Superinfluence Part 2: Deciding what and how starts with where

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 your school?

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 format

  • A full sentence/calculation answer sheet, with working out shown for maths question?
  • Multiple choice?
  • 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 advance.

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.

If 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?

Have a happy day of learning, Lee

P.S. Do you know the 21 must-haves of creative writing your child needs to show in every piece of creative writing? Are you prepared for the multiple choice tricks all English tests play to try and catch your child out as schools reduce the number of applicants down to the most alert and prepared? Click here to get started or find out more now. (Do it before you run out of time to prepare.)

Are you half-term happy? Holidays are fantastic 11plus learning gifts!

A huge motivational entrance test hello and a very short burst of happiness to remind you the half-term is gifting you time to plan and weave in happy hours of intentional eleven-plus learning.

Your child can make huge progress during these long days, as well as having a fun break. Please find two to three hours a day to go over difficult subjects, to rehearse different writing essays, or to focus in on a handful of test strategies and techniques to blast your child’s score and progress. You can do it, your child can do it – you have to do it. As someone who teaches during the holiday – and as a parent who took both his children through the 11plus journey – I vow with everything I can that holidays are superboosts of learning. Whatever you are doing, do lots of it this week!

Looking for help? Consider the 11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle as part of your toolbox. Targeted, specialised help is yours for less than half-price. You’ll find everything I’ve learned as a father, tutor, teacher and writer to help your child thrive.

If you haven’t yet, remember to sign up for your free course on why time is such a superhero of the 11plus. Just look at the box to the right of this post (assuming you’re reading this online). I’d love you to sign up to the blog to make sure you catch all other posts. (There have been some important ones recently, so make sure to visit and read over previous posts.)

Stay half-term happy! My best, Lee

Five reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus entrance tests

Dear parent/carer,

A plea from a tutor’s heart. The message is simple – if you can, start teaching and preparing your child for the 11plus in Year 4. Whether that’s at home, with a tutor, or both, it is undoubtedly an easier – and possibly more successful – process than if you wait until Year 5. Please note, I am not suggesting you need a tutor in Year 4. You may, of course, decide you would like a tutor (the four corners of that learning team – child, teacher, parent/carer, tutor – can do amazing things) but as a parent or carer, there is so, so much you can do to help your child. Remember that they spend more time with you than any tutor will, so a lot of your child’s progress – and in some cases all of their progress – will come from a combination of your child’s school, you – and your child!

I know many parents will already be at the Year 5 stage. In that case, the best time to start is always now. Today. This moment. Pick up a book and get learning. I know, too, that many children can be successful with just one year. Some children are faster learners, as are some adults, and will already be ahead or secure in many concepts. If your child loves their learning and are doing fantastically at school, then this may be the case.

But…many children need longer. In any case, all children will benefit in some way from an early start. Over the next 5 days, in 5 mini-blogs, I want to spell out five powerful reasons why you are advised to get ahead and get going a couple of years before an eleven plus exam. (Actually, looking back at that sentence, perhaps there are six; getting ahead is, in itself, important.) You probably know, or suspect, most of these reasons already, but perhaps you are holding back, or are just unsure. My hope in writing is to guide you to see that taking action now in your own home with your child is the safest plan.

Reason 1: Simply put, it can be expecting too much to ask some children to learn everything in a year. While most topics are covered in primary schools, your child needs to remember and be able to apply their knowledge quickly and methodically. For that reason, you must go over these topics again in detail in Year 5. Thus, using Y4 to make sure lots of learning is covered and secured is vital.

It’s also true that many children can learn concepts not covered until Y5 or Y6 earlier if given the chance. Sometimes, the chronological nature of the curriculum is about organisation, not simply age. So, as you practise multiplication for example, why not introduce square or cube numbers, simple alegbra, two or three step word problems that need multiplication to solve?

It is also the case that your child needs a good grasp of Year 6 topics for the test, yet many of the tests come at the start of Year 6. An early start at home in Y4 can help clear a path for learning the Y6 curriculum in Year 5.

If everything is left until Year 5, there is a chance your child can simply run out of time to learn everything well in a way that will allow them to apply maths or English knowledge to new questions and comprehensions they will meet for the first time on the day of the entrance test. (If your child’s school of choice tests using verbal reasoning or non-verbal reasoning, starting early is crucial; they will not have been learning these subjects and techniques in any meaningful sense as part of the primary curriculum.)

