is happening anyway! So knowing when to walk away for 5 minutes, change the subject or activity for a few minutes (“Oh, I’ve just remembered, you need tickling.”), to allow you a route out of the argument, is a really helpful tool when you remember that you are involved in a learning marathon.

Hopefully, you won’t need these tips much, but if you recognise any part of our discussion above as being true to your own situation, then I hope and and stop provide you with two more ways to continue helping your child reach for the stars and be the superhero that the 11+ student really is.

Found this helpful? Please share and visit https://11plushappy.com/ for more ways to help your child. You can sign up to receive new posts, grab a free course on micro-managing time during learning and the 11 plus exam itself, or take advantage of a better-than-half-price summer learning ebook bundle deal.

Thank you for nurturing your child’s 11 plus opportunity. Have an amazing, fun day of learning together.

Best, Lee

Crazy 11 plus summer learning ebook bundle deal at last!

Good morning, 11+ families! Here we are, already at the end of the first week of the holidays. How is your journey? I hope you and your child have managed to find the 10-15 hrs to devote exclusively to 11 plus learning, and that progress is being made. To anyone who has downloaded and is using the happyhacks English 11 plus range of ebooks, I truly hope you can see shape and fluency developing in your child’s writing. I also hope the multiple choice hacks are hot-wiring your child’s recognition of the traps all tests play, while giving them helpful strategies and tricks to beat the tests at their own game and score high.

The purpose of this post is really to let you know I have at last managed to put together a better than half price bundle deal for all 4 required books in the series. I’m sorry it’s taken so long; 11plushappy! is not a big company, it’s just me – a teacher who can’t stop teaching, even in the holidays! If you have been browsing the books and are wondering if they can help, I really hope you’ll dive in now. They are stuffed with hours of learning; hundreds of tricks, strategies and writing must-haves to help your child superboost their learning and be amongst the best prepared on the day.

With the bundle deal, all 4 books are now yours for immediate download for less than half the price of buying them individually, and less than one hour of tuition!

Why has it taken me so long? Simply, I’m learning to create a digital life in between teaching and tuition. I’m a teacher and writer, not a marketer, but I’m learning that when you have something you know can help children and parents, you also have to learn to shout about it, so children and parents can actually get the help. WordPress, who host this little site you’re reading now, have patiently, finally, guided me to completion.

All the learning can now be yours.

So, a plea. If you are now ready to put the effort in and really make a difference to your child’s 11 plus chances (which you are), especially in this 6-week gift of time we call the summer holidays, please visit the store and choose the crazy summer learning bundle deal. You are free to download and print any part of any book, however you choose to help your child. If you’d like to browse through what’s in each book, you can read the ‘Look inside’ section of each book on amazon, where you can also pick up the books if you prefer to read on a kindle.

Thank you for letting me tell you about books to help your child. Time is short, there is much to do. I know they can help. Our son, now 18, is awaiting A level results that will allow him to take up his offer of a place at Oxford. Whatever happens, for us as parents, my wife and I, as well as our son, know that offer may never have happened without his incredible grammar school education showing him the way.

Discover for yourself the difference the happy hacks can make to your child’s 11 plus learning, and wherever today’s learning is taking place – in a cafe, on a beach, at the kitchen table, on a train – I hope you and your child have an incredible, fun day of happy learning together.

Stay 11plushappy!

Lee

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.

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