50% off all 11plus English tuition books until our precious children are allowed to return to school

The headline says it all, so if you want to skip to the books, please do. Goodness knows how we make it through this, but we have to believe at some point that schools will reopen and your hoped-for grammar school will admit the next intake. It could be sooner than we think or later than we think, but it will happen.

Whatever you are doing to stay safe and occupied, we must keep our children learning.

The good habits you and schools have established to help your children learn are crucial at this moment. Learning provides much more than a distraction from worry – it paves the way for tomorrow’s generation of heroes and humans who will shape and build and grow the best future possible. It sets your child on their best path.

11 plus exams will at some point be a normal reality again. Please – little by little – stay learning with precision and purpose. We need our children to be progressing and prepared, not in a spirit of competition or worry, but in a happy spirit of continuing the love of learning and the happiness and stimulation that come from achievement and focus. It is good that our highest goals as humans remain at the core of what we do. It is not easy, but it is good.

I’m now running a 50% off coupon on all books in the 11plushappy range, including the bundle. (From an already low bundle price of £47, you now invest just £23.50 for the 4-book 11 Plus English Masterclass Bundle, giving you months of targeted learning).

Use the voucher code ‘stay at home’ in the cart.

Please have a look at the books. I believe so strongly they can help you and your child continue learning together.

I’m sorry I am not in a position to offer them for free. With social distancing in place, all my tuition students can, of course, no longer come, so my own income and ability to keep my family food coming is under pressure. I hope that 50% off everything can help everyone survive and thrive. Please share the coupon with anyone you feel might benefit – there are no restrictions. The creative writing guides are also very suitable for upper KS2 and KS3 children. Included in the purchase is an opportunity to send a piece of your child’s written work for free, so that I can read and suggest some next steps for your child to take. This is specific to your child, not generic.

Simply add your books to the cart and write ‘stay at home’ in the voucher code box. Your 50% discount will be applied immediately.

Stay learning, stay safe, love your children, be patient, be caring, be funny, strive to be happy. In dark times, we must be the extra light.

Thank you for caring for and teaching your children. I hope that as you stay at home, your 50% off voucher code helps you and your child on their path to eventual eleven plus success.

Children, keep creating, keep learning and keep laughing. Every smile, every word, every number, every picture is worth it.

My best, Lee

London

I just remembered – the 11plus is fun!

The best of mornings to 11 plus children and parents everywhere. A very quick post, before my student arrives, to share a lesson from a lesson. Yesterday, a student was experiencing and working through her first cloze exercise. I was in full serious teacher mode (spoiler: not the best mode!) as we explored how to examine the words outside the gap as much as the words given to fill in the gap. Three plus one brief tips to rehearse with your child, though this is not the point of this post, as you’ll see in a moment:

  1. If it’s a passage or paragraph containing several blank spaces to fill in, read the whole piece first, or at least the first few sentences. This allows your brain to work out what kinds of words would suit the blank (verbs, adjectives, etc.) as well as helping you understand the meaning, mood and tense of the whole piece. Avoid rushing into answer the first question.
  2. Make sure the word you choose fits both parts of the sentence – the part before the gap AND the part after the gap. Many words fit one half of the sentence, which could be enough to trick you into choosing a wrong word.
  3. The search for small words is a big thing. Look at small words before and after the gap, as well as any small words that are part of the answer options. For example, if there is “a” before the gap, then the word you are looking for will at least start with a consonant, whereas if “an” appears, the next word must be a vowel. Small words can also help you match tense and quantity among other things. For example:

Most moons have/has/will has/having been spinning for hundreds of thousands of years.

Before the gap, we see a plural ‘moons’. We must match this with the ‘have’ form of the verb, which rules out ‘has’. The word ‘been’ after the gap tells us it is some form of past tense, thus will has’ is ruled out (‘will has’ is just a wrong joining.) While ‘having been’ makes sense, vital punctuation is missing which prevents it from being the correct choice. We would probably need an embedded clause with two commas –

Most moons, having been spinning for hundreds of thousands of years,

plus a second second part of the sentence –

Most moons, having been spinning the same way for hundreds of thousands of years, can be thought of as old fashioned, stubborn rocks set in their ways.

(If you’re a scientist who knows moons never spin the same way, please let me know.)

Therefore, ‘have’ is the right answer, as it provides a completed, grammatically correct sentence that makes sense.

Tip 4, then, is pay attention to punctuation. This will guide you as to whether you should be creating a longer complex sentence, or a smaller, simpler one.

Anyway, to the point of this post. After finishing a piece of work, full teacher mode often sees me ask two follow-on questions:

What was tricky about this?

What helped you?

It’s really good practice to spend a minute or so at the end of any session to review what has been learned. (I call this a Magic Minute After Brain Boost, in the chapter Grab a Mab in my book, Success in Multiple Choice English – 59 Easy Ways to Score High in your 11plus Exam). A Mab helps convert the topic into memory, while also allowing the brain to relate to what has been taught, as it reminds the learner that it is how they interact with the information that makes the difference. Good learning is an active and mutual process.

My Y4 student’s brilliant reply instantly taught me a new question! Her answer to what helped her was that it was fun to learn new information about St Paul’s Cathedral (the topic of the cloze passage).

Fun.

Of course. She wanted to keep reading because she was enjoying learning about the cathedral’s history. So, the third question I am going to ask from now on, and which I hope you will ask your child from now on, is

What was fun about this?

With my own kids, I did this all the time. I loved learning, my son loved learning – always. We had fun. Our attitude was that it should probably be impossible not to pass the 11plus, if only because we spent so many fun hours learning and being fascinated by information, skills and making improvements to our writing, our timing, our scores.

