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.

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.

The Same Word War…or a brand new game to play with your child

I’m right in the middle of sending some lovely learning to an online student when BANG…a new idea comes for a game, so I’m sharing it with you straight away. You will probably play it before us, as we are not skype-meeting until Friday. It’s amazing to think an idea might spread into the Learning Living-rooms of the world!

Words are slippery.

Some words can be nouns, some words can be verbs, while others still can be adjectives. Meanwhile, hundreds of words can be all of these word types and more.

They change form, become shape-shifting tricksters that turn up in multiple choice papers. For instance, which of these is the odd one out?

cut slice rip tear crevice crack

Only word-types will save you here! They are all nouns or verbs, except crevice, which is just a beautiful noun.

So…a game to play. First, choose a number that is on a dice you have. (You can use an online dice if you don’t have one to hand.) We’ll come back to this number shortly.

  1. Choose 10 words each that can be more than one word type. I found a wide selection here:

Or here: https://onweb3.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/663/

This site has a huge list of sentences that show the words in their different roles.

2. Write them as two lists. You don’t have to choose the same words. You could choose a word one at a time to prevent this, or make up a fun rule that if you both have the same word, you both have to do a bird impression or a press up if one of you lands on it- it’s totally up to you!

3. Roll a dice. (Lots of variations: 6-9 sided dice, 2 dice and 12 words, etc.)

4. Count down the list to the word. (Keep going down and up the list, or chart your own path, like jumping in 3s.)

5. Both of you write sentences that use your word in different ways. E.g. call as a noun and a verb. First to finish both sentences wins a point.

6. Remember your special number from the start? If you roll that number, you have a chance to battle for one of your opponent’s words.

7. Let’s say you choose your opponent’s word clean. Each of you write in secret, behind your hand, a sentence using that word in any way you want.

8. If you both use the word as the same word type in your sentences, e.g. as an adjective (Water is a lovely drink when clean; Auntie’s car was incredibly clean.), you win the word from your opponent.

9. But…if it is different, your opponent can choose one of your words and battle for it.

When that battle has played out, you continue taking turns to roll.

Your winner could be:

  • the first person to have all the words;
  • the first person to win 3 words;
  • the person with the most words after 5-10 minutes. (Quite useful for keeping pace and also stopping the game running on.)

What’s the point of the game?

  • Fun.
  • Relationship building.
  • Secret learning about words that are more than one word type, which could help in multiple choice language tests or comprehension.
  • A warm-up to a writing lesson in which these multi-jobbing, slippery words are used on purpose to practise.
  • A springboard to creating more games between you.
  • A quick learning boost when there are 10 minutes to spare. Note: I challenge you to keep a dice close at hand throughout your child’s childhood. They are portable learning legends!
  • Writing practice. You could set extra rules around the types of sentence you use. For example, your sentences need to be compound or complex, not simple. This reduces the risk of writing an over-easy sentence in order to finish writing first!
  • The game element could make the learning more memorable. We often remember more of what is unusual. Think of a crowded street of people in ordinary clothes, among which strolls a lady in a yellow and purple suit, two golden walking sticks, one silver shoe and one welly which is filled with water. Who do you think you might remember from that street?
  • If it’s fun, it can grow enthusiasm for the next learning session. You can repeat the game – your child might even ask to play it again, perhaps with a different rule. Sometimes, if a child is initially reluctant to start a learning session, I simply say, “We’re going to play a game,” and begin. I don’t call it a learning session. The appearance of a dice can be magical! Games can help enormously with those moments, whether they come at the start or the middle of a lesson.

I’ve created an instant ebook bundle for you of targeted 11+ happy learning material to share and learn together with your child. Click here for 50% off until our precious children return to school.

“Grow wherever life puts you.”

Ben Okri

What is happening to the eleven plus exam? How to name and get rid of your worries about the 11+ . (The write way to worry!)

A conversation with a close friend, who is worrying about their daughter’s 11 plus in these difficult times, has prompted this post.

