This is what a good 11plus routine looks like (but yours will look better)

HAPPY CLASSROOM 2: Making Use of Daily Time

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

John Dewey

Hang on, in our first post in this series we were talking superheroes and inspiration…now we’re talking routine?
What does routine have to do with being a superhero? Help your child see this – everything.
No finer a philosopher than Roman emperor Marcus Aurelias pointed out everything is a series of steps. Superhero Iron Man checked his equipment before using it. In fact, nearly all
his downtime was spent checking and refining, building new equipment and skills!
In today’s classroom, we realise that to stay true to educator John Dewey’s quote above,
we are committing to making education a large, joyful part of our daily lives. So what does time look like to an 11plus superhero? The answer may be both smaller and larger than you imagine: 10% of your child’s week, around 8% of your week.
Really?

Really.

Let’s start by making one thing clear: your child will not be studying all the time.


Play is not an option – it is crucial. They need it. (And anyway, play is learning.)
Exercise is crucial.
Laughter and friends are crucial.
Life is important – it doesn’t disappear.
You prioritise.


For example, for my neighbour’s son and ours, instead of playing all day at
weekends, both children studied in the mornings when they were at their freshest
and, as importantly, before anything else could distract them. (After that, they would
throw apples or toys to each other over the garden fence and play all afternoon.)
This is why most schools teach English and Maths in the morning.
Why not hack the habit of the professionals?

Let’s begin to sculpt a possible routine. If your job is not 9-5 (is anyone’s now?), please keep reading, this is going to work. It is about the hours and the focus for each hour, not when those hours are.

WEEKDAYS

1. Commit to one written/multiple choice test at least 3 weekdays. Switch
between the subjects your child will be tested on, whether English, maths, verbal or
non-verbal reasoning.
Use a wide selection of web, pdf and print-out/paper resources. For example, Bond
Assessment books, Schofield & Sims Mental Arithmetic books, exampapersplus, maths practice from a reputable site like ixl or piacademy. TES is another free-to-sign up resource
website for teachers, which you can register and use to access hundreds of amazing
lessons uploaded by teachers. TIME: 30-60 minutes x 3-5 days.

2. Another week-day task would be to read through and mind-map a handful of
short chapters from Multiple-Choice English for Grammar School Success,
to
allow your child to search for and beat specific traps hidden in English multiple choice questions and answers. When sitting a multiple-choice test, encourage your child to use the tips and hacks learned in the book to help them sit the test. Reading & mind-mapping: TIME: 30 mins.

3. A creative writing task, in which you deliberately choose to practise specific skills, is also an effective weekday learning behaviour. TIME: 20-60 mins.

4. Saturdays and Sundays: Two longer sessions in which you spend time on a couple of topics in depth, plus another writing exercise. (If your choice of school does not test creative writing, devote more time to the areas that will be tested.) My son and I used to go to a café, which we renamed as The Maths Café, where he would work through maths, comprehension and writing. Sometimes the café was the kitchen table; we even had it under the kitchen table. Make it fun: link it to pleasure and happiness. Your child will be glad to spend time with you. TIME: 2-3 hours each day with short breaks.

Shorter, weekly sessions give valuable practice at focusing and building the habit of learning.
This weekly routine also reveals:
✓ Topics not yet covered at school;
✓ Topics your child needs extra time and practice to understand.

Please note that first point above. Your child is going to be tested on areas
of maths and English that are often not taught until Y6, even though many tests
come at the start of Y6. Thus, another time truth is that your help and preparation
compresses time by introducing and teaching your child a handful of topics earlier
than the ordinary school calendar allows. The result is they learn more in less time.

By focusing on these gaps in your longer, weekend sessions together, in which you can share your fascination and confusion with a topic, as well as how much you are enjoying learning
it, what your child doesn’t know transforms into the next topic they are brilliant at! A
helpful attitude when blocks emerge is that yes, it’s tricky, and so was the last topic
we couldn’t do – and we can do that now.

An early challenge for my daughter was 2-step word problems; for my son it was
sorting out common homophones, particularly our/are and their/they’re. We identified
this during a week of assessments, then studied these areas in plenty of detail over
a month of weekends. We then repeated the weekly process to find more areas to
improve, while also checking to see if the topic we had just spent time on was now
easier to answer questions on.

