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

How can you help your 11 plus child in the summer holidays? Try this 15hr weekly plan.

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

Actually, it looks as if it will be a five-blog mini-series; there’s a lot of info to help you. All to the good. The last time we spoke, we looked generally at morning and afternoon patterns of learning. What follows is a zoomed-in look at a day from an effective weekly routine.

Week 1: Monday

  1. 9.30 a.m. – English multiple choice test – 50 mins.
  2. A small 10-break, then mark the test. You can mark it together, asking your child to look at the supplied answers and check against their paper. Ask them to play at being the examiner, not getting upset at wrong answers, but rather being curious to know.
  3. Identify the learning areas your child got right. For example, did they score highest in spelling, punctuation, grammar or comprehension sections? Note this and see if the same thing happens on the next test.
  4. Identify the learning areas your child missed marks on. Note this and see if there is a pattern on the next test. Did they score lowest in comprehension, or did they not see the tricks being played in the punctuation questions? Be very upbeat about discovering these areas. You are both playing detective to find out what the next area is that they are going to be brilliant at.
  5. Suppose comprehension was low-scored. Looking at the reading text AND the questions, can you work out together why it was tricky? For example, it could have been a misunderstanding of vocabulary. Were there a lot of words your child didn’t know? How did this affect the score? Was it just choosing the wrong meaning from a list, or did the misunderstanding lead to a misreading of the meaning of the text, perhaps the motivation for a character’s actions. Or was it the questions themselves that were misread? Was it even something to do with the tricky way the answers are laid out like traps? I found so many tricks in both the questions and the answers of most multiple choice English tests that I wrote a very helpful book explaining them all, along with explanations of what your child can actually do to beat those tricks and boost their scores.
  6. To finish the English session, pick up on an area of weakness immediately and learn something together. Suppose there are often lots of words your child doesn’t know (indeed, even if they do know lots of words), then start a daily habit of learning 5-10 new words a day. You could do this in a million different ways. Take the letters in their name and find words in a dictionary or thesaurus beginning with each letter; find five words that start with the same letter; choose one word and its meaning, followed by a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word; focus on verbs only, or adverbs, or nouns, etc; find five words that use the same prefix, e.g. indecipherable, inhumane, innocuous; five words that end with the same suffix, e.g. courageous, advantageous, epigeous. You can make a game of it, using a dice to find a word to land on. Alternatively, if punctuation is an issue, have a twenty minute learning session on how to use a particular mark, e.g. semi-colon. Once it is half-understood, put it into practice and have your child write sentences using the punctuation mark, or have them deliberately fool you by leaving out the problem punctuation mark, which you have to spot.

If you’ve spent 2hrs on a session, not including breaks, then that might be enough for a day’s targeted learning. Let your child continue with their day, BUT HANG ON…Remember to include other good learning habits, such as daily reading later in the day, shared loud reading to each other, listening to audiobooks or programmes that use formal language such as nature documentaries, leaving background programmes on that use formal language, such as Radio 4 documentaries, and avoiding over use (or any use) of electronic games that might zap their mind and undo the good work you’ve just done. You are trying to lead your child into the zone, into a summer holiday mindset of learning and thinking, with minimal drag from activities that don’t support learning.

If you haven’t used 2 hours, or fancy targeting 3-hours, then you could have an hour away before repeating the process for Maths, or verbal/non-verbal if your choice of school tests using these. By week 3, it would be very helpful to make time for different subjects in the same day, to build stamina and to give the brain experience of switching between subjects, which they have to do during their real test.

Okay, perhaps we’ve covered enough for now. Hmm…and we’re only at Monday. This is turning into less of a mini-series and more of a season box set! It all matters and all has to be covered. Make sure you read the previous blogs to help you catch up with where we’ve got to.

Thank you for nurturing your child. Start learning, stay learning and stay 11plushappy!

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

Are you thinking about the 11plus? Think multiple choice! Here’s why…

Half term has been full of teaching and tuition, which I absolutely love, and here’s the one urgent lesson that’s come out of every lesson, from Y3to Y5, and from every chat with parents after each lesson:

Multiple choice. Multiple choice. Multiple Choice. To put it another way –

Q: Which of the following is absolutely the gatekeeper to nearly all good grammar schools, and thus must form a huge part of you and your child’s 11 plus learning journey?

A) Multiple choice

B) Multiple choice

C) Multiple choice

D) Multiple choice

E) All of the above

Of course, it’s E. This is a big, big deal. Nearly all grammar school tests use multiple choice tests as either the only test your child sits, or as a Stage 1 test which acts as a very real gatekeeper to a school’s Stage 2 test, which will be written, full answers and not multiple choice. Your child HAS to pass the multiple choice test to be invited to the Stage 2 test.

So, if your child is a brilliant writer of stories, persuasive letters, descriptions and full written comprehension answers that give brilliant explanations and answers, they may never get the chance to show their glory! Unless, until, they pass the multiple choice tests.

The solution? Patience, action and practice – but don’t just let them sit the papers. Teach them how to sit the papers. How do you do that? By exploring how they are laid out, by exploring the tricks and kinds of questions multiple choice tests are made up of.

For example, your child has to answer on a separate piece of paper by marking a series of lines like this:

Teach your child to beware of 3 dangers!

  1. Don’t think it’s easier because you don’t have to write anything. It’s a reading test, not a writing test. I’ll come back to this point in my next blog post.
  2. You can identify the correct answers on the question paper, perhaps by circling or underlining them, but forget to transfer the answer straight onto the answer sheet. Suppose your child finds the correct answers to the last five questions, but runs out of time to transfer them onto the sheet – they lose the five marks, even though they found the right answers. It’s best to transfer one answer at a time as soon as the correct answer is discovered.
  3. It’s very easy to mark the right answer in the wrong box. Suppose your child misses out a question that is taking too long. Suppose also that the next question turns out be easy to answer and they mark the correct letter on their sheet – but accidentally put it in the box that belonged to the previous question. Again, a mark missed. How often does this happen? Very often. Children sometimes don’t realise until they reach the end of their paper and find that either they have spare rows of answer boxes at the end, or else there is not enough space to answer the question they are on. Dangerously, if this isn’t realised until the end, there may not be enough time to figure out the first place they skipped or wrote in the right answer to the wrong question. This means lots of questions which they have answered correctly are all in the wrong place, so lots of points are lost. From one mistake comes wipe-out.

Encourage your child to dot or put a very small mark on the answer sheet next to the numbers of any questions they are leaving out, so they know a) to skip over that row of boxes, and b) can quickly return to any questions they missed out when they have finished the test. (They should have spare time left if they are using the 7 Superhero Powers of Time, which you can sign up to learn about for free on this website. The sign up form should be to the right of this post.)

Encourage them to do the simple repetitive step of checking that each question number matches the number on the answer sheet. Small step, huge difference.

So, wherever and however you are learning, remember: multiple choice, multiple choice, multiple choice.

Good energy and luck for today’s learning.

Stay 11 plus happy, Lee