Go Forwards technique: How to use time to get better scores in 11plus practice tests

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

T.S.Eliot

Happy Classroom 3 (Part 3 of a series on how time helps your child prepare and pass.)

The Go Forwards technique has one aim: increase the number of questions
your child can answer within the time set by the target school.


How long is each part of your child’s test? Check with your chosen schools.
Most tests look something like this:
• Stories/recount/creative writing tests: 25 minutes, or 40-60 minutes.
• English comprehension/grammar/multiple choice: 30-50 minutes.
• Maths papers multiple choice/written: 40-60 minutes
• Verbal and non-verbal reasoning papers: 30 to 50 minutes.
• Combined English/verbal reasoning: 45minutes
In weekly practice tests, both you and your child can use the following 4 steps:

  1. Note the time allocated to a given practice paper.
  2. Begin the test and stop exactly when the time says, whether you have
    finished or not.
  3. How many questions did your child leave out? Three, ten, fifteen? Regardless
    of the number, congratulations – your child now has a starting point that lets
    you both know what he or she can do within the time.
    Now comes the value. Set your child a fun challenge:
  4. Can you answer just 1 more question within the given time in the next test?
    Interestingly, by trying to beat a score by one, they may answer 2 or 3
    more, just by being aware of it.
    Next test after that, the same challenge – can they answer just one more question
    than in the previous test?
    You can work out that over a couple of months, it’s quite possible for your child to be
    answering all the questions within the given time.
    Just by increasing the number of questions they can confidently answer by 1 each
    time.
    The key is a GRADUAL INCREASE. It is the art of the possible. The art of
    happy. Better to first answer questions correctly, then answer quickly.

Eventually, a month before the test day at least, although it could be much sooner,
your child looks to finish practice tests with around 5 minutes to spare to use for
checking time.

Introduce speed slowly. (Oxymoron alert – speed slowly…hmm.)

(Musical instrument lessons follow a similar method.)
It is better to learn to recognise the tricks multiple choice tests play, better to learn
neat and effective ways to find the information and avoid the tricks played by the
answers; thereafter, turning up the speed will have a purpose. Is there any point in doing something wrong fast?


HAPPY TIP: The Go Forwards technique is also a fantastic booster for creative
writing practice.


If your child writes a couple of paragraphs in an initial session, praise them, then in
the next session, issue a relaxed challenge to write one more sentence next time.
Continue to issue fresh challenges to add extra sentences in the next piece of
writing.

You may wish to pace this challenge to every second or third piece of writing, so they are not always thinking of increasing quantity at the expense of quality.

I hope this is helpful advice. Please come back for classroom 4 in the next couple of days.

Lee, London

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

HAPPY CLASSROOM 2: Making Use of Daily Time

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

John Dewey

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

Really.

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


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


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

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

WEEKDAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday: Day off. (Really!)

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

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

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

EXTRA LEARNING SAUCE – SPACED LEARNING MINI-BITES.

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

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

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

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

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

Remember our picture from the beginning?

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

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

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

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

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

Start learning, stay learning, stay 11plushappy!

Lee, London.

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

Hi, Dear Parent,

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

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

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

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

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

Happy teaching and learning,

Lee, London

70% off 11plus English 4-ebook Masterclass bundle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee,

London 2022

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

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

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

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

Lee, London, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a question?

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

I wish your child success.

Lee, London

June 2021

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

Who what where when why how: Does 11plus learning ever change?

6 questions every child is taught in KS2. 5WH (5 whats, 1 how). 6 questions we probably ask ourselves a lot right now. 6 questions that perhaps we can use as guides when planning 11+ learning. Think of this as a thought exercise that might bring calm and clarity amid the chaos.

I don’t know how to write about COVID-19 and its many horrible consequences. I know many reading this will have expertise and experience that I could never match. Notwithstanding this, our 6 KS2 questions have helped many societies and individuals for centuries. They are helpful tools to investigate the moment. The moment close to our hearts on this site is helping your child be as ready and as happy as they can be for their 11plus, whether the exam is this year, next year or later.