The situation can become fretful if, as you approach the day itself, your child is grappling with new concepts. Of course, all of the time, even on the day of the test, your child can and will learn or revise something, a gap in knowledge can be filled, a pronoun or adverb can be discovered. However, what happens if there is one area of learning in which your child, rightly, needs more time with to understand fully?

(Quick question: how long does a child need to learn something?

Answer: As long as they need.)

With this extra time, she or he might be as competent as anyone in this area. If the time is limited, however, it may not be possible to short-cut. An outcome is the result of a process. Learning is often a spiral process, whereby you return to a subject periodically or from different angles, allowing the skills and information to become more embedded each time, over time.

Okay, there’s your first reason not to wait. Please come back to 11plushappy! tomorrow for reason 2 – your child can’t afford you to miss this reason.

Why not sign up to the blog to get the reasons automatically sent to your email? (Remember to check spam or the gmail promotions tab, and to whitelist the blog post.)

You can also grab a free email course on why time is so important to the 11plus – and what you and your child can do about it. If you’re reading this on the 11plushappy! website, check out the yellow box to the right of this blog post.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving your child the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is the eleven-plus. Have an amazing week of learning together. Lee

How a simple dice transformed my children’s 11plus learning and brought us closer together

Along with time, a second superhero of eleven plus success is going to be vocabulary. The more words you know, the more precise, nuanced and expansive are your thoughts. Leading on from this is the certainty that equipping your child with words, words and more words is going to help in at least six areas of the entrance test (one for each face of the dice):

  1. In creative writing, your child is going to write better descriptions of everything – the five senses, moods, locations and scenes, persuasive reasons for or against. In dialogue and action, synonyms for said and synonyms for verbs will help convert writing from satisfactory to outstanding. Your child will write higher quality metaphors, similes, personification and alliteration because they have a greater choice of words with which to do the job.
  2. In comprehension, unknown words catch out many, many children. Answer options in multiple choice make this worse by playing tricks, for instance, offering the easy misunderstandings that result from not knowing a word, such as choosing a similar sounding word, or a similar looking word. It therefore follows that the more words your child knows, the more likely it is that they will understand the words in a comprehension, which means they will answer more questions correctly in a time-efficient way.
  3. In choosing a word to fill a gap in the text (cloze), they will have a higher chance of selecting the correct option and rejecting incorrect options because they will know the meanings of both the right and wrong answers on offer.
  4. A good understanding of the most common prefixes and suffixes will help them select the correct prefix/suffix needed to complete a word, as well as to choose the correct meaning for a word that uses a particular prefix.
  5. The more words your child knows, the more they will be able to say what type of word a word is: nouns, adjectives, adverbs of time, abstract nouns, etc.
  6. The more words they know, the more they will recognise right and wrong spellings, which is going to help them with any spelling questions. (For example, meeting lots words ending in -cial or -ious is going to cement that spelling string in their minds.) They will also spell more words correctly in any writing.

ENTER THE DICE…

With a dice, any list in the universe is a game. How?

  1. Focus on one area at a time. For example, abstract nouns.
  2. Google a list, print off a copy. This list is your game board.
  3. Choose your path, or let your child decide. Player 1 could start at the first word, player 2 could start at the last word. First to reach the opposite end is the winner. Or perhaps it’s simply a race, with you both starting on the same word.
  4. Roll your dice (or die, to use the singular – you only need one). Each word is a step on the board. Roll a 5, move your counter on to the fifth word.
  5. Either say or write a sentence using this. Anything you don’t know, you pit stop and look up, or write down to look at after and move on. Perhaps you only allow 2 chances to move on in the game, otherwise you have to take a pit stop and look up the definition.
  6. At the end of the game, add the words you have used to a new list, or let your child choose their favourite five. The next step is for your child to use all of these in their next piece of writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. (P.S. Get informed about the 21 must-haves your child needs to have in every piece of fiction or non-fiction piece of writing.)
  7. You could vary this by having two copies of the same list, which you hide from each other. Use the dice to find six words from the list, at which point use a dictionary or your own knowledge to write or read a description of the word out loud. The other player has to find the word that matches your description.
  8. Use different lists over the days and weeks to make sure you cover all types of word.

My son’s favourite type of writing was description (which came to even greater fruition a few years later in GCSE English Language writing; everything your child learns is leading them to greatness), so he loved finding new adjectives and verbs to help him with this. My daughter loved the games more than the writing, but still ended up knowing and being able to use her words very competently! Either way, it kept us laughing and having fun while learning. This made it easier to spend more time together learning; ultimately, she learned more. (I don’t say this to gloat that teaching her was easy; it wasn’t. Most of the time, it was more like guerrilla tactics. I had to helicopter in, teach her something, then get out before she realised I had taught her something, as she was quite a rebel. (I love you, dear daughter, you know that!)

