Help Your Child Practise Story Continuation With Something You Already have In Your House…

9 story continuation tips for 11 plus entrance tests

We know story continuation is a popular choice for independent school 11plus exams, so let’s give your child as much help as we can. In the last post, you looked at a video guiding you through 9 vital, mini ‘must-haves’ of story continuation. I include the video again here, but now also wish to point you to a fantastic way to practise this with something you already have in your house.

Of course, you’ll be using sample exam papers from a range of resources, with story extracts and instructions to continue the story in a range of ways. Doubtless, these are excellent support. BUT…there’s another fantastic tool; the secret sauce – or secret source – you already have in your house.

BOOKS.

  1. Take a book you or your child already have on your bookshelf. Depending on the stage or age of your child, vary between simpler and more complex writing.
  2. Open the book and choose a page or two for you both to read. Chapter endings with mini-cliffhangers work well, as do chapter starters, but really, any 2 pages with a scene that can be developed will work.
  3. Point to the sentence you’d like your child to continue from: the moment a door is knocked; when a character is found out doing something they shouldn’t; the beginning of a difficult conversation; the moment a question is asked, and so on.
  4. Decide a focus for the piece. For example: ‘Continue Nirvana’s journey up the mountain as night falls’; ‘Write what happens when Arthur opens the magic cloud. Try to continue in the same style as the author.’
  5. Decide how long you want the writing to be and the time given to write it.
  6. Ask your child (you could model this with them the first couple of times) to read the text and search out the 9 elements shown in the Whizz-Bang story continuation rockets video.
  7. Repeat with a range of books. If you choose a mix of classic old children’s books alongside modern texts, the added advantage is your child will be trying to write in the same style as some of the most successful and brilliant authors. This will help them understand writers’ techniques, and should also improve their own writing style as they try out different sentence structures, word choices, paragraph techniques, etc.

Books are teachers (metaphor!).

Happy Writing!

Lee, London

9 Unmissable Story Continuation Lessons to Teach Your Child: VIDEO

Featured9 story continuation tips for 11 plus entrance tests

Hello grown-ups, children, fellow tutors and teachers (notice I don’t include teachers in the grown-ups category – we never grow up!). With many children readying themselves for the 11plus exam season, I know the video below will be helpful in preparing for the creative writing part of the English test. Story continuation is a popular choice for independent school 11plus exams, so let’s give your child as much help as we can.

Grown-ups and children will benefit hugely from watching each of the Whizz Bang Story Continuation Rockets covered in the video: 9 unmissable tips and tools…plus one extra.

Please make notes as you watch. Pause the vid as much as needed and watch as many times as you wish to embed the learning inside your super-charged 11 Plus Brains!

Happy Writing!

Please make sure your child’s Christmas is 11plushappy!

A huge motivational entrance test hello and a very short burst of happiness to remind you that holidays are the best learning present you can ask for – a gift of time to plan and weave in a few happy hours of intentional eleven-plus learning.

Your child can make huge progress during these long days, as well as having a fun break. Please find an hour or two a day to go over difficult subjects, to rehearse different genres of writing essays, or to focus in on a handful of test strategies and techniques to blast your child’s scores and progress. You can do it, your child can do it, you have to do it. As someone who teaches during the holiday – and as a parent who took both his children through the 11 Plus journey – I vow with everything I can that holidays are superboosts of learning. Whatever you are doing, do lots of it this holiday!

If you’re looking for 11 Plus specific English help, there’s a final chance to own and benefit from the creative writing and multiple choice 11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle for less than half-price. You’ll find everything I’ve learned as a teacher, tutor, writer and father to help your child achieve their highest, happiest mark.

I wish you a productive, successful Christmas.

Best, Lee

Mr Happy

Are you half-term happy? Holidays are fantastic 11plus learning gifts!

A huge motivational entrance test hello and a very short burst of happiness to remind you the half-term is gifting you time to plan and weave in happy hours of intentional eleven-plus learning.

Your child can make huge progress during these long days, as well as having a fun break. Please find two to three hours a day to go over difficult subjects, to rehearse different writing essays, or to focus in on a handful of test strategies and techniques to blast your child’s score and progress. You can do it, your child can do it – you have to do it. As someone who teaches during the holiday – and as a parent who took both his children through the 11plus journey – I vow with everything I can that holidays are superboosts of learning. Whatever you are doing, do lots of it this week!