I offer the 6 questions as a way to to explore whether the answers ever change much, even if the circumstances in which we ask them change greatly.

Focusing in, we may ask:

  1. Who will help my child learn and prepare for the 11plus?
  2. What is to be done to help my child be ready for the 11plus?
  3. Where will this learning and help take place?
  4. When is the learning and preparation for the 11plus going to happen?
  5. Why are we guiding our children towards sitting the 11plus? What reasons?
  6. How does my child prepare for the 11plus?

I could probably stop writing at this point and give you space to think about each question, to reflect on where each one of the 5WHs takes you, and to consider how you might answer each one.

That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I need more time to think about these myself; but I didn’t want to wait to share the questions with you.

This being the case, please read the questions again. Perhaps ask your family, your child, for their thoughts as well.

I’ll write again tomorrow.

Best, Lee

London 2021

11plushappy Father’s Day!

At the heart of helping my own children learn, at the heart of every session we had together, was a single, simple and profound truth: I got to spend extra time with them.

There was nothing else I wanted more.

It built our learning relationship, helped give them information, habits and ways of thinking that will hopefully serve them a lifetime, but it also built our relationship, the relationship I had with them as a father.

I could not ask for more. We always have those memories: the memories of the adventure, the memories of daring to go for it, the moments of breakthrough, the moments of frustration, the memories of not running away, of being there for each other.

I got to spend extra time with them.

I hope you enjoy those moments with your own children.

My son just came down the stairs and gave me the biggest hug. We are now heading off for a cycle ride, to grab one more moment of time together.

A very Happy Father’s Day.

Part 2 of seriously un-serious* ways to help your child remember serious words

You know your child, you know what they like. The single rule might be: “Many ways for different brains.”

Here is a happy handful of word-learning games. Feel free to use these as springboards to get into the activity of designing or improvising games with your child as co-inventor.

1. Does your child sing? Have him sing the word, the whole list, or just sing-spell a word. It can be turned into a full impromptu kitchen concert! Try singing a well-known song, but replacing your target word for one of the chorus words, or adding a target word in to rehearse it:

“You’ve got a gregarious friend in me, you’ve got a gregarious friend in me.”

She might write a nonsense (or sensible) song using some of the words.

The extra pattern boost from melody can be powerful. It may get to the point that when she remembers, she’ll sing the word. (I once taught a very musical Y5 student to sing the formula for the area of a triangle; 3 years later, he could still sing the formula!)

2. Allocate words to numbers on a dice. However it lands, the next sentence in a story has to try and use the word in any way possible. It really helps for your child to know and apply; use the serious words in their creative writing. Words are democratic; they belong to us all. Rehearsing them helps solidify spelling, meaning and the confidence to use them again and again. Over time, your child could be encouraged to settle on a handful of lovely, adventurous words to use in more than one story, perhaps saving them for the real writing exam.

3. Use the target words when rehearsing and writing other features.

Inventing a bank of new, favourite similes (fresh, original ones), favourite adjectives (perhaps a couple of compound adjectives), favourite verbs for key actions (e.g. interesting synonyms for walking, running, eating, going, seeing, saying) and moods (happy, sad, angry, frightened, uncertain, euphoric, livid, etc.) is a great way to build options which can be used in all kinds of writing.

You could use a different target word for different features, or…

4. Take a word for a walk. Choose a word each and have a time-controlled, short game of adding the word into as many different techniques as possible. If the word has to change form to make the grammar correct, or so it can be used as a different type of word, even better. Give extra points for handling that!

For example:

Admonish (verb)

Meaning: to warn against doing something, (or in some cases, to do something, but perhaps there may be better words, like advise, for this positive purpose); to disprove of something, but in sort of a kind way. Hmm, this word is looking quite slippery already, but let’s have some fun with it.