In truth, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen. We can predict, though, that something will happen. Either the tests will be rearranged, postponed, or a new system will be temporarily introduced. The first two of these are most likely; the third is not impossible to imagine. Schools could re-open earlier or later than we could predict, with the likelihood of some form of social distancing in place. It is, quite honestly, a horrible situation for our children, and for us, their carers and educators, who want to to do the best for them.

Simply, it is a reminder that we cannot control all events. We never have been able to. The current situation just makes this very, very obvious. Perhaps less obvious is the idea that this is okay, that not controlling all events does not mean we cannot control any events.

It is not, I think, about doing the right or wrong thing. No one knows enough. Instead of right or wrong, far better to think in terms of helpful or unhelpful. What is a helpful thing to do now? How can we help our children? This question opens up a world of opportunity and the realisation that there is so, so much we can do.

For me as a dad and as a teacher, two of the most helpful things we can do are:

  1. Continue to allow them to study for the 11 plus. Continue to support them, continue to find resources and use them, over time, to make deliberate improvements in skills and knowledge, one by one, folding in new skills on top of practising old skills and knowledge.

Remember, this is helpful or unhelpful – not right or wrong. Although there are only around 4-5 months remaining before the typical 11plus entrance test season starts, your child possibly has a lot longer than that in terms of extra time through being at home and being able to spend more time focused on 11 plus learning. In effect, the extra time to spend on targeted learning each day means it is more as if they still had 6-8 months to prepare, simply because this time wouldn’t exist under normal conditions.

I’ve written before how holidays, particularly the summer holidays, are true gifts of learning for the time they create to learn undisturbed. I don’t mean your children should study 6-8 hours a day and do nothing else – that would be unhelpful! However, three hours a day, plus reading, leaves so much time for childhood, while also offering unrivalled moments of learning among the people they love most – you!

This is certainly no holiday. But if we are thinking helpful or unhelpful, then it is definitely a learning moment to seize.

2. If we must worry, and worry, it seems, we often must, then we can try and find a really helpful way of worrying, a way that actually leads to less worry and more learning. There is a way, it is very simple, and if you haven’t tried this already, I invite you 100% to try this. It is going to help a lot.

The ‘write way to worry’ means simply this: the right way to worry is to write.

Write down what YOU worry about, both in your own education, and in helping your child to get as ready as they can be for the entrance test.

Everything.

 Do you have gaps in your own learning? Are you worried about verbal reasoning or non verbal reasoning, possibly because, like me, until you start out on the grammar school journey, you’ve never heard of them? Do you worry about the effect of ‘pressure’ on your child? Are you unsure of what is in your chosen school’s particular test? Are you comparing your child to others?

Maybe you fear your maths isn’t good enough, or maybe it’s just one area – division, or percentages, for example.

 Is English your second language? Do you get spellings wrong? Would you worry about writing a letter?

 Getting your worries – all of them – down in writing (and don’t judge yourself on HOW you are writing down your worries!) might take you half an hour, an hour at the most (trust me, you’ll run out!)

But…

it will save you and your child weeks of time on your 11+ journey.

Please – do this. Remember, this is about helpful or unhelpful. Grab a piece of paper and get going. Think-writing is amazing at bringing thoughts up you didn’t even know you had, including worries you might be pretending are not there but are nevertheless holding you back from helping your child right now. Enjoy a good worry-write. My worries about my education/What I think I don’t know/What are my gaps?/What do I think I can’t help my child with?/What are my barriers to helping my child?

Done?

How do you feel? Worse, or relieved?

However you feel, shake your own hand for what you’ve just done.

 Why?

Because now you know that what you are worried about is what YOU are worried about.

 Your child is not worried about the same things, and you don’t have to pass on your worries to them. None of them. At all.

 Admit it, not knowing some things? It’s pretty normal. It applies to every human being on Earth, right? 

Not knowing we don’t know, refusing to accept we don’t know, or pretending we do know, can be a bit more risky to your child’s success: because of superinfluence, there’s a risk they will absorb your worries, or learn to believe it doesn’t matter if you don’t know some things.