Looking for help? Consider the 11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle as part of your toolbox. Targeted, specialised help is yours for less than half-price. You’ll find everything I’ve learned as a father, tutor, teacher and writer to help your child thrive.

If you haven’t yet, remember to sign up for your free course on why time is such a superhero of the 11plus. Just look at the box to the right of this post (assuming you’re reading this online). I’d love you to sign up to the blog to make sure you catch all other posts. (There have been some important ones recently, so make sure to visit and read over previous posts.)

Stay half-term happy! My best, Lee

Reason 5 of “5 reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus entrance tests”

Hello again. (Welcome, if this is your first time visiting). Leading on from Reason 4, today we come to the second big benefit, superboost 2, of starting with easier, younger material. (If you missed the last post, Reason 4, I’d encourage you to click back and read that first.)

Do you remember in Reason 3 we discussed the need to learn specific test and preparation strategies? (Click here if you missed Reason 3.) The second benefit is that

your child is going to have a much stronger chance of learning these strategies while practising on easier, age related material.

You could set aside a handful of practice tests just to learn these reusable skills. For example, many multiple choice tricks and techniques can be mastered early on. Consider how the answer options in multiple choice English tests are often cleverly similar, designed to look correct and trick rushing skim-readers. Using this to your advantage, if the questions and answers are fairly straightforward at first – which they will be in a test for ages 7-8 in comparison to a test for ages 10-11 – you can better teach the hacks that will help your child find the right answer, without your child becoming confused by the question itself. Indeed, tests for younger children tend towards simple, information-finding questions, whereas higher level tests will introduce more complex questions that ask why something happens, or ask your child to infer, to work out an answer that isn’t in the text using clues from other information that is there.

Let’s look closely at a trick and a hack in action!

A question asks for the year in which an event in the passage took place.

Use this opportunity to point out that when questions ask for a date, the test may actually try to play 4 tricks, discussed below. The fourth trick is more complex, but if your child has learned to look for the first three tricks, they can use the hacks for these to help solve the fourth one.

  1. It is likely that if there is a question on dates, more than one date appears in the text. A child can see the first date they come to in the text and use that.
  2. Answer options might use all the dates in the text. A child may see a date, recognise it from the text, then think – Ah yes, I saw that, it must be that one. The temptation to use what you see in the text quickly can be very strong. It just seems to make sense – if it’s there, it must be right. Not so fast…
  3. Incorrect dates may be similar, sometimes switching digits. E.g. 1789 becomes 1798 or 1879. When under time pressure, our minds are fantastic at finding small pieces of evidence and immediately turning it into the answer we need.
  4. The date may not even be mentioned in the text! What? Yes, really. What are you supposed to do if this is the case?

To hack date questions and supercharge your child’s test skill-set, you can teach them the following, extremely practical hacks. (WARNING: Before we start, here’s a thought point. What if you leave it late to show your child these skills? There appears to be quite a lot, especially when you consider we are only discussing dates, so it makes sense to begin early and learn the skills slowly and surely. There are dozens of other strategies that you can teach your child, so get them started soon!)

  1. Underline or dot the date on the question paper, so you know what you are being asked.
  2. Read the question closely (You can find lots of targeted, effective, child-friendly ways to properly question the question in the Grammar School Success in Multiple Choice English ebook, available individually and as part of the English Masterclass Discount Bundle), so you know what finished looks like. What are you actually supposed to do in the question? Misreading questions is one of the biggest causes of children losing marks.
  3. Check each date with the information around it in the text to see if this is the one being pointed to by the keywords in the question.
  4. Check the digits and the order of the digits to make sure you have the right choice in the answers.
  5. If the date is not in the text, do the next two hacks:

a) First, top and tail. Look above the text for an intro or title, then look below the text for extra info. Sometimes info you need is located here, either in context (it will tell you it was during WW2, for example) or openly written, e.g. the author and date of publication come as a footnote at the end of the passage.

b) Look for info in the text that helps you work out the date. Suppose you are asked in which year a character was born. It doesn’t tell you her birth year or birthday, but there might be pointers to the event, or other numbers which refer to it. It could say something like:

“Four years ago, on her fifth birthday, Jaya had been given an ancient piece of paper with a code on it. She stared, transfixed, at today’s newspaper – The Daily Spark, Monday 5th October, 2023 – and the headline on the front page: it was the same code.”