Make sure you dip into more than one subject in your weekly sessions. Your child
needs to be developing across all 11+ subjects. It’s also vital to practise switching
between subjects because this is what happens in the real test, with a maths paper
followed by an English paper, or vice versa, on the same day.

Let’s look at a second example of a successful learning week, this time for Y5
children, perhaps from Spring 1 (January) onwards.

Monday: One or two long tests. Mark these on the day as part of the review; it will
help cement the learning and identify next-success focus areas. TIME: 45 minutes per
test, plus 15-20 minutes marking.

Tuesday: Choose one of the questions from last night’s test in which an error
happened. Now go through 2-3 books/websites and work only on that subject. Take
percentages as an example. Look at the percentages section of Bond – How To Do
11+ Maths, CGP KS2 Study Book & Question Book, CGP Year 6 Study Book for
New Curriculum, BBC Bitesize, TES, etc. TIME: 45-60 minutes.

Wednesday: Repeat this process for another question and another topic from
Monday’s test. TIME: 45-60 minutes.

Thursday: Choose another subject and do a long test. If you did English and maths
on Monday, do verbal or non-verbal today. Mark it on the same day, celebrate what
is known at the time, then note the tricky parts to focus on later. If you are mindful of
making your child feel happy for their effort and achievement, they are more likely to
agree to do more learning the next day. Feeling good feels good. TIME: 45-60 minutes.

Friday: Day off. (Really!)

Saturday: A longer session using books and websites on problem areas, plus one or
two long multiple choice or written tests. The aim? To close in on further weaknesses
so they become new strengths, show the learning achieved in the week, and
build stamina and speed for the real test. TIME: 3 hours with short breaks.

You may find previously difficult questions are now answered correctly with
understanding. If not, repeat the process, or log it and return to the subject in a
couple of weeks.

Sunday: Two long multiple choice or standard written papers, plus marking together,
plus a short teaching session on one identified topic. TIME: 2-3 hours with short
breaks.

EXTRA LEARNING SAUCE – SPACED LEARNING MINI-BITES.

Having to return to a subject a day or two later uses a different part of the brain than when we spend a long time on one subject, and can help with long term memory of concepts. SO, to mix it up, take a topic you learned, but instead of spending an hour on it, spend half an hour on helping your child understand the concept, then have them complete just 3-4 questions on this topic each day over four or five days, with perhaps a day off as part of this. E.g. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. This method gets round what psychologists call the ‘recency’ effect, whereby you think you will always remember what you are working on right now because it is familiar. In truth, we often forget. So having to remember the idea a day later, having to call up what we studied, makes that learning stronger. By the end of the 5 day period, your child’s learning could be so much stronger in that topic. Also, your child will be happy to only do 4 questions a day!

IMPORTANT: Does your child’s target school test creative writing? If so, encourage
and support your child to write 2-3 times a week during the summer holiday before
Y6.
The more they write, both fiction and non-fiction, the more information you will have to help them improve and the more they will have a feel for how long it takes to write the correct amount.
TIME: 40-60 minutes.

In terms of resources, I find it’s helpful to use as wide a variety as possible from different providers. You can’t be sure which explanation is going to hit home with your child, nor do you
know what the exact layout of a question will be, so exposure to multiple formats just
makes sense. Of course, if your school uses one provider for the tests, such as GL
or CEM, then you can use these formats in a lot of your rehearsal. Still, don’t rely on these exclusively.

HAPPY AND SECRET MEGA-SUCCESSFUL LEARNING TIP…
Make time at the end of a focus-lesson for your child to write one or two
questions in a topic they have been studying. For example, design their own
averages question for you to work out mean, mode, median and range.