In superinfluence, we’re only passing on the helpful stuff that actually supports their 11+ success. Well, now you know your worries, you can leave them behind or keep them with you.

So not passing on your worries, that’s one great result of writing them down and exploring them. Two more things to think about.

 A second benefit of getting your worries down is you’ll probably realise that a lot of the time, that’s all they are  – worries.

Not facts.

One of my worries at the time my daughter was preparing was non-verbal reasoning. I had an almost superstitious doubt (in that I had no evidence to support the worry, it was just fear) about my ability to see patterns and work with pictures. Rather than help my daughter, I worried I would actually make things worse for her. It stopped me covering the topic. I was a primary teacher, yet nowhere in the curriculum at the time was anything about non-verbal reasoning.

 Of course, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I hadn’t done it, so had never learned how to.  

Going through various books and website resources,step by step, at a pace right for both of us, my daughter and I learned the various types of shapes and sequences. Over time, our score in tests reached the level they needed to be. That would not have happened without time, and time would not have happened if I hadn’t admitted my worry months before.

The point is this: knowing you don’t know something is a strength because you can now find about it and learn it to a level that will help support your child. This is the third benefit of worrying in this helpful way. We can look at each worry objectively and take steps to deal with each and any step that moves our child’s learning forward. Isn’t that amazing?

It might help to bear in mind, too, that whatever you do not know, you are not expected to know anything a curious, interested 11 year old is not capable of learning.

That’s a helpful perspective to keep in mind.

This doesn’t mean that you wait until everything you worried about is dealt with, that you must be ready before you start helping your child – this will lose you time. You are never ready, you become ready by doing. There are actions that you can do to help right now. Pick one and do it. My science teacher, when I was at school (Hello, Mr Jackson) taught me one of the most helpful quotes I’ve ever heard: “Don’t worry, work.”

Perhaps the most common worry is the ‘What if..?’ kind.  What if they don’t get in? What if I miss something? What if they find it too hard? What if I ruin it for them? What if I show myself up and can’t understand the learning myself?

Nothing is guaranteed in life, but the possibility of things not working out is never an excuse for not striving for those things anyway.  Better results often come when you believe in something as if it is already a fact, and then work backwards to map out the plan to get to that reality.

I began my son’s 11+ journey with the end in mind – I already saw him getting in to his grammar school, and then worked backwards to find all the ways needed to get him to that truth. Did I have proof that it would happen? Not a chance!

 I didn’t know all the ways – I knew close to nothing. Instead, I believed that there were ways, and if there were ways, then I could find out what they were, learn them and follow them.

I invite you to do the same.  

One helpful tip to stay one step ahead of your child’s learning is to read through the lesson or part of a book or resource you’re going to use by yourself before reading through it with your child. In Bond, How to do 11+ Maths, for example, read the chapter on ratio before you teach them it.

 A week, an hour, even ten minutes is sometimes enough to grasp the general learning you’re about to cover. By the second or third time, as you read it with your child it will probably make sense.  Even if you don’t understand a concept completely, you can lead the situation confidently and honestly by saying,

 ‘Well, it looks tricky, but so did the other things and we worked on them, and we can do them now.’

Another tip is to do some of the work they do with them. If you are asking your child to practise writing an extended metaphor paragraph, then have a go at writing one as well. If you are showing them long division, have them give you questions to solve, or do the same questions your child is doing, modelling a couple, then hiding your answers and turning it into a game.

Thank you for teaching and nurturing your child, you are making a difference to the world.

If you are looking for help in multiple choice English or creative writing, I invite you to a 50% discount on the 11 Plus English Masterclass 4-book Ebundle, with immediate downloads available to save even more time. Enter ‘stay at home’ in the cart. The discount is good for any book, any purchase, until our precious children return to school.

Wherever your child is in their eleven plus journey, I hope they are safe, always making progress and remain in love with learning as much as ever. Education is amazing!

My very best, Lee Mottram