What information will help us answer the question? In the example above, the date is 2023. 4 years ago, Jay was 5, so we can take away 4 and 5 from 2023 to infer he was born in 2014, 9 years ago. Your child then checks the answer options for this figure. (Also teach your child to be check that answer options are not playing tricks even with this inferring information. For example, a wrong answer might be the date if you take away 4 years instead of 9.)

You can improve your child’s ability to solve date questions by having you both create questions designed to be tricky, hiding the date deep inside the writing, as we did above. You can have a lot of fun creating lots of layers and rules to uncover the answer.

Now, does this feel like a lot for your child to learn? The brilliant news is if you start early, you have the time to teach them one at a time. You also – and this is my favourite reason for starting early – allow all these hacks, all these techniques, to become just habits, automatic tests your child will apply to certain questions – as we said in our last post, like brushing teeth and looking for traffic before crossing the road.

The gold is that, as questions increase in ‘difficulty’, you remind your children that the tricks and hacks stay the same and can be used on all levels of question! This should create a virtuous circle, whereby the time taken to learn the tricks and hacks using easy material helps your child read and answer more and more complex questions correctly and quicker, as she or he approaches the creative challenge of aiming for 100% in later practice tests and on the day itself. The strategies they used to solve simpler tasks can be used on harder tasks! Thus, with the hacks learned and embedded, you can spend a large part of Year 5 refining knowledge, language technique, spelling, practising cloze, learning new vocabulary and grammar, reading lots, as well as creating incredible, stand-out writing.

That’s all for today. Please come back for Reason 6 on Saturday, or sign up to the blog to make sure other posts come straight to you. (We all need fewer clicks in our lives!) You’ll know from reading the start of the series that I quickly realised while writing early posts that there were more than 5 reasons not to wait. Hence, there’ll be 6, possibly 7 reasons in this mini-series.

I truly hope today’s reason makes it clear that starting early is without doubt the best possible 11+ action plan. Thank you for reading and for nurturing your child’s 11+ opportunity. Start learning, stay learning, stay happy.

Best, Lee

Reason 4 of “5 Reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus entrance tests”

Straight in today; your time is short and after 3 days of our mini-series blog/mini-blog series, I know you’re ready for the reason.

Reason 4 has two sides to it, both of which offer true superboosts to your child’s learning and enjoyment of 11plus prep.

Reason 4: Start early – Y4, Y3, Y2 – and your child will begin with easier, age related material. (Bond, for example, has books for 5-6, 7-8, etc.) Easier material at the start allows two magical things to happen:

  1. You give your child important early wins in their work, exposing them to the happy feelings of getting questions right, which can be enormously motivational. Securing early wins at a time when your main aim is building regular learning habits and a real enthusiasm and love for learning is turning the sails in your child’s favour.

Few children – or grown ups – like to get things wrong, especially in front of the person who cares for us. At least, not at the start. Working on harder material straight away – which is a real risk if starting from scratch in Y5 – can make some children worry. Even worse, if they consistently get a lot of things wrong in early sessions, the habit that can be created is a reluctance to work, a tendency to avoid the regular hours of home learning that make the difference.

However, if you are simply trying to introduce or supplement the knowledge they are learning at school through extra home learning, using materials for a younger age group, it is more likely that initial scores will be higher.

In effect, their first impression of extra learning is success.

Another recommended way you can play this as their teacher is to start with easier material regardless of their age. Again, what you want them to experience is the thrill of getting things right. It can lift self-esteem and build resilience for later, harder material. You want your child to think: Well, I got it right before, so I can get it right again (you can say this to them to encourage); you don’t want them to think, Well, I got it wrong before, so I can get it wrong again.

I would say always start them on easier material. If your child is in Y4, let them work through a Y3 age-related book or two. You don’t have to tell them it’s easier material. Let them tell you proudly that they find it easy, then simply move through the difficulty levels without labelling them as such. For non-verbal and verbal reasoning, this can be especially helpful, as much of the material will be brand new.