Why does this help?
✓ It shines a light on what your child understands. It also shows you what you
know. Remember, it is okay to be learning with our children.
✓ It’s creative and fun. You can find the average number of spiders that fall in
school custard – anything.
✓ Creativity and fun will help your child engage and stay learning.
✓ It builds your personal and learning relationship.
✓ In thinking how questions are put together, your child learns what to look for in
a question. Where are the keywords? Which information is irrelevant? How
can the mathematical units be changed (e.g. mm to m) to trick a person?
✓ It’s double learning. Not only are they solving the questions you write, they
must also work out answers to their own questions to check if you are correct.
It’s buy-one-get-one free learning.
As a prompt, let your child know you are going to write one or more incorrect answers on purpose to see if they can find them. Equally, you could have your child play the same trick on you. I hope you see just how fantastic a teaching tool children’s own questions can be.
This routine is all very well, but what if you work weekends or nights?

Remember our picture from the beginning?

Does teh idea of finding a regular 11-lus learning routine for your child look like this?

Relax.
To be clear, a successful routine is about three things:

  1. The hours needed to embrace all topics successfully.
  2. The regularity and good habit-building helps rocket-boost learning by using
    spaced-time, by exposing your child to more moments of thinking about the
    topics, as well as by reducing time available for non-learning poor habits like
    purposeless internet browsing.
  3. A crucial balance between practice/gap-finding sessions and longer sessions on a single subject.
    Swap days and times as you need to.
    Build a routine honestly around your life and there’s more chance of it working.
    If you work weekends, but are around during the week, then do longer sessions after
    school.
    It adds up to approximately 10 hours a week. In the summer holiday, expand this to
    3 hrs a day, around 18 hrs a week, with a day off. 18 out of 168 hours in a week is just north of 10%.

Over to you. Take time to digest this post. You may wish to mindmap the ideas and reflect on your version of a routine that works for you. Do note that it is quite likely you will have to make some adjustments to your ‘normal’ family routine, but then you know that, because you already know education is life – it is why you are committing to the 11plus adventure for your child in the first place. Please share your alternative routines and let me know if I have missed anything you feel should be included.

See you next time for the third post in our series on how time can help your child get the most of their 11 plus learning.

Start learning, stay learning, stay 11plushappy!

Lee, London.

7 happy ways time can help your child pass the 11+

Originally, I spoke about ‘using’ time. However, life and learning have moved on. Thanks to books like Oliver Burkeman’s incredible 4000 Weeks, I’m rethinking my relationship with time. Rather than seeing it as a resource to use and consume, it’s perhaps wiser to see it as an ally. Together, you and time can make a huge difference to your child’s learning path, and thus, massively increase their chances of success at your dream school.

Everything we do depends on time. Everything we do, we do in time.
Often, a task we don’t do or don’t complete is because we run out of time. As often, we run out of time not because the end was too far away to reach, but because we started late. The end was always there; the beginning was lost.
This is never more so than when preparing for and passing tests. What you are about to read – combined with the time you take to read it, make notes and DO it – DO time – is going to transform your child’s learning and results. Starting today.
Time is on your side, but it seems to have two opposing energies within it. Realise:
✓ How creative it can be;
✓ How perishable it is.
Every second is single-use; we can’t use yesterday’s time, today’s time, or tomorrow’s time, ever again. Like an apple, time doesn’t last, but like an apple, it doesn’t need to. The goodness comes from crunching on it while it is ripe.

HAPPY WARNING: Much of this is learning for you. It’s learning you will put into practice with the child you are brave enough and wonderful enough to be helping. Filter the information in a way that is playful, fun and stress free. Always make children believe they can do lots, learn lots and grow lots.

For they can and do.

A total growth mindset.
Instead of worrying about running out of time or having no time, or complaining of wasting time, you may frame time, personify it as a friend or teacher or special power – whichever model or metaphor speaks to your child. Embed what follows over the next 7 days of blogs (please come back to keep up) into a regular, happy learning routine. (John Lamerton’s amazing book, Routine Machine, changed my life on living routines.) Over time, each time skill should become a natural, background time-habit, a pattern of thinking and action that becomes instinctive for you both. Be playful and adapt the 7 ways for your own child. Some children pick up strategies and put them into practice quickly, while others need to rehearse the ideas and action several times. Both responses are fine. Each child is different. It’s why I absolutely love tutoring 1:1 – finding the path that works for each child is incredibly rewarding.

So, welcome to the 11plushappy School of Time! An 8 day blogfest that I hope helps you prepare yourself and your child for the path ahead.

