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.

Superinfluence Part 2 continued: What’s in the 11+ test?

Yesterday’s blog hopefully sent you off on a hunt for dates of application for the grammar schools you are interested in. Today, we deal with the holy grail of knowing what is in the test. That would make all the difference, right? If we could see how it was laid out, what the question types were, we could really target our learning.

Interestingly, the truth is we never absolutely know, but we sort of do. The first big mistake would be to do what I deliberately did above and use the wrong article in front of ’11+ test’.

THE 11+ test does not exist. An 11+ test exists. Lots of them.

Schools, perhaps more precisely the schools in a borough, develop different formats, albeit they are testing similar knowledge. Broadly, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning is becoming less of a thing, while English and Maths are more of a thing.

Children are tested on English and maths knowledge and skills taught in primary schools, with one big exception, which is that they are tested on knowledge and skills that include and sometimes go beyond that learned in Y6, at a time and age when they have only completed Y5, or pehaps recently started Y6.

Returning to the fact that the 11plus test does not exist, but rather lots of similar, but different, tests exist, on the one hand, this is incredibly annoying and frustrating. After all, we know what the KS2 SATs look like. Indeed, children do lots of practice tests for these, so they are familiar with the format.

Similarly, in GCSE English, we know the format and the types of question that will be asked. Students can do lots of past papers to rehearse their answers, even following mark schemes that tell students the difference between low and high mark answers.

So why not the 11plus? No one really knows. Other than the fact that the number of places is small and there would not be enough capacity to take in every child who was in line to perform brilliantly at the SATs, it remains a bit of a mystery.

On the other hand, other providers, websites and publishers do provide the test models. Precise books like mine, which teach skills to help your child know how to sit the tests, can be used alongside the excellent resources and practice papers elsewhere that show your child WHAT an approximation of a paper looks and feels like. Thankfully, there is a lot of information and resources within education to help you.

It is worth asking the schools you are interested in if they do have an example paper or sample questions to look at. The response is variable – some do, many don’t.

With this in mind, it becomes really important to know the schools you are interested in. There are many excellent sites that try and gather test information for various grammar schools. Test information is sometimes vague, but as we’ve mentioned, some schools don’t publish the precise content and format of tests.

Below, then, are three sites I want to share with you to help you find that information. As well as having gathered information regarding different grammar schools, the providers produce brilliant learning resources. I use practice papers from all three sites to complement my own books and techniques, to provide a really thorough grounding and preparation in both what and how.

My own passion and belief as a teacher is not enough skills, techniques and child-friendly hacks are taught that help children know HOW to pass the tests. Practice papers are essential, they are the WHAT, but they are far from enough on their own. Every child I’ve ever taught, starting with my own children, has needed help to learn how they are being tested or tricked in each test. With multiple choice in particular, there are dozens of tricks in both English and maths. Remember that Stage 1 multiple choice tests are often there to sift out students. What’s really surprising is some schools do not even use the Stage 1 results towards a child’s final mark! Stage 1 acts as a gatekeeper to Stage 2, school specific, tests. It is this Stage 2,written test, that provides the final assessed mark in some schools.

Yesterday, I decided to split this superinfluence episode into two. It might be better if I split it into three or even four parts. Remember that all this searching for information, all this understanding of the how and the what of your child’s test, is your job, your responsibility. It is the superinfluence in the background. If you create the learning moments, your child will live them. Make sure they are the right learning moments.

Have a good look around the websites below for information relating to the school/s you’re thinking about. Obviously, if your school in question is not covered, then the school is your direct port of urgent call, as we mentioned yesterday. The first link is from exampapersplus.co.uk. Below I’ve linked to a sample page for Wilson’s school.

Also try https://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/schools for an excellent overview of schools up and down the country.

Lastly, https://www.rsleducational.co.uk/blog has clear information on different schools.

I’ll see you in the next post as we continue to dive deep into the superinfluence you have as a parent or carer of your child. There is so much I want to cover and help you be super prepared, for, in order that your child is super prepared and ready with a smile on their face.

I was you a few years ago. My children were your children!

If I can help make the journey successful and pass on knowledge and skills that can help, I’m doing the right thing. My children thrived in grammar school, so can yours! See you in our next post.

Start 11 plus learning, stay 11 plus learning and stay 11plushappy!

Best, Lee

SUPERINFLUENCE: “I am the single most important factor in my child’s 11+ success.”

I know you could have told yourself that, but here’s what that one truth means. 

Your child:-

 1. Loves you.

2. Believes you.

3. Needs you.

4. Learns from you.

 5. Learns everything about how to be, learn and think from you.

Your son or daughter at primary school age looks up to you – and is influenced by you – in way they will never be again.