KEY TRUTH: When you start early, you give yourself and your child time to go through these different levels.

Okay, so we’re learning that kicking off the 11plus journey with easier, younger material helps secure early wins and allows your child’s first impression of learning to be success, which should:

  • boost motivation,
  • supply your child with lots of good learning feelings (children are often more emotional than rational at this early stage, so switching on good emotion could support the development of rational, question-based thinking and stamina),
  • help build the crucial superhero habit of regular learning.

So that’s superboost 1. I said at the start there were two huge benefits to setting off on the 11plus journey by passing through easier, lower-levelled material.

Ready for superboost 2?

Come back tomorrow and we’ll go through that. I want each superboost to stand alone, framed in its own mini-blog, to give you time to think about each one, to help you grasp their power and inspire you to start teaching your amazing child now!

Thank you for reading and for nurturing your child’s learning opportunities. Visit 11plushappy.com to read the rest of the posts in the series. Why not sign up to the blog to make sure you receive the posts straight to your inbox?

Start learning, stay learning, stay happy. 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

What does a successful 11 Plus routine look like?

(Part 2 of a 4-blog mini-series)

In the first post in this series, we began examining why routine and time are such vital tools in giving your child the best chance of 11-plus success. I promised to show you one such routine, so here we are. The table below shows you what my son and I did together in a typical Y4 week during school term. A holiday plan will look different and I will show you an example of this in the next blog.

I’ve shown you the reasons for each part of the plan. It’s crucial to have a why for each study session if you are going to help your child run out of things they don’t know and can’t do by the end of your preparations. For a few seconds thinking at the beginning, the rewards for focusing are huge.

You’ll see that in Y4 I only put in around 6 hours a week, instead of the 9 hours or more I recommend for Y5. It’s enough at that age, when you are teaching knowledge and subject skills rather than teaching and rehearsing test strategies and time-management.

Here’s the big deal though: I didn’t find those 6hrs all at once. I used bits of time here and there throughout the week. You don’t eat a day’s meals all at once, you eat them one meal at a time, one bite at a time. This is a good analogy for learning. What matters is that you use the time you have while it is there and don’t let it slip away.

Sticking with the meal image, you eat meals throughout the day to make sure your nutrients and energy are delivered slowly and regularly, so you are in the best health. With 11-plus learning, you need spaced learning throughout the weeks and months to allow the brain to digest the information over time. Cramming everything in at once is like gorging breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all at once. Nutrients are wasted, the body suffers and cannot use the energy and vitamins effectively.

Three more reasons why routine is the lifeblood of learning: it helps memory, helps normalise good learning habits and slowly draws your child into the ‘zone’, into a mental space where they are focusing on all things 11-plus as they approach the exam period.

  1. Memory. We forget a lot of what we learn just half an hour later. If we repeat things through routine, we’ll remember more. We just will. We just will. We just will.
  2. Habits. Your child will hopefully resist less and appreciate why learning time is so helpful. They’ll spend more time by design learning, rather than watching tv or playing computer games if time is not planned.
  3. The zone. An imaginary, yet real mental space. In the few weeks before the tests, you want your child focusing on only the exam. Note that I say focusing, not worrying. Never worry. Plan and execute.

“Don’t worry, work.”

Mr Jackson, Dalry Secondary School
(My physics teacher!)

The time you spend worrying you can spend learning something instead. Getting your child used to spending this planned, weekly learning now should make the final approach, the last couple of months leading up to the tests, effortless and smooth. (You are also building their study skills for later use in GCSEs, but as we are only thinking about the 11-plus, that’s just an added extra!)

Okay, have a look at the table below. Think about how you are spending your week, think about where you can find time, and then make a plan and start. Oh, and this is the first time I’ve used a table in a blog, so if it goes a bit strange when you are looking at it, please let me know, I’m still learning!

In part 3 of this mini-series, we’ll consider a holiday routine. Thank you as always for helping your child.