Happy Classroom 1: The Superhero Moment of the 11 Plus

“They cannot stop me. I will get my education, if it is in the home, school, or any place.”

Malala Yousafzai

The 11 Plus may be your child’s first superhero moment. A first – and ongoing – task is to enthuse both you and your child into seeing this. To get 100% behind the adventure.
Encourage them to feel excited about the all-or-nothing opportunity that the preparation and entrance tests represent.

Yes, both the exam and the preparation are all-or-nothing opportunities. You can’t do one without the other. An exam without preparation is a car without wheels.


As a dad in the playground, I remember loving parents speaking about letting their child ‘just have a go’ at the 11+ on the day, without ‘all those boring months of doing papers’. Perhaps they felt either their child was smart enough, or else might be lucky enough on the day. They were also against forcing their children to do extra learning. I said nothing, but my feeling back then – as it is now – was that this approach just couldn’t be right.

After happy years of teaching, I am certain it isn’t right.

Of course, you should rightly consider your child bright, but it still doesn’t add up that you would ask your child to sit a test without preparing for a test. Your child may be a Ferrari, but a Ferrari without wheels is a Ferrari without wheels: it’s not going far. Which car would win a race? A 2020 Ferrari without wheels or a 2000 Yaris with wheels? Preparation=wheels! (I love my Yaris.)

You might wish to cut the following three sentences out and stick them where your
child will see them daily: next to your child’s bed, on the fridge (even in the fridge!),
perhaps the car dashboard if you drive to school.

“You can’t save the world when you feel like it –
you can only save the world when it needs saving!
You can’t sit the test when you feel like it –
you can only sit the test on the day it happens, at the time you’re given.
You can’t prepare for the test when you feel like it –
you can only prepare now!”

There is no later, there is now.


Better still, invite your child to copy the sentences with coloured pens or pencils and design their own poster to display. Write them inside a unicorn speech bubble or draw each word as if it has been built from Lego…whatever they love to look at is best.


The 11 Plus, handled right, is not pressure, it is adventure. It is not forcing, it is freeing. A chance for your child to influence their own future; a chance for you to influence your child’s future. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get involved with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
At its heart is the love and joy of learning.
It is a series of fizzy wow moments as your child figures something new out, which runs parallel to becoming more confident and empowered by rehearsing knowledge and skills they have already. Make it fun, give them lots of specific genuine praise, and be amazed by how much they grow and come to know. You are teaching your child that they can and should think big, that they are capable of giving everything.
Yes, true, heroes may not always win – but they are winners.
Giving everything to something that matters when it matters makes you a winner, doesn’t it? It’s always possible that in whatever you do, you may not get the result in the end, but it is certain you will not get the result if you do not try with everything you have.

As much as possible, you need to be willing to be your own guarantee.
Teach your child to see and believe this, and to work accordingly in order to make it true. When I was out jogging, around the time of helping my daughter prepare, for 6 months I visualised her getting the letter of admission into grammar school as I ran my last 300 metres. That visualisation helped me out so many times when my daughter and I hit learning blocks. It also prepared me to be calm and happy in the next learning session, even if the last one hadn’t gone too well, which it often didn’t.
By trying, by going for it, your child learns to hold their head up high. You are allowing them to build coping skills, passion skills and belief skills. Do not deny the truth of this message: the strongest way to make time work with you is to realise and accept now that this is a true superhero moment. Grab a book and dive in. Make five extra minutes to learn something together and you increase your child’s chances. Increase the minutes and you further increase those chances.

What will you start with?
Times tables? Why not declare your house a T.T.E.Z. (Times Tables Emergency Zone) until they’re all known? Tables help with fractions, division, percentages, word problems…and multiplication. Put up posters declaring the emergency and have quick, spontaneous meetings under the kitchen table to rehearse the 7 times table, or behind the sofa to rehearse the 12 times tables and their division facts.
How about spelling? For example, do they know the rules for turning reply into replies is:
Swap y for i, then and add -es on to words ending in a consonant + y? (Whereas, just add ‘s’ if it’s a vowel + y? Think key to keys.) Is there one spelling pattern that trips them up regularly? Focus on that with fun and encouragement. Be fascinated when you learn something.
Remember: you can only prepare now. Today. See you tomorrow for Happy Classroom 2.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a 9-step video guide to help you both prepare for Story Continuation Success in creative writing.

