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I’m right in the middle of sending some lovely learning to an online student when BANG…a new idea comes for a game, so I’m sharing it with you straight away. You will probably play it before us, as we are not skype-meeting until Friday. It’s amazing to think an idea might spread into the Learning Living-rooms of the world!
Words are slippery.
Some words can be nouns, some words can be verbs, while others still can be adjectives. Meanwhile, hundreds of words can be all of these word types and more.
They change form, become shape-shifting tricksters that turn up in multiple choice papers. For instance, which of these is the odd one out?
cut slice rip tear crevice crack
Only word-types will save you here! They are all nouns or verbs, except crevice, which is just a beautiful noun.
So…a game to play. First, choose a number that is on a dice you have. (You can use an online dice if you don’t have one to hand.) We’ll come back to this number shortly.
- Choose 10 words each that can be more than one word type. I found a wide selection here:
This site has a huge list of sentences that show the words in their different roles.
2. Write them as two lists. You don’t have to choose the same words. You could choose a word one at a time to prevent this, or make up a fun rule that if you both have the same word, you both have to do a bird impression or a press up if one of you lands on it- it’s totally up to you!
3. Roll a dice. (Lots of variations: 6-9 sided dice, 2 dice and 12 words, etc.)
4. Count down the list to the word. (Keep going down and up the list, or chart your own path, like jumping in 3s.)
5. Both of you write sentences that use your word in different ways. E.g. call as a noun and a verb. First to finish both sentences wins a point.
6. Remember your special number from the start? If you roll that number, you have a chance to battle for one of your opponent’s words.
7. Let’s say you choose your opponent’s word clean. Each of you write in secret, behind your hand, a sentence using that word in any way you want.
8. If you both use the word as the same word type in your sentences, e.g. as an adjective (Water is a lovely drink when clean; Auntie’s car was incredibly clean.), you win the word from your opponent.
9. But…if it is different, your opponent can choose one of your words and battle for it.
When that battle has played out, you continue taking turns to roll.
Your winner could be:
- the first person to have all the words;
- the first person to win 3 words;
- the person with the most words after 5-10 minutes. (Quite useful for keeping pace and also stopping the game running on.)
What’s the point of the game?
- Relationship building.
- Secret learning about words that are more than one word type, which could help in multiple choice language tests or comprehension.
- A warm-up to a writing lesson in which these multi-jobbing, slippery words are used on purpose to practise.
- A springboard to creating more games between you.
- A quick learning boost when there are 10 minutes to spare. Note: I challenge you to keep a dice close at hand throughout your child’s childhood. They are portable learning legends!
- Writing practice. You could set extra rules around the types of sentence you use. For example, your sentences need to be compound or complex, not simple. This reduces the risk of writing an over-easy sentence in order to finish writing first!
- The game element could make the learning more memorable. We often remember more of what is unusual. Think of a crowded street of people in ordinary clothes, among which strolls a lady in a yellow and purple suit, two golden walking sticks, one silver shoe and one welly which is filled with water. Who do you think you might remember from that street?
- If it’s fun, it can grow enthusiasm for the next learning session. You can repeat the game – your child might even ask to play it again, perhaps with a different rule. Sometimes, if a child is initially reluctant to start a learning session, I simply say, “We’re going to play a game,” and begin. I don’t call it a learning session. The appearance of a dice can be magical! Games can help enormously with those moments, whether they come at the start or the middle of a lesson.
I’ve created an instant ebook bundle for you of targeted 11+ happy learning material to share and learn together with your child. Click here for 50% off until our precious children return to school.
“Grow wherever life puts you.”Ben Okri
(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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 term||English||Success Reason||Maths||Success Reason||Superhero Time used|
|Monday||Bond Assessment paper - 100 marks||Writing full answers helps think about finding evidence. |
Help with spelling & grammar.
Experience of managing time.
|Tuesday||Prefixes. 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
|Wednesday||Writing: 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
|Thursday||Schofield & 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.
|Friday||Day off, but still do daily shared reading aloud.||20 mins reading aloud. (We both read to each other.) Bed time|
|Saturday||Bond 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.
|Sunday||Dictionary 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
|Totals||6 English Sessions|
(Plus daily reading every day)
|6 maths sessions||6hrs 40 mins|
(The first of a 4-blog mini-series…)
You may be wondering if you are doing enough to help them. How do you know? The overall aim is to run out of things they don’t know before the day arrives. Say hello to two of your child’s best friends to get this done:
Routine. Habit. A daily routine, a weekly routine, a monthly routine. How you make your routine depends on your week, your work habits, travel distance from school, clubs, childcare arrangements. There is no one-size fits all, but there must be a size that fits you and that you stick to.
There is an uncomfortable truth you have to deal with to get this right, and which is better brought into the open now, no matter how painful it is for you initially; after ten years of teaching and tuition, I feel it can be one of the dividing factors between getting a place and not getting a place. The uncomfortable truth is that you may not be able to fit everything in that you and your child/children currently do and fit in 11 plus preparation as well.
Think about it for a moment. We’re not talking any routine; we’re building and practising an 11 plus learning routine intended to help your child successfully prepare for, and thus massively increase the likelihood of succeeding in, their one-shot superhero moment that is the 11 plus. An exam they cannot choose to sit when they like, but which must be sat on one day in one year, which is coming soon. In total, it’s best to find and use between 9-15 hours a week of (very targeted) learning, especially in the year approaching the test, when your child is in Y5. This is also where we start to see the importance of time.
With that in mind, before we look at a brilliant routine that should really make a difference, take some time to work out on paper what your family currently does and for how long. Include both your planned actions – work shifts, after school clubs, swimming, etc, AND your unplanned actions – how long your child spends on PC games, browsing, television, friends, etc.
Do you have those 9-15 hrs available?
If yes, fantastic. If not, then the truth is it’s probably time to prioritise for the next few months. If your child is very busy doing lots of things, there’s an even more important reason why cutting back could be crucial to securing that all important 11 plus win. Indeed, if they are too busy, even with positive, well-intentioned activities, you may be lessening their chances. We’ll look at this in our third email in the series.
So, routine and time. The next time we meet, we’ll put an effective routine together. This will help you realise just how much is possible. We’ll return to the uncomfortable truth mentioned above, and reveal why being too busy might not help your child at this point in their life.
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Start learning, stay learning, and stay 11plushappy!