What this means is that you are in a position of what I call

superinfluence.

Every day, whether you try to or not, you influence your child.

 If that’s true, then imagine how you can influence them when you do try. 

Deliberate influence directed at a definite target – this is superinfluence.  There are five happy steps to superinfluence when we are getting ready to sit and pass the 11+, plus one bonus step. (Begin developing your superinfluence with the English Masterclass Bundle – four books dedicated to multiple choice tests and outstanding 11 plus creative writing.)

1. Knowing that you do have influence.

2. Deciding what and how begins with where.

3.  Naming and getting rid of your worries about the 11+.

4. Doing it: doing the influencing. My own mantra is ‘Only doing does.’ Because it’s true. 

5. Repeating step 4. ‘Only doing does’ doesn’t mean ‘only doing once does.’

We’re going to go deeper into each of these over the next 5 posts, making this another 11plushappy! mini-series. P.S. You have one week left to grab your copy of the English Masterclass bundle sale – all four books – for less than half price. I urge you to seize the moment and move your child to the front of the line now.

1: Know that you have influence

We’ve been through it already: you do.  Accept it.

 You launch your child’s life.

Where are you launching them towards? What skills are you going to give them to make sure they don’t just survive life’s journey, but create life’s journey.  Be guided by this statement:

Parents who put education first tend to develop children who come first in education.

It’s not rocket science. Speak French, they learn French. Speak telly every night, they learn telly every night.

 Speak excuses, they learn excuses. Speak belief and achievement, they learn belief and achievement.

What you want to get across to your child is the message that what matters is

“You, me and learning.”

Because it is what matters.

I’m not saying the other stuff of life is rubbish or less important. I know I’m risking you saying, ‘Hang on, I want my child to play football, or chat with friends, or swim, I want my child to enjoy his computer games, to enjoy his childhood.’

Well, my son, and the other children we know who make it to grammar school, still played football, still swam – they simply did it as part of the learning schedule.

There is time for it all. But at the same time, there is only one time for a best shot at that grammar school.   

Your child will enjoy his childhood if you love them, if he or she has a great relationship with you, if they know you care, if you guide them, if you believe in them, if you develop them. Develop them and you set your child up to enjoy childhood days and teenage days and adulthood days and old age.

Be careful of a strange fear in modern culture of ‘putting pressure’ on kids.  It’s a feature of language and thought today that some grown-ups sprinkle their sentences with the word ‘stress’ like some people sprinkle salt on their food. 

My instinct, from observations on children at school and in tuition, is it isn’t helpful and it isn’t true.  

Sprinkling salt or stress isn’t good for you!

Technology-creep, obesity, selfishness, poverty of language, a material-craving, but work-avoiding celebrity obsessed generation – that’s pressure. Not getting a good job when you become an adult and are trying to make a home – that’s pressure. Getting up to your neck in debt because you can’t earn enough to pay the bills – that’s pressure.

Not thinking you are worth, or able, to go for your dream with everything you have – that’s pressure. 

The truth is children love challenge. Leave them alone and they’ll argue to be the best at ANYTHING – my spaghetti is longer than yours, I can throw further than you, I’ve got to level 7 on this game, my team is better than yours, on and on it goes. Listen to children talk and very quickly you’ll discover a natural desire to be and do and have the best.

All you are doing is funnelling that natural, fun urge for challenge through the positive filter of superinfluence, and directing it towards learning and developing their mind and character in ways that will help them be ready to sit the test, as well as learning academic and personal skills they will use for the rest of their days. 

Reassuringly, the 11+ process is about challenge, not competition. Being the best you can be is very different from being better than anyone else. How can they be compared with another child? Your child is unique – it is impossible. So let them know there is no need to worry or compare themselves to other children. By all means, however, let them compare themselves with themselves! What do they know this week that they didn’t know last week?  

Parenting is your job, and superinfluence is your power.

Don’t leave parenting up to advertisers, phones, game developers, telly; don’t let it be influenced by your exhaustion at the end of the day. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Join me tomorrow for the next part of this superinfluence series. Ready to go? Use your superinfluence and the English Masterclass Bundle to teach your child the skills they absolutely need to have the best chance of passing their 11 plus. You can still grab it at a bargain price, but only for 7 days.

Best, Lee

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

Reason 3 of “5 reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus entrance tests”

Today’s reason is a big one, often overlooked, even denied. Remember that if you missed the first two reasons, you can catch up on

Reason 1 here,

and

Reason 2 here

Reason 3, then, is that starting early, at least in Year 4, gives your child one of the biggest advantages when it comes to scoring highest in tests: time to seek out, find and show your child specific test strategies. In short, you can go a long way to teach them how to sit the test.

