Reason 3 of “5 reasons NOT to wait until Year 5 to start preparing your child for 11plus entrance tests”

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 1 here,

and

Reason 2 here

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Know when to take a break – when 11 plus learning gets too much…

I know – we have to keep up daily learning with our children, especially over the summer holidays, if we are to reach our goal of running out of things our child doesn’t know by the time the exam comes round. In fact, you may never actually need the kind of break I’m talking about.

Have you ever found yourself in a head to head argument with your child over doing their learning? You set them a task and they dig their heels in, or cry, or have a tantrum. Ordinarily, they are fine at studying – they go along with the recommended hours, they have bought in to the whole project of giving it everything – but today, in that moment, rebellion breaks out. Does this sound familiar? If it does, there are two tips that may be worth trying. I didn’t know about these before teaching my daughter; I had to learn them to keep us both sane in those…moments!

Teaching the child that you care for is, at times, a very intense experience for both grown-up and child. You have so much invested in their success, you love them so much, it can be hard to know when to step back.

Okay, I admit, I’m talking about how it was for me and I’m imagining it might be the same for you, at least occasionally. Due to that intensity, to the commitment to the goal of giving everything to the process, I found it hard to deviate from the timetable I created. This was noble, brave and mostly effective. However, it was also at times born out of fear and panic that if I let the moment slip, the time would never come back (true), meaning I might not be able to teach her everything she needed to know. Regardless, there are moments when you have to take control of the situation and think long term, not get caught up in the panic of the moment. So here are two strategies I’d absolutely recommend you try to keep your happiness, sanity, relationship and progress intact and healthy.

1. Acknowledge from time to time that it’s true, it is hard/annoying/tiring/ boring/ taking a lot of time – use your child’s language, the word they have used to describe the situation. Then, use AND to bring them back to continuing with it, rather than using ‘but’ or something stronger like ‘it doesn’t matter’ or ‘I don’t care’.

Examples:

  • “Yes, it is taking a lot of time AND as soon as we’re finished and sure we’ve learned how to calculate the area and perimeter of a circle, we’re going for a swim.”
  • “It’s true, it can be tiring to focus on a whole test AND it’s true that it’s also really helping us reach the top mark, isn’t it?”

The ‘and‘ can diffuse small grumbles and truly help your child understand the purpose of a session. You can even teach them to use it themselves, so they learn that even when we do feel a bit grumbly, we can still be brilliant learners and give ourselves the best chance. They might develop a phrase to keep themselves going: “I’m tired and I’m continuing, I’m tired and I’m still focusing,” or something similar. You can have fun with it: “Yes, I’m snappy, and I’m 11plushappy!”

There may be times when ‘and‘ isn’t enough. If a tantrum is breaking out, or you feel you are about to yell at them how important this all is, etc., then try tip 2:

2. STOP. Smile, put down the pencil and completely change the subject or do something else for 5 minutes, perhaps for as long as half an hour. It’s important (and difficult!) to be relaxed about this.

Control the moment and you can take away the fuel of the anger/upset. (The fuel may be panic, fear, frustration, or just simple reluctance.) Go play football for a moment, do some exercise, challenge them to a handstand competition or draw a picture together. Grab a drink and biscuit or fruit, go for a walk. You can make this explicit sometimes, letting your child know you’ve recognised you are heading the wrong way:

“Oh, look, this is funny, we’ve both got cross faces, let’s have a silly face competition for a minute.”

“Ahh, I’ve just remembered, we need a five-minute silly noise break, look at us – we’ve forgot how much we love each other.”

Or you can just action the break.

“Let’s have ten minutes to draw.”

“Time out – see you in ten minutes.”

Recognising how you are both feeling – this is about you as well – can be so helpful in getting the learning back on track. When angry or rebelling or upset, it’s unlikely that teaching and learning will be the best anyway. The brain is not as good at taking information in when upset as it is when smiling and relaxed. A short break in an intense moment can give you the space to breathe out and relax, resetting the mind, which could mean that when you come back, you could both end up doing far more than you intended. This last point is worth remembering. If you stop for ten minutes, it doesn’t mean you lose those ten minutes. You can subtly add them on to the session when you come back.

Step 2 is not for using all the time; you won’t need it all the time. Mostly, step 1 can help you keep on track. But nevertheless, there are key moments when you can learn to see you are both getting wound up. During every second of an argument, no learning is happening anyway! So knowing when to walk away for 5 minutes, change the subject or activity for a few minutes (“Oh, I’ve just remembered, you need tickling.”), to allow you a route out of the argument, is a really helpful tool when you remember that you are involved in a learning marathon.

Hopefully, you won’t need these tips much, but if you recognise any part of our discussion above as being true to your own situation, then I hope and and stop provide you with two more ways to continue helping your child reach for the stars and be the superhero that the 11+ student really is.

Found this helpful? Please share and visit https://11plushappy.com/ for more ways to help your child. You can sign up to receive new posts, grab a free course on micro-managing time during learning and the 11 plus exam itself, or take advantage of a better-than-half-price summer learning ebook bundle deal.

Thank you for nurturing your child’s 11 plus opportunity. Have an amazing, fun day of learning together.

Best, Lee