Stay happy, Lee

Plan during school termEnglishSuccess ReasonMathsSuccess Reason Superhero Time used
MondayBond Assessment paper - 100 marksWriting full answers helps think about finding evidence.
Help with spelling & grammar.
Experience of managing time.
45 mins
(6-6.45pm)
TuesdayPrefixes. Quick warm up fun activity. (15 min)He couldn't do them in yesterday's test. Fill knowledge gap.Bond Assessment paper - 50 marks.Exposure to different maths to find topics he knows and topics he doesn't.15 mins
45 mins
(5.30pm-6.30pm
WednesdayWriting: Sentence Starter football game.Learn new sentence starters and understand that great writing must use a variety of sentence starters.Interior angles of regular shapes.He knew angles of square and triangle, but not pentagon. Taught him formula for any regular polygon.30 mins
20 mins
(6-6.50pm)
ThursdaySchofield & Sims Mental Arithmetic Book 4: 1 test. (36 questions)
See if he struggles with any area, then have a mini-lesson on this while it is fresh in his mind.
Experience of managing time: Section 1 - 5 min
Section 2 - 10 min
Section 3 - 15 mins
Practice 2-step word problems.
25 mins
20 mins
(7-7.45pm)
FridayDay off, but still do daily shared reading aloud.20 mins reading aloud. (We both read to each other.) Bed time
SaturdayBond Assessment paper - 100 marks.
40 min writing exercise - story.
Visit a cafe for 2 hours for fun and long learning.
Practice in comprehension; revise and learn spelling and grammar. Put the earlier work on sentence starters into a new piece of writing, plus new writing technique: personification to build mood.
Bond: How to do 11 Plus Maths: 40 mins going through topics.Familiarity with doing maths & English on the same day, mirroring the test.
Securing knowledge and finding an area he doesn't know, then spending time on that until he does know.
2 hrs
(9.30-11.30am)
SundayDictionary work: Find 5 new words and write meaning.
Writing technique: 3 different ways to start a story.
Develop vocabulary; find a favourite word he can use in the test and in other writing; prepare for different writing questions by learning how the same story can start in different ways.Long Division: 2 different methods.He was getting confused with one method. Expose to different solutions. He ended up preferring the first method, but understood it better.10 min
30 min
40 min
(11am-12.20pm)
Totals6 English Sessions
(Plus daily reading every day)
6 maths sessions6hrs 40 mins

Do you want to know what I did to get my kids into grammar school?

Everything I could, as fast as I could, as much as I could, for as long as I could…until the job was done (which was their achievement, not mine.) You can find out everything I did in the books I’ve written. I feel so passionately about passing this learning on, so much so that I am working really hard to turn my educational writing into a full time job that will allow me more time to share more hard-won skills and strategies with more parents and more children.

I’m also committed to sharing the new discoveries I still make every day from the brilliant children I tutor and teach. Having seen the results that result from giving parents confidence, skills, direction and a guiding hand, it’s a huge mission to help more families and help more children in this crucial step up to secondary education.

Don’t worry if you think you know nothing. You are your child’s most important teacher – always. You can read about your own 11 plus superinfluence in my first book. When I started with my son, I knew nothing at all – and I was a newly qualified teacher! We didn’t learn about grammar schools at teaching college.

This is important for you to know, as it will help you realise that while your child’s primary school will be working their hardest to deliver the primary curriculum in the most challenging and creative ways they can, it is not the job of primary teachers to prepare children for grammar schools or independent school entrance tests.

It’s your job, your child’s job, perhaps helped by the right tutor.

Schools can give your child 80% of the skills they need. Nearly everything, but not quite. Races are won in the closing seconds, the 1%-20% is where it’s at. The 1%-20% is what you can do. What you have to do. As they say in basketball, if you win by 1, you still win.

So if you’re wondering what to do, please preview the books and decide where you’ll start. You can read the first part of each book on amazon. They are solely focused on 11 plus entrance test learning strategies, from how not to be tricked by multiple choice questions to specific features of writing your child must include in any piece of writing.

Your books are available in both kindle (on amazon) and direct download format (from http://www.11plushappy.com). The main difference is that you can print off the direct download as many times as you need, whereas kindle books are entirely digital.

Remember: make the most of the half-term to move your child’s 11 plus learning forward. Time is running out, which means holidays are true learning gifts!

Start learning, stay learning,

My very best, Lee