“You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”Dr Seuss
The Go Backwards technique is an ally of the Go Forwards technique.
Very simply, do the test until finished, no matter how long it takes.
How long did it take? As with yesterday’s Go Forwards Technique, celebrate this – you have a benchmark to start from. For the next test, issue a new challenge:
Can you knock a minute off your last time?
Example: Your child takes 68 minutes to finish a 40-minute test. Praise them for finishing it and agree you have a brilliant place to start. Enthuse them by letting them know they’re just 28 tiny steps away.
Next test, can you do it in 67?
Sometimes this cuts as much as five minutes off the first time you try it. Don’t worry if not, a minute is all we’re after. Whatever the new time – as long as it’s quicker than the last time – this now becomes the new time to beat by a minute. If they don’t beat it, then stick to the first time as the one to beat. (Avoid setting a slower time as the starting point.)
After twenty tests over a couple of months, your child should be on their way to finishing within, or very close to, the given time.
Your power in this step is to simply keep going – one minute less, one minute less, perhaps pacing this challenge to every 2-3 tests, until they are within the range. Mixing in with the Go Forwards technique may be a happy and helpful pattern for variety.
Key to the success of the Go Backwards technique is don’t try and take too much time off at once.
Don’t push your child to finish in half the time; this will likely lead to rushing and an increase in mistakes. It’s a balancing act and an adventure. You are promoting a gentle reduction.
A challenge is never – you must; it’s a fun experiment – Shall we see if we can?
Again, the Go Backwards Technique works well with creative story writing. Suppose your child writes 2 pages (see next page) and it takes them an hour and a half. By now, you know what we do: celebrate the pages and use the time as a benchmark. Next story, can you write 2 pages in 89 minutes? Continue in this way. Even if it takes takes three days to write 2 pages. Next story, two days, then one and a half days, and so on. Over the long term, they may well be at fifty minutes. The art of the possible. Just keep swimming, as Dory says. 49, 48, etc.
• For a 25-minute piece of writing, a page and a paragraph to a page and a half is an excellent amount to aim for. This turns out to be around 7-8 paragraphs with around 5 lines to a paragraph.
• For a 40-60-minute test, plan and practise writing between 2-2½ pages, around 10-12 paragraphs.
Any less and there may not be enough material to mark or show strength, nor will there be enough space to put in all the essential ingredients of a stand-out piece of writing; any more and your child may not have time to go back and check.
One of the easiest ways to win points can be for your child to go over things they’ve just written and check punctuation, spelling, grammar, and perhaps swap words for more exciting ones.
It’s likely for any of us that in a first draft (which a test piece of writing is) we will miss things, misspell homophones, leave out punctuation, or use a word that we would rather change for a better one, and so on.
Do you want to help your child’s writing better? The best it can be? Two further truths matter:
1) SPACED time. By which we mean, start early and give them the habit of writing regularly over a period of months, if not years. By starting early, you are not adding pressure, you are removing it.
2) Deliberate writing with a deliberate purpose for most pieces. For example, in one story, work on using all punctuation, while in the follow up, focus on similes or structure, while preserving the previous punctuation.
Fold in features like folding ingredients in a recipe one by one. You are baking a happy learning cake that will rise slowly and steadily.
Of course, we need to say that not all writing should be controlled. In some practice sessions, freedom to write is everything. Two absolute benefits of not worrying about time in some writing sessions is that creativity and imagination come out to play, while you will probably with more writing to assess, giving you a clearer view of what the next steps might be.
In rehearsal writing, feel free to jump up and down with real enthusiasm and appreciation for the words your child has written. I love this quote, it’s at the root of driving happy, successful learning:
“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” – Anatole France.
I enjoy celebrating and finding out what students don’t know, as it means we can teach them the gaps and increasingly run out of things they don’t know or can’t yet do.
BUT…I love just as much taking every chance to appreciate and congratulate children for what they have written successfully in each story or essay. We grow more of what we want with specific praise and general and abundant love and encouragement.
Encouragement, enthusiasm and praise ARE teaching tools.
Why do spectators cheer during the 100m? During marathons? What are they giving
to the athletes that the athletes don’t already have? Give the same feeling to your child. It’s wonderful.
To sum up, the Go Backwards Technique helps:
- Coach your child to work towards finishing the test in time by gradually
reducing each test by a minute.
- Reduces the time taken to write an 11+ story or piece of non-fiction, while
increasing the passion and quality of their writing because you value every
sentence along the way while encouraging them to slowly blend in more ‘must-haves’ of dazzlingly brilliant creative writing.
I hope this post helps you. Please share and subscribe. Let’s help children reach their highest mark with a smile on their face.