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A conversation with a close friend, who is worrying about their daughter’s 11 plus in these difficult times, has prompted this post.
In truth, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen. We can predict, though, that something will happen. Either the tests will be rearranged, postponed, or a new system will be temporarily introduced. The first two of these are most likely; the third is not impossible to imagine. Schools could re-open earlier or later than we could predict, with the likelihood of some form of social distancing in place. It is, quite honestly, a horrible situation for our children, and for us, their carers and educators, who want to to do the best for them.
Simply, it is a reminder that we cannot control all events. We never have been able to. The current situation just makes this very, very obvious. Perhaps less obvious is the idea that this is okay, that not controlling all events does not mean we cannot control any events.
It is not, I think, about doing the right or wrong thing. No one knows enough. Instead of right or wrong, far better to think in terms of helpful or unhelpful. What is a helpful thing to do now? How can we help our children? This question opens up a world of opportunity and the realisation that there is so, so much we can do.
For me as a dad and as a teacher, two of the most helpful things we can do are:
- Continue to allow them to study for the 11 plus. Continue to support them, continue to find resources and use them, over time, to make deliberate improvements in skills and knowledge, one by one, folding in new skills on top of practising old skills and knowledge.
Remember, this is helpful or unhelpful – not right or wrong. Although there are only around 4-5 months remaining before the typical 11plus entrance test season starts, your child possibly has a lot longer than that in terms of extra time through being at home and being able to spend more time focused on 11 plus learning. In effect, the extra time to spend on targeted learning each day means it is more as if they still had 6-8 months to prepare, simply because this time wouldn’t exist under normal conditions.
I’ve written before how holidays, particularly the summer holidays, are true gifts of learning for the time they create to learn undisturbed. I don’t mean your children should study 6-8 hours a day and do nothing else – that would be unhelpful! However, three hours a day, plus reading, leaves so much time for childhood, while also offering unrivalled moments of learning among the people they love most – you!
This is certainly no holiday. But if we are thinking helpful or unhelpful, then it is definitely a learning moment to seize.
2. If we must worry, and worry, it seems, we often must, then we can try and find a really helpful way of worrying, a way that actually leads to less worry and more learning. There is a way, it is very simple, and if you haven’t tried this already, I invite you 100% to try this. It is going to help a lot.
The ‘write way to worry’ means simply this: the right way to worry is to write.
Write down what YOU worry about, both in your own education, and in helping your child to get as ready as they can be for the entrance test.
Do you have gaps in your own learning? Are you worried about verbal reasoning or non verbal reasoning, possibly because, like me, until you start out on the grammar school journey, you’ve never heard of them? Do you worry about the effect of ‘pressure’ on your child? Are you unsure of what is in your chosen school’s particular test? Are you comparing your child to others?
Maybe you fear your maths isn’t good enough, or maybe it’s just one area – division, or percentages, for example.
Is English your second language? Do you get spellings wrong? Would you worry about writing a letter?
Getting your worries – all of them – down in writing (and don’t judge yourself on HOW you are writing down your worries!) might take you half an hour, an hour at the most (trust me, you’ll run out!)
it will save you and your child weeks of time on your 11+ journey.
Please – do this. Remember, this is about helpful or unhelpful. Grab a piece of paper and get going. Think-writing is amazing at bringing thoughts up you didn’t even know you had, including worries you might be pretending are not there but are nevertheless holding you back from helping your child right now. Enjoy a good worry-write. My worries about my education/What I think I don’t know/What are my gaps?/What do I think I can’t help my child with?/What are my barriers to helping my child?
How do you feel? Worse, or relieved?
However you feel, shake your own hand for what you’ve just done.
Because now you know that what you are worried about is what YOU are worried about.
Your child is not worried about the same things, and you don’t have to pass on your worries to them. None of them. At all.
Admit it, not knowing some things? It’s pretty normal. It applies to every human being on Earth, right?
Not knowing we don’t know, refusing to accept we don’t know, or pretending we do know, can be a bit more risky to your child’s success: because of superinfluence, there’s a risk they will absorb your worries, or learn to believe it doesn’t matter if you don’t know some things.
In superinfluence, we’re only passing on the helpful stuff that actually supports their 11+ success. Well, now you know your worries, you can leave them behind or keep them with you.
So not passing on your worries, that’s one great result of writing them down and exploring them. Two more things to think about.