I love dice. I have yet to teach anyone who doesn’t get carried away by the gaming transformation and potential of this most portable of friends. You can take dice anywhere you want to go and learn. Better still, keep one in your pocket or pencil case. Few people want to read lists; nearly everyone loves to play games.

If you found this post helpful, please share with friends, family and colleagues; you never know who might be looking for help. Please visit www.11plushappy.com for more posts, as well as niche, bespoke, ebook information targeting your child’s success in the 11plus.

Start learning, stay learning, stay 11plushappy!

Lee, London.

One week of summer holiday 11+ learning left!

This is it, superhero – one week left. You have a gift of time to dedicate to your child’s grammar school preparation. Keep going, keep going! Are you continuing to find gaps in your child’s knowledge and skills? Are you continuing to focus on each one as you discover it, and explore all possible ways to help your child learn it? Are you smiling and loving the adventure?

Excellent.

In this last week, it’s time to take full advantage of time and put in four hours a day. Include a maths & English test, or a VR or non-VR test – anything your child will have to do on any one day. That will help them manage time, energy and focus, as well as giving their brains a chance to swap between the subjects they will be tested on on in the real exam. It may also be worth getting them to sit the tests on the morning and the afternoon to simulate the real thing – you are not normally given a choice of time, you will be allocated a time that could be a.m. or p.m. Best prepare.

Figuring this out as a parent, I spread my net wide as to where I found and used resources. I used as many as I could find and afford. I bought books: Bond, Ae, letts, CGP – I would have loved to have bought my own books on how to sit multiple choice tests, rather than just sit them, as well as the eleven plus centred writing manuals, but they didn’t exist at the time, which is why I ended up writing them, to fill the gaps that existed for me; practice tests from websites and amazon; used sites like TES and primary resources for amazing free teacher resources, trawled the web for challenging and different ways to learn; subscribed to maths sites like ixl, as well as using general websites like parentsintouch, theschoolrun and youtube (monitored).

So…over to you. What will you read and do with your child this week? What progress do they need to make? Remember, you don’t have to know everything deeply beforehand – you can learn together with the spirit of adventure. I used to say to my son and daughter that I wasn’t sure I knew everything or anything about percentages, algebra, how to emotionally move someone in writing, etc., but I was very excited to learn together how to figure it out and practise it until I did. Seeing it as a shared learning journey can sometimes help your child relax – if you’re willing to try, then they can be, too. There’s no problem with not knowing because you can learn it and then you will know it. The only danger is not knowing what you don’t know. This is why finding those gaps and celebrating them is so important.

Make the most of your last week of summer holidays – when it’s all over, you’ll know it was worth it. Education changes lives.

Stay learning, stay 11plushappy, Lee

11 Plus Happy! – 88 Essential Grammar School Steps you and your child MUST do Now is free for 5 days on kindle!

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!

Lee https://11plushappy.com/

Do the keyword dance: How to use (and not use) keywords to answer multiple choice comprehension questions

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!

To set the context, I’m including the entire hack here, so you can teach your child and understand the Keyword Dance fully. You’ll hopefully see this is a very practical step that your child can actually do on their own, once you have looked at it together. This is Happy Hack 12 from the instantly downloadable book, Grammar School Success in Multiple Choice English – 59 Easy Ways to Score High in your 11 Plus English Exam. It’s also on kindle at amazon,

as well as being part of a summer learning deal at less than half price.

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 Dance!

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:

1. Find the question keyword or phrase in the passage.

2. Read 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 tiger feel?

a) Terrified.

b) Confused.

c) Happy.

d) Really tired because they’ve been running away from it all day.

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. 

What happens if the Keyword Dance doesn’t work?

Relax.  

Maybe the 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.

Just 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.

TIP: Quite 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!

Was this blog post helpful? You can sign up to the blog for free to keep yourself informed of more tips. There are lots more (58 more, as you will have worked out from the title of the book!) happy hacks waiting to help your child reach their highest mark in Grammar School Success in Multiple Choice English – 59 Easy Ways to Score High in your 11 Plus English Exam. You can buy it alone, or as part of the crazy summer learning deal, which gives you all four books in the series for better than half-price.

Thank you for investing your time in these words and thank you for nurturing your child’s Great Eleven Plus Moment!

Stay happy, Lee