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.
Choose 10 words each that can be more than one word type. I found a wide selection here:
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?
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.
Okay, decision time. This level of superinfluence happens either before, or in the early stages of, helping your child be superhero prepared and happy.
Your child can’t do this because they don’t know the choices. They can’t see over the fence of the next hour without your help. That’s how children are; totally immersed in the moment. You are the strategic thinker, it’s your plan. Create the learning moments and your child will live them.
Here’s what you need to think about.
Deciding what and how starts with deciding where.
Why? Three reasons.
1. Each school tests slightly differently: don’t waste a minute on something your child isn’t going to be tested on.
By example, the three schools we chose for our son at the time tested English, Maths and verbal reasoning, but not non-verbal reasoning, so we ditched non-vr completely and devoted all study time on the first three areas. This freed up a lot of time, as we had been trying to learn everything. For our final school choice, only English and Maths were tested; knowing this allowed us an even sharper focus.
2. You need to know the catchment areas for schools you are interested in and how they work. Often, grammar schools have no geographical bias – getting in is based on ability in the test and that’s it. Nevertheless, some grammars may favour local children, at least for a percentage of admissions.
For example, if all children applying passed with the same high mark, the first 50-80 children (out of an average intake of 150) might be chosen from the nearby area, with the rest going to outliers. This may or may not influence your decision, but you need to know.
3.Travel time. How long will your child spend travelling to and from school? I drew the line at an hour, but there are children at my son’s school for whom two hours each way is the norm. It’s up to you and your child. Also, how will they get there? Is there public transport from where you live?
Finding out where the schools are is easy.
Visit www.ngsa.org.uk the home of the National Grammar Schools Association and do a geographical search across England or Northern Ireland. There are no grammar schools in Scotland or Wales. A google search will also throw up results quickly.
Ask at your child’s school and speak to other parents in the playground. (As complete newbies to both the area and secondary education, we found out about the local school – Wilson’s – from a neighbour who lived half way down our street and who we’d only ever had a couple of chats with. How thankful are we for that conversation and that lady’s generous information and encouragement to apply?) Parents and families may have inside and up-to-date information – an elder child who goes to a nearby grammar, for example. Your local education authority (LEA) will also advise you of any grammar schools in the area.
When you find a school that interests you, here are five questions you absolutely need the answers to, either from their website or from a
telephone call to the ADMISSIONS department. Ideally, do both – check a website
first, then follow up with a phone call to get things totally clear.
1. When and how do I apply to
2. What’s in the entrance exam? What subjects
will my child be tested on?
3. HOW do you test each subject? Is the test
A full sentence/calculation answer sheet, with working out shown for maths question?
A combination of both? If so, which parts use which format?
4. Does your school offer a sit-down ‘mock’ or practice test’? Do you provide sample questions or a sample paper?
5. When are the dates of any
open days so we can visit your school?
It might help to zoom in a little on each of these points. Remember, your child cannot do any of this without you. Nor is it your primary school’s role. You alone are the power here.
Usually, you apply in the Spring term when your child is in Y5, around Easter time, April. The cut-off date may be early July, or sometimes as late as September of Y6 if the testing takes place later in the year. There are, however, some tests which take place closer to July, and which may have earlier cut-off dates. PLEASE DO THIS STEP ASAP!
Make sure you know this date well in
In fact, if you are in a position to, stop reading this and find the date and as much of the information as you can now. It’s that important. Don’t miss it.
You must fill in a separate form for each school.
Depending on the school, you apply online, but may be able to apply by post. If you apply online, you need to upload a photograph of your child, but the process is easy, with full instructions given.
Later, in October of Y6, after you have applied separately to the school, and in some cases, after your child has sat the test for a grammar school, you fill the local authority shared Common Entry Form. On this form, you list all your school choices in order of preference. This form goes to the local authority, not the schools. Your child’s primary school will give out, and may help in submitting, this form. Do ask them.
If you have visited possible
schools earlier in the year, choosing the order of preference may be easier. Note,
I say easier, not easy.