A second benefit of getting your worries down is you’ll probably realise that a lot of the time, that’s all they are – worries.
One of my worries at the time my daughter was preparing was non-verbal reasoning. I had an almost superstitious doubt (in that I had no evidence to support the worry, it was just fear) about my ability to see patterns and work with pictures. Rather than help my daughter, I worried I would actually make things worse for her. It stopped me covering the topic. I was a primary teacher, yet nowhere in the curriculum at the time was anything about non-verbal reasoning.
Of course, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I hadn’t done it, so had never learned how to.
Going through various books and website resources,step by step, at a pace right for both of us, my daughter and I learned the various types of shapes and sequences. Over time, our score in tests reached the level they needed to be. That would not have happened without time, and time would not have happened if I hadn’t admitted my worry months before.
The point is this: knowing you don’t know something is a strength because you can now find about it and learn it to a level that will help support your child. This is the third benefit of worrying in this helpful way. We can look at each worry objectively and take steps to deal with each and any step that moves our child’s learning forward. Isn’t that amazing?
It might help to bear in mind, too, that whatever you do not know, you are not expected to know anything a curious, interested 11 year old is not capable of learning.
That’s a helpful perspective to keep in mind.
This doesn’t mean that you wait until everything you worried about is dealt with, that you must be ready before you start helping your child – this will lose you time. You are never ready, you become ready by doing. There are actions that you can do to help right now. Pick one and do it. My science teacher, when I was at school (Hello, Mr Jackson) taught me one of the most helpful quotes I’ve ever heard: “Don’t worry, work.”
Perhaps the most common worry is the ‘What if..?’ kind. What if they don’t get in? What if I miss something? What if they find it too hard? What if I ruin it for them? What if I show myself up and can’t understand the learning myself?
Nothing is guaranteed in life, but the possibility of things not working out is never an excuse for not striving for those things anyway. Better results often come when you believe in something as if it is already a fact, and then work backwards to map out the plan to get to that reality.
I began my son’s 11+ journey with the end in mind – I already saw him getting in to his grammar school, and then worked backwards to find all the ways needed to get him to that truth. Did I have proof that it would happen? Not a chance!
I didn’t know all the ways – I knew close to nothing. Instead, I believed that there were ways, and if there were ways, then I could find out what they were, learn them and follow them.
I invite you to do the same.
One helpful tip to stay one step ahead of your child’s learning is to read through the lesson or part of a book or resource you’re going to use by yourself before reading through it with your child. In Bond, How to do 11+ Maths, for example, read the chapter on ratio before you teach them it.
A week, an hour, even ten minutes is sometimes enough to grasp the general learning you’re about to cover. By the second or third time, as you read it with your child it will probably make sense. Even if you don’t understand a concept completely, you can lead the situation confidently and honestly by saying,
‘Well, it looks tricky, but so did the other things and we worked on them, and we can do them now.’
Another tip is to do some of the work they do with them. If you are asking your child to practise writing an extended metaphor paragraph, then have a go at writing one as well. If you are showing them long division, have them give you questions to solve, or do the same questions your child is doing, modelling a couple, then hiding your answers and turning it into a game.
Thank you for teaching and nurturing your child, you are making a difference to the world.
If you are looking for help in multiple choice English or creative writing, I invite you to a 50% discount on the 11 Plus English Masterclass 4-book Ebundle, with immediate downloads available to save even more time. Enter ‘stay at home’ in the cart. The discount is good for any book, any purchase, until our precious children return to school.
Wherever your child is in their eleven plus journey, I hope they are safe, always making progress and remain in love with learning as much as ever. Education is amazing!
My very best, Lee Mottram
I know you could have told yourself that, but here’s what that one truth means.
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
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.
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.
Modelling is a vital step; show your child what success looks like.
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.
I wish you a productive, successful Christmas.
Good morning, Saturday. Time to smile and think about today’s learning.
If we remember that the latin root ‘educare’ means to lead out, to draw out the intelligence that is inside, rather than cram in, stuff full, it’s easy to see that praising your child is so important, so effective – and so correct.
When they achieve something, make a learning breakthrough, or simply work on understanding a problem or practising a writing technique, congratulate them and point out specifically what their efforts and thinking have allowed them to uncover.
It is not the information that matters as much as how that information allows your child to sharpen their mind, to uncover layers of intelligence, problem solving and creative power that are always inside them.