Lee, London, September 2022

You and your child will LOVE this model of an 11plus-level story – AND the full explanations of EVERY feature

Hi, Dear Parent,

Okay, so this is a large, educational, 11plus super-booster of a video packed, crammed and brimming with writing techniques your child can start using now! SHOW them an example of what successful writing looks like.

Huge buzzing announcement that this will soon be part of a full video course on creative writing, but right now, it’s here, free and available to watch, learn and succeed with.

This will help you think ahead for your next shared learning session together.

From Kingston Grammar to St Paul’s Girls, children are doing their superhero magic and being offered places using these ideas. Join them now!

Stay learning, stay 11plushappy! Your child can do this!

Happy teaching and learning,

Lee, London

70% off 11plus English 4-ebook Masterclass bundle

The Masterclass Ebook 11plus English Masterclass series gives you immediate access to all 4 books in the series at a 70% saving

I know, know, know these books can help you and your child as you prepare for 11plus success!

Blessed to hear today that students have passed not only grammar school tests, but top, independent London schools. However small a role the thoughts, plans and actions in the books may have contributed, we are often only looking for the smallest of margins.

Please take a look and grab your bundle now. I’m cutting prices as low as I can to keep living – I am a one-person microbusiness and passionately committed tutor and writer – in the hope the saving will inspire you to allow these books to start helping your child today.

I love teaching, I love being a parent…please let me help you. Whether you are a parent or tutor, take 70% off the cost of your investment in your children. Spend the rest on them as a reward for their efforts.

My best to you and the children in your educational care,

Lee,

London 2022

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I know, know, know these books can help you and your child as you prepare for 11plus success. Blessed to hear today that students have passed not only grammar school tests, but top, independent London schools. However small a role the thoughts, plans and actions in the books may have contributed, we are often only looking for the smallest of margins.

Please take a look and get copies of these books now.

I’m cutting prices as low as I can to keep living – I am a one-person microbusiness and passionately committed tutor and writer – to push you to take action and include these in your child’s learning journey. I love teaching, I love being a parent…please let me help you.

Whether you are a parent or tutor, take 70% off the cost of your investment in your children. Spend the rest on them as a reward for their efforts.My best to you and the children in your educational care.

Lee, London, 2022

What are you looking for in English as an 11 plus parent?

Good evening. A very quick one to help you get to the point. I can talk a lot, but what’s the point if I don’t know who I’m talking to? Blogs are strange; I would never talk and talk to someone I met. I love to listen. I gain a better understanding and I grow as a person. Yet the blogging I find myself doing, perhaps the blogging architecture itself, seems to be more about talking than listening.

It’s not sitting comfortably this evening. I started blogging as a parent before a tutor. I grew into a tutor from being a parent convinced and convicted by the wish…the belief…the hunch…the vision…whatever you call it, that grammar schools in my area were the right fit for my children. My son was obsessed with learning, my daughter was obsessed with questioning and demanding answers I was at times unable to give. I felt, after visiting, after discussing, after watching our neighbour’s child love his experience, that it was worth finding out everything about, doing everything I could to make it happen, and most important of all, believing that it could happen.

Back to you. You are, I imagine, a parent or carer of a young child, and you are thinking of, or planning for grammar school. If you are a tutor reading this, then all I can say is thank you for looking after your students – we each have the privilege of changing lives wherever we can. We are, child by child, parent by parent, striving to help the world.

As a parent or carer, then, what would you like to know about 11 Plus English? What do you worry about? What would you like to open a blog post about and find the answer to?

Do you have a question?

You can contact me here at lee@11plushappy.com or comment on this blog.

I wish your child success.

Lee, London

June 2021

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Save up to £30 on these targeted creative writing and comprehension book bundles. You don’t need more papers, you need proven ways to teach your child to dazzle their 11plus marker and develop writing skills that last a lifetime.

Get ahead, get saving, get learning, get 11plushappy!

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