The 11plus is fun! Please, please enjoy it. Enjoy the extra time you are both sharing, the path you are on. Asking what was fun or enjoyable about a learning session immediately focuses the brain on actually finding something that was fun. Children love fun. If learning is fun, they will stay at it longer, and may absorb deeper learning.

Keep it consistent, keep discovering things your child doesn’t know, keep learning to fill those gaps one at a time…and keep it fun.

Have an amazing 11 plus day. Click here for targeted English resources on Multiple choice and both fiction and non-fiction creative writing ‘must-have’ skills.

Lee

What does a successful 11 Plus routine look like?

(Part 2 of a 4-blog mini-series)

In the first post in this series, we began examining why routine and time are such vital tools in giving your child the best chance of 11-plus success. I promised to show you one such routine, so here we are. The table below shows you what my son and I did together in a typical Y4 week during school term. A holiday plan will look different and I will show you an example of this in the next blog.

I’ve shown you the reasons for each part of the plan. It’s crucial to have a why for each study session if you are going to help your child run out of things they don’t know and can’t do by the end of your preparations. For a few seconds thinking at the beginning, the rewards for focusing are huge.

You’ll see that in Y4 I only put in around 6 hours a week, instead of the 9 hours or more I recommend for Y5. It’s enough at that age, when you are teaching knowledge and subject skills rather than teaching and rehearsing test strategies and time-management.

Here’s the big deal though: I didn’t find those 6hrs all at once. I used bits of time here and there throughout the week. You don’t eat a day’s meals all at once, you eat them one meal at a time, one bite at a time. This is a good analogy for learning. What matters is that you use the time you have while it is there and don’t let it slip away.

Sticking with the meal image, you eat meals throughout the day to make sure your nutrients and energy are delivered slowly and regularly, so you are in the best health. With 11-plus learning, you need spaced learning throughout the weeks and months to allow the brain to digest the information over time. Cramming everything in at once is like gorging breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all at once. Nutrients are wasted, the body suffers and cannot use the energy and vitamins effectively.

Three more reasons why routine is the lifeblood of learning: it helps memory, helps normalise good learning habits and slowly draws your child into the ‘zone’, into a mental space where they are focusing on all things 11-plus as they approach the exam period.

  1. Memory. We forget a lot of what we learn just half an hour later. If we repeat things through routine, we’ll remember more. We just will. We just will. We just will.
  2. Habits. Your child will hopefully resist less and appreciate why learning time is so helpful. They’ll spend more time by design learning, rather than watching tv or playing computer games if time is not planned.
  3. The zone. An imaginary, yet real mental space. In the few weeks before the tests, you want your child focusing on only the exam. Note that I say focusing, not worrying. Never worry. Plan and execute.

“Don’t worry, work.”

Mr Jackson, Dalry Secondary School
(My physics teacher!)

The time you spend worrying you can spend learning something instead. Getting your child used to spending this planned, weekly learning now should make the final approach, the last couple of months leading up to the tests, effortless and smooth. (You are also building their study skills for later use in GCSEs, but as we are only thinking about the 11-plus, that’s just an added extra!)

Okay, have a look at the table below. Think about how you are spending your week, think about where you can find time, and then make a plan and start. Oh, and this is the first time I’ve used a table in a blog, so if it goes a bit strange when you are looking at it, please let me know, I’m still learning!

In part 3 of this mini-series, we’ll consider a holiday routine. Thank you as always for helping your child.

Stay happy, Lee

Plan during school termEnglishSuccess ReasonMathsSuccess Reason Superhero Time used
MondayBond Assessment paper - 100 marksWriting full answers helps think about finding evidence.
Help with spelling & grammar.
Experience of managing time.
45 mins
(6-6.45pm)
TuesdayPrefixes. Quick warm up fun activity. (15 min)He couldn't do them in yesterday's test. Fill knowledge gap.Bond Assessment paper - 50 marks.Exposure to different maths to find topics he knows and topics he doesn't.15 mins
45 mins
(5.30pm-6.30pm
WednesdayWriting: Sentence Starter football game.Learn new sentence starters and understand that great writing must use a variety of sentence starters.Interior angles of regular shapes.He knew angles of square and triangle, but not pentagon. Taught him formula for any regular polygon.30 mins
20 mins
(6-6.50pm)
ThursdaySchofield & Sims Mental Arithmetic Book 4: 1 test. (36 questions)
See if he struggles with any area, then have a mini-lesson on this while it is fresh in his mind.
Experience of managing time: Section 1 - 5 min
Section 2 - 10 min
Section 3 - 15 mins
Practice 2-step word problems.
25 mins
20 mins
(7-7.45pm)
FridayDay off, but still do daily shared reading aloud.20 mins reading aloud. (We both read to each other.) Bed time
SaturdayBond Assessment paper - 100 marks.
40 min writing exercise - story.
Visit a cafe for 2 hours for fun and long learning.
Practice in comprehension; revise and learn spelling and grammar. Put the earlier work on sentence starters into a new piece of writing, plus new writing technique: personification to build mood.
Bond: How to do 11 Plus Maths: 40 mins going through topics.Familiarity with doing maths & English on the same day, mirroring the test.
Securing knowledge and finding an area he doesn't know, then spending time on that until he does know.
2 hrs
(9.30-11.30am)
SundayDictionary work: Find 5 new words and write meaning.
Writing technique: 3 different ways to start a story.
Develop vocabulary; find a favourite word he can use in the test and in other writing; prepare for different writing questions by learning how the same story can start in different ways.Long Division: 2 different methods.He was getting confused with one method. Expose to different solutions. He ended up preferring the first method, but understood it better.10 min
30 min
40 min
(11am-12.20pm)
Totals6 English Sessions
(Plus daily reading every day)
6 maths sessions6hrs 40 mins