A lot of thought and worry goes into choosing which school to put first, second, etc. Some people argue that if there is more than one grammar in the borough, it is risky to put 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice as grammars, simply because the pass rate for first choices is high enough to make it very hard to get a grammar as a second or third choice. Some parents put a grammar 1st, then choose the best secondary comprehensive they find. I can’t advise you on this, it’s your decision.
Personally, as my son had passed two tests before we filled the form, we risked it all and put the three grammars as our first three choices. I know we were not alone in doing this, and we also heard from one grammar school Head that several children had come to his school as a second choice.
Remember, each school does not know how you have listed your preferences. If your child passes with a high enough mark to be offered a place, they will be offered a place. The offer is submitted to the local authority, not you, and it is the council who look at 1st choice 2nd choice, etc.
If your child has sat an entrance test in September, and you know the result, this can help either way.
your child hasn’t passed the entrance test, DO NOT continue to put that school
down on as a preferred school – it will not be considered, and you waste a
chance to put a good second choice as a new first choice. I
know this is an obvious point, but each year people make this mistake.
It’s also worth repeating, so you are very clear on this, that you cannot list grammar schools, or many other state schools, on the CEF unless you have first filled out the individual school form and applied for the test earlier in the year.
Don’t miss the opportunity – fill in the school’s separate form. Even if you change your mind later, it’s better to have the option to put a school down on the CEF. It happens every year that parents leave this too late: you are not going to be one of them.
After you have submitted the individual school
application, the school will confirm receipt, then write to you with the date
and time your child will sit the test. Tests happen from as early as September
in your child’s Y6 year (just a few weeks after they start Y6), to as late as
January. You are given a morning or afternoon time – they choose, not you.
When you are given the date,
congratulations! You’ve handled the paperwork that makes it possible; the
opportunity to get into the school is now a reality.
I’m splitting this post into two, maybe three parts, as there is so much information to share with you. We’ll continue to zoom in on the above points tomorrow, starting with answering the question: what’s in the test? What will your child be tested on?
I know how impossible it can feel and have learned how possible it is.
I’ve lived on both sides.
When we were sent the email from our local borough of Merton confirming our son had won his place, we exploded. We cried, hugged, laughed, then headed straight out for his celebration meal. My wife and I knew it was both a generation-changing moment for him and an incredible reward for the two years extra work he had put in.
But… the first step to your dream is to stop seeing it as a dream.
Instead, see it as a real outcome. Something that can actually happen if you find out what steps you have to take – and then take those steps.
Know what you have to do and do it till it’s done.
Yes, it’s two years of preparation for something that’s over in a couple of hours and has no guarantee. Regardless, you just have to commit to the path and give it everything.
You have to be your own guarantee!
One aim of this blog is to serve as a path to keep you motivated up to – and beyond – your child’s last sentence on their last test paper.
I wrote my first book as our son was finishing Y7, his first year, of grammar school. It was a year he absolutely loved – loved the thinking, loved the lessons that were never disrupted, loved the challenges teachers set to help him reach his best, loved the sport. The results from his first year exams were amazing: equivalent 7s and 8s in Y7.
I write books and this blog because my wife and I did so much stuff to help our son that worked that I didn’t want it to go to waste. I wanted to pass that stuff on, to help other children, other parents. I’m also hoping that having gone through the 11+ journey at the same time as being a primary teacher, I can help put this stuff into teachable, do-able, simple steps.
Why steps? I like steps for two reasons.
1. Your child already uses steps in the classroom. Every planned lesson at primary school has a learning outcome – we want the children to be able to do, know or understand something (sometimes defined as KSU, knowledge, skills, understanding) in the school curriculum).
To help get to that outcome, teachers often map out a set of steps for children to follow. Your child might know these as:
Steps to success
or another similar name.
You don’t try and do everything at once, but you do attempt all the steps.
Steps can help us stay on track, get back on track, and keep us motivated to see a job through; if we find ourselves going wrong or getting lost, a quick look back can show us where in the process we went wrong, or reveal a step we missed.
Without this step-by-step path, there’s a risk we decide something is just too hard and give up.
2. Perhaps the greatest power of doing things in steps is just that – you actually do it.You put a little information to work straight away and get moving toward that end goal.