You teach your child to understand that they possess the intelligence and creative power as part of who they already are.
Yes, you have to teach – and they have to learn – content. Just bear in mind the purpose of that content, how it is interacting with your child’s brain, firing up the engines that are there just waiting. Learning is about so much more than a test, yet it’s also true that someone who loves to learn will often perform extraordinarily well in tests.
Learning is an amazing process, as it draws out, polishes and releases your child’s natural intelligence. It’s one of the main reasons I try so hard to show my own children and my students the sheer joy of learning.
Have an incredible day of shared learning,
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
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 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.
- 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.
- 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
Yesterday, we admitted the important truth that starting to prepare in Year 5 could be simply expecting too much for some children, given the amount of material to be covered versus the amount of time available. Today’s reason, Reason 2, is actually an extra one I realised while writing the reason 2 I was going to tell you about today. I was planning to add a couple of sentences onto yesterday’s post, a sort of P.S. to Reason 1, but there was too much to say on the subject. It was too important to brush over. So, in fact, there are 6 reasons not to wait. Expect this 5-part miniblog series to now have 6 parts!
Reason 2: The age factor. How old is your child? If your child is younger in their year – sometimes they are nearly a year younger than others – that can be an influence on how much they can learn within a given time. As importantly, as a teaching consideration, are the ways they may learn best at a younger age. If you start in Year 4, you have time to develop learning games in the home that can hook their imagination, sense of fun and need to play. You can still maintain a lot of these throughout Year 5, while at the same time developing their stamina to sit longer exam papers.
Two powerful effects of play-based learning:
- It’s more fun and will often lead to longer sessions, as well as helping to build your learning relationship;
- It’s more likely to be practical, and for many children, this ‘concrete’ experience of doing things will help them thrive.
Here’s a link to a simplypsychology article on Kolb’s Learning styles, giving a brief overview of this ‘concrete’ learning style, alongside other learning styles, in case you’d like to have some context. As an illustration, my daughter and I, towards the end of Year 4, opened a Problem Shop in the kitchen. She was the owner, ‘the boss’, and I would post written maths problems in an envelope through her shop door. She would then call me up on a pretend phone (sometimes a real one) and try and explain how she would solve it for me. I would sometimes ask if I could come to the shop so she could show me on paper, which she always agreed to because she was in role as a polite shop owner! This matched her love of drama and was an excellent way to have several, very short ‘lessons’ at spare points in the day. When similar problems were met in practice papers, I would remind her of the similarity to a problem her Problem Shop had solved for me.
Children love to play, and sometimes fun, unusual approaches will stick in the memory longer or clearer than only sitting with a book. (You still need to do this, of course.) To help with measurement, estimation and approximation, we measured spaghetti sticks and then predicted how many we would need to make a path to reach the garden. It goes without saying that we had a lot of fun making the path, especially when it came to going down the stairs. We were also able to discuss how much the pasta would weigh, using the mass of one pack. (Food can be an amazing learning tool.) A similar game was to make a Book Path, laying out every book we had in the house, then learning probability from trying to work out the likelihood of landing on a fiction or non-fiction title, or a title by a favourite or least-favourite author.
It goes without saying (teach your child this sentence opener as a rhetorical phrase they can use in persuasive letters – because, of course, I am going to say it) that what made these games so enjoyable and effective was that I had started long before the test, so I knew I had time to meander and spend important time going through this process. There was less pressure than if we had started a few months before.
Age is not the defining factor, but it is most definitely a strong influence. As I wrote yesterday, part of the reason for starting earlier than Year 5 is simply because you can. So many children can learn ideas and topics not covered until Year 5 or 6 when they are in Year 4 or earlier. Perhaps a more precise way to think about it is that it is more to do with stage than age. What stage of learning is your child at? Of course, you may not know until you try them with material from later years, so go ahead and introduce these materials. For example, I use the picture-rich CGP KS2 Maths Book on children in Year 3. At this point, they have only entered KS2, but the book covers material right up to Year 6, a lot of which children can grasp, or at least begin to grasp as they move on into Year 4.
Okay, that’s the end of an extra reason not to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for eleven-plus entrance tests. Thanks for letting me add an extra reason. Please come back tomorrow for Reason 3 – the one I said at the end of Reason 1 that your child cannot afford to you to miss.
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. Stay learning, stay happy, Lee
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