Start a countdown timer. Give enough time to write a few different features, but not so long that you lose time to learn something else, and definitely not until your child falls asleep because they’ve written a hundred sentences! Either side of 4/5 minutes should work, but in the moment, you’ll know what’s best. Here’s my shot…

  1. Councils have left up signs to admonish people who continually drop litter in the parks. (Main verb)
  2. Mr Round, the head teacher, admonished Stephan for drawing only triangles in his maths book. (-ed past tense)
  3. Carter’s ears drooped, his tail ceased wagging and his head dropped, looking like an admonished school boy. (Simile) (Admonished becomes an adjective here!)
  4. The storm was an admonishment from Mother Earth for the farmer’s failure to gather her harvest in time. (Metaphor) (admonishment is a noun)
  5. Deeper and deeper, the wind forced its way into the forest, moaning and shrieking through the branches as if it were admonishing the trees for standing too close together. (Personification)
  6. Caring and graceful, kind and thoughtful, Marjory Duck quacked an admonishment at her ducklings to waste no time in entering the water, in case the clever, winter-starved fox had left its den in search of a delicate, youth-flavoured dinner! (With a paired adjective sentence.)

I definitely know the word admonish better than I did before writing that.

5. Collect challenging words alphabetically. You could supply a list and your child can see if there is a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.

6. Similar to above, but use another prompt: the letters of your child’s name, or their favourite food, etc.

7. Rhyme as many words as you can with your target word in 30 seconds.

8. Draw quick pictures or diagrams around a word to illustrate what the word means: imagine you are translating the word for a person who doesn’t speak any language apart from pictures.

9. Have your child host a quick quiz for you and another grown up. You have to supply the meaning to words she gives from a challenging list. If you don’t know them, she gets a point; if you know them, you get a point.

Occasionally giving a wrong meaning on purpose can help your child learn a word by giving you the correct meaning. It is okay if you don’t know the meaning of a word. We need to let our children feel relaxed about not knowing something and share an excitement for moments when we do learn something.

10. Draw a word tower from the top, starting with the 1st letter, then 2 letters, 3 letters, etc., until the whole word is at the bottom.

It looks cool and can make syllables and suffixes clearer. The last, full word could be drawn in a different colour to help it stand out. Let your child discover that the last letter of each row also spells the word! These designs can be put up around the house – an un-serious exhibition of serious words.

11. Do you have a licence to use that word? If there are words she loves and would like to use, then you could do a spontaneous spelling permit game at odd times in the week. Stop what you are both doing, and say something like: Excuse Me miss, Pedantic Permit Police Patrol, can I see your license to use this word? She has to spell or write it out and show you. You could be given the list at the start of the week and use that to check the licences for each word.

12. Who needs Wimbledon? Word tennis is fun as well. You don’t even need a bat or ball, although you could do it with the real thing in a garden, or a paper ball in your hands. Take a list of anything – connectives, adverbs, etc, that you want to focus on.

Speak out a sentence either beginning with a word/word type, or else use the word somewhere in a sentence. Your opponent can’t hit back until they use another word. If you want, each have a list or a single umpire list that you can run to if you can’t remember the word. Give a time-limit to how long the person has to speak a sentence. Award tennis points however you want.

P.S. No word is too serious. You can have fun with anything. Be playful and listen to the sounds of words, the look of words. Fastidious is not a better word than fussy, or even the phrase incredibly clean, or spotless. If your child knows them all and can use them with their slightly different meanings, it gives him options for creating similes, alliteration, etc., that sparkle. A fastidious flower arranger is a beautiful phrase, but then a gardener who was fussy could also be described as being a fusspot for flowerpots, which has a different sound and feel and contains a pun on words as alliteration.

True, VVV (Very Varied Vocabulary) is a powerful tool with which to dazzle the exam marker, but it is also simply more fun to use!

Hope these help.

*Big disclaimer: Before you tell me off, before you admonish me against using incorrect prefixes, un-serious is not really a word, I just like the sound of it! The preferred prefix is non-serious, so perhaps teach your child that one, although possibly hold onto the hyphen to be safe, rather than nonserious.