The thinking is not, ‘How am I going to do all of this?’ but, ‘I’m now going to do just this.’
My English Masterclass Bundle follows this approach. Over 4 books, I show you the must-have ingredients of stand-out 11 plus writing one by one. As your child learns one feature, she or he can fold this into their writing. Moving onto another feature, your child then adds this to the next piece of writing, as well as the previous feature. Step by step, over time, your child builds skills to build incredible writing every time.
Also included in the English Masterclass Bundle are models of successful writing, which, as far as I know, are unique to 11plushappy! No one else is showing your child what successful writing looks like, so reading these books is going to put your child ahead. In school, children always learn by modelling. As do most of us in most areas of life: pictures of cake recipes with full instructions, lego and ikea instructions, cpr training using dummies, the millions of youtube videos dedicated to teaching guitar, dancing, computer building and any number of subjects.
Along with these models, I’ve written full explanations of why and how the writing works. I get close up to every technique and the job it is doing. All in a way that you and your child can understand and put to use.
Of course, the test is not just writing. In fact, Stage 1 exams are most likely to be multiple choice tests, which your child is rarely taught to do in primary school. As part of the Bundle, Grammar School Success in Multiple Choice English is filled with 59 important traps and tricks your child has to be aware of.
I get quite cross that a lot of children are asked to do more and more practice papers without learning how to actually sit and succeed in these tests. Yes, they come with answers to check, but that is not teaching. Your child needs to know what kinds of questions are asked, what tricks are played in these questions (and they are tricks designed to catch children out), and the steps they can take to understand and answer questions correctly.
Another way of looking at this is to realise that you and your child need to know WHY they got any questions wrong. What fooled them? What did they fail to read and why? What trick did they fail to recognise? Armed with such a skillset, they are much more likely to score higher and higher in any test.
I’m not speaking negatively about all the fantastic 11plus resources out there. I’ve used and continue to use them all! Indeed, it was helping my children sit so many tests that allowed me to see the patterns and traps so clearly.
It’s just you need a way to help your child see through the tricks in multiple choice tests.
Are there tricks in Maths multiple choice as well? Definitely. I’m working on this right now. It will be included free as an extra in the bundle as soon as it is finished. If you buy the bundle before then, don’t worry – I’ll send you the book free when it’s done.
In closing, your motto for the new year can and must be –
“If someone can do it, my child and I can do it.”
It’s true. If it were impossible, the schools wouldn’t exist and no children would go to them!
Have an amazing year of learning. If you haven’t already, sign up for the Weekly Smile using the yellow form on the 11plushappy! website.
Here’s to an incredible year of deliberate, relevant, happy learning as you approach 11 plus success.
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.
If you can make it to Wallington in Surrey, (where I have all my resources and home office), I may have spaces available to help with 1:1 tuition for your child. I still teach at school, but have a handful of hours which I love to dedicate to tuition. Spaces are after school hours or Saturday. Please let me know if that’s something you’d like to look into.
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:
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?
Please do visit and review to see how it suits your needs.
I’ll be back with my next proper post in the next few days. I’ve been busy helping students with final preparations for the Sutton Test which took place yesterday.
If your child was involved in that test, remember to keep the foot on the learning pedal and focus on creative writing this week. Don’t wait for the result of stage 1; you have to assume your child was successful and use this week to make crucial progress in creative writing skills. If you wait a week, you’ll never recover the time to learn.
YES! YES! YES! It’s free! Please, if you are serious about helping your child to 11 plus success, read my first book for free for a very limited time. Amazon lets authors offer their books once for 5 days in every 90 days. Tomorrow, 15th August, to celebrate A-level results day – begin with the end in mind – those 5 days start. Please don’t wait, it’s never too early to have information – you just don’t want to be too late. Please share this news with anyone you think might benefit. I hope you find practical steps, practical value, that actually makes a difference to your daughter or son’s education.
If you’re a tutor, this is absolutely for you too. I wrote this and my other books as both a parent and a teacher/tutor, and would love this book and my others to serve as a useful bridge between you, your students and their families. Families – you are everything. Nothing happens without you, without your support, motivation, persistence and love.