Verbal and non-verbal reasoning tend to have repeated styles of questions, many of which your child will not have been taught at primary school. Neither subject is part of the primary curriculum. Nevertheless, if you watch videos or look at practice books in both subjects, you will see that patterns and sequences often follow similar steps that your child can and will get better at if they are shown the pattern or code structure, then practise this on a range of material that gradually increases in difficulty. For example, there are only so many ways a picture can change: size, colour, shading, spots or stripes, direction of arrows, overlapping or separate shapes, moving around corners, and so on.

It’s a very similar story in multiple choice English. It is not taught in any depth at primary school, yet often forms the first, sometimes the only, part of the English entrance exam. Over the years, my students and I have discovered more than fifty ways tests try and trick children. Although I didn’t set out to, I ended up needing to write a valuable book about Multiple Choice English tricks, together with hacks to help children beat them. I found I needed a way to log them to help explain and illustrate to children what to look out for and what they could do about it.

What strategies and practical tips am I talking about? There are far too many to cover in even multiple posts. I’ve ended up writing four books just about the English part of the test. Here, though, are two factors to engage with.

  1. A huge multiple choice English trick is your child is being tested THREE times, not once. Children can be fooled into thinking it is easier than a written test; they won’t have to write lots of complicated answers with evidence, and the answers are already there! They only have to find them. Easy? Not so. It is a reading test, not a writing test, and your child has to know three ways to read the test. First, they have to know how to read the comprehension properly and swiftly; secondly, they have to learn to read the questions properly and fully – and to watch out for the dozens of tricks that may be hidden inside them; lastly, they have to read the answers very carefully, as incorrect options are designed to look right and catch children out. Again, there are dozens of ways they attempt to do this.
  2. Time. I wrote at length about how to get the most out of time in my first book. I’ve recently serialised the chapter on time into a free e course, which you can sign up to in the yellow box to the right of this blog post or blog page, assuming you’re reading this online. There are seven major ways to play with and manage time. Knowing these is essential when you remember your child has around 40 minutes in each subject to show 6 years of primary education, one of which they won’t even have completed!

Of course, starting early ensures that you can be thorough and gradual in the learning and practice of these strategies. You may worry that there are too many and that they will only confuse your child further. If you try and teach them a few weeks before the test, you may be right. Strategies are best thought of as habits, learned over a period of time, which become natural and almost immediate. For example, while teaching and looking for the different tricks hidden inside questions, practice papers will be slower to complete. This is fine when using practice tests as a teaching tool, not as an end in themselves, which is an effective way to squeeze more value from practice tests. We know that it is not practice that makes perfect, but deliberate, targeted practice that allows lasting breakthroughs to be made. With time to spend learning strategies, your child can adopt them as automatic thinking patterns, like putting on a seat belt before a journey, brushing teeth at night, or stopping and looking for traffic before crossing a road.

Remember as well that while every question may contain a trick, or at least have a strategy to answer it effectively, not every question contains every trick! If your child has learned the range of strategies and ways to approach questions, (and actually, there are not that many – most children can name the children in their year group, or a couple of football teams, which is about the same number), they are best placed to recognise question and answer traps and be able to work around them.

I hope today’s reason helps you to feel good about starting the learning journey as soon as you can. You are not putting pressure on your child; the longer you can spend, the more relaxed, thorough, and most of all, happy you should both be.

Yes, the first step, always, is to know lots of things. Here is where you can point out and encourage your child to listen well, work actively and positively in class, to be fascinated generally by how amazing learning and information is. This is surely the main aim – to love learning. To love finding out. To love turning not knowing into knowing.

Nevertheless, the second step is to know how to show what you know, how to work through a paper properly, in time, how to read questions properly, how to avoid wrong answers in multiple choice, how to sit the various tests your child will be sitting.

Thank you for reading this far, and for nurturing your child and giving them the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the 11+ represents.

Click here for more information about the Multiple Choice English book. You can look inside the amazon version to see just how many areas are covered. For your information, it’s available in three formats: on kindle, as a standalone printable ebook on this site, and as part of the 11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle, which carries a better-than-half-price discount on all four titles.

In writing this post, as I did a day back, I realised a seventh reason for not waiting, which needs its own mini-blog rather than a couple of lines at the end of today’s blog. So in the spirit of expansion, this 5 reasons mini-blog series will now last for 7 days. I really hope each reason helps you feel confident about beginning your child’s future today. Please come back tomorrow for Reason 4. Start learning, stay learning, stay happy. Lee

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.