The dream is to get your child into a grammar school, preferably their first choice. As I say in the book, the first step to making that dream come true is to stop seeing it as a dream and start seeing it as a goal, to be achieved with steps, lots of learning, time and lots of smiles.
When you’ve read it, please get in touch and let me know your favourite step, or if there’s a step that’s not clear. I look forward to helping you in your dream goal. Remember, you can get it free from 15th August for 5 days.
Start learning, stay learning, stay 11 plus happy!
PLEASE READ THIS – YOUR CHILD’S 11 PLUS SUCCESS MAY DEPEND ON IT.
Forgive the capitals and the warning, but I’m writing this immediately after a teaching session, in which my very capable student learned a hack and then did something unexpected that your child must not do!
At the end of the hack, we’ll discuss the unexpected thing my student did. To be clear,
keywords are important words in the question
that tell you exactly what the question wants to look for. Once you have identified these (I show you how in the book, in a separate hack), you have something to look for. Okay, here’s your hack…
Happy Hack 12:
Back and forwards, back and forwards
Do the Keyword
No, not the keyboard dance, the keyword dance. Get off your computer now, silly.
After you’ve read and spotted and underlined keywords in the
question and the writing, do the Keyword Dance as you attack each question. Here’s how:
the question keyword or phrase in the passage.
the whole sentence the word is in.
3. Read a
sentence or two before it (Back).
4. Read a
sentence or two after it (Forwards).
Doing this is sometimes enough to find the information you
need to answer correctly.
Say you want to answer the question:
Q. How do the people near the tigerfeel?
d) Really tired because they’ve been running away from it all
Your gut, common sense brain might think terrified is the most appropriate answer – it’s a tiger after all. But wait, do the keyword dance.
You look for the word ‘tiger’. You find it. Great, but it
doesn’t tell you enough yet. Read before and after to find out about the special
world this word lives in.
Is the tiger in a zoo? In the wild? About to eat its lunch?
Shopping in Asda? Only a pretend tiger, really it’s your teacher dressed up for
charity? This will make a huge difference to your answer.
happens if the Keyword Dance doesn’t work?
keyword is in more than one place. You’d expect to find the word
‘tiger’ a few times in an article about tigers, wouldn’t you? Maybe the first
place you find it is telling you what tigers eat. Not what you are looking for.
look for the keyword somewhere else, along with other keywords in the question. In the
question above, we could be looking for the word ‘near’ as well, or a phrase like it, e.g. close to.
often, we need two keywords to be together to find the right answer.
This is one way the answers try to trick you, by giving you
one keyword and hoping it will turn you into a Rushie.
No, thank you.
Each time you find the keyword or words, do the dance – before
the word, after the word, then the sentence before, the sentence after, occasionally
two sentences before and after.
It’s only one hack of many, yet it’s one of the most helpful in finding the info you need to answer the question.
…Okay, welcome back to the blog post. You can see that keywords are amazingly helpful. In the lesson I was giving this morning, we were rehearsing a couple of hacks, one of which was the Keyword Dance. The question asked why the bay was good for fishing boats. The paragraph that we were asked to look at had lots of info about types of fish, types of boats, types of fishermen, as well as info on the weather and time of day. My student explored the paragraph twice, but was adamant that he couldn’t find the answer.
Why? This is what he did – he didn’t look even once for the keyword: bay. He was confused by all the info, felt there was too much, became sidetracked with the similarity of fishing boats with fisherman and fish, and was thrown off course by the weather info.
I asked him to go back to the question. What was the one word that was most important – what did the question actually want him to know? He looked again: “Aaah, BAY!” he yelled. Immediately, he found that word, which only appeared once in the paragraph, did the keyword dance and found the answer – the bay was sheltered.
So simple, if you actually use the hack. If you actually look for the keywords. Otherwise, you’ve wasted seconds underlining keywords that can’t help you even though they want to because you don’t use them.
Two large, lovely lessons from today that absolutely work as a team:
Teach your child the Keyword Dance. Practise it in your practice papers.
Children – USE IT. Actually look for the words that matter. You are not trying to answer a random question – the questions are very specific. Find the keywords in the question you are answering and find them again in the text. The answer will be there, promise!