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Friday, September 29, 2006

The Special One

At some time or another your much loved eleven year old may start thinking about the four key throwing events: shot put, discus, javelin and hammer. In early days the throwing events were used a practice activities for war. In competition and training we need to observe simple but vital training rules:

Never thrown a implement if someone is in the landing area.
Never stand in the throwing area.
Treat javelins with care. Carry them vertically - point down.
When working in groups take especial care.
Start with light implements and progress on the heaviest you can manage comfortably. Trying to throw heavy instruments too early on can cause problems ad harm progress.

Like with so much in life there are parallels with preparing for eleven plus examinations. Eleven plus preparation, and taking the examination, is certainly not practice for war. There is, however, naturally an element of competition because there are so few places and so many aspiring candidates. What then are the eleven plus simple but vital training rules?

Start with easy work to build confidence.
Add lots or repetition and practice into your program.
Learn to listen carefully on a one to one basis.
Be prepared to experience failure - but continue to strive for the very best.
Discuss your progress with interested parties - they may throw in good coaching hints.

Some of our children may land up competing in the Olympics. There may be considerably more who will have won the prize of a grammar school place.

Preparing for every examination will expose sprinters and marathon runners. Some will be able to maintain a sustained approach to the examination - while others will need frequent rests along with bursts of high activity.

Listen to your child’s body. When he or she is tired simply let it be. Try to foster a state of dialogue where you, as a parent, can actually listen to your child without foisting your own anxieties.

Treat your child like a prize athlete - a special one - and enjoy the new relationship.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Can Any One be so Lucky?

Our super administrator is called `Gerry’. Many of you will have spoken to her at one time or another.

In a few weeks time Gerry is off to Las Vegas. It is possible that she will have a little flutter while she is there. We thought she needed some protection. We know that she will spend around $500.00 – and enjoy about three and a half hours a day on the tables.

We hope too that she will be able to take in at least one of the top shows. She has mentioned Tom Jones – but we don’t know if this is simply wish fulfilment.

On the slot machines she will be trying to build up a row of four bells or cherries or what ever she goes for. She will be calculating the odds every time she feeds the machine. Every time that lever goes down she will feel a little thrill of anticipation. We have all heard stories about the jackpot. I think it is called a `truck load’. Imagine how the young man who won $39 million a few years ago felt. If Gerry won that, would we ever see her again?

The laws about gambling in Las Vegas are strict. The advice parents give to their 11+ children must also be strict.

`If you have 15 questions left on your paper – and there are three minutes left to go you must simply guess.’

This now is the problem. Do you fill in the first multiple choice boxe in all fifteen questions – hoping that there will be a chance of at least a few of them being correct? Do you tell your child to select the answers at random? Should they choose the numbers of their birthday? The odds are great. You just have to remind your child to be wise and do their best under pressure.

If you do telephone us in early November and ask for Gerry – and a voice says: `I am sorry, but she does not work here any more.’ You will know that she either met Tom Jones or she won the jackpot.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Just say no...

`Mum, please can I have some chocolate? My exam is today and I really, really do feel nervous!’

`Please Mum, I am not feeling at all well. Just a little chocolate will help.’

Why is it that so many people have similar chocolate eating habits? We all know of people who have eaten three or four thick bars of chocolate – or a whole box at one sitting. Some of us have actually done that our selves! It seems that a taste of chocolate triggers off a desire for more.

We know that chocolate contains fat, sugar and cocoa. But there is also the stimulant caffeine. We are lucky that there isn’t enough caffeine in chocolate to severely affect an adult’s nervous system. Scientists have told us that dark chocolate is better for us than milk chocolate. We have also been told that it is not bad to eat some chocolate – in moderation. But chocolate before an examination?

Just before the eleven plus examinations try to make sure that there is simply no chocolate in the house. Make sure too that you do not allow your child to walk into any shop that has chocolate of any kind what so ever. The emotional pressure that children can bring to bear on parents at certain times has to be experienced to be believed. On the way to the examination don’t stop the car for anything at all.

We have a copy of Jamie Oliver’s 1999 `Naked Chef’. He lists four recipes with chocolate. In the recipe for a simple chocolate tart he mentions `chocofreaks’ – but he does say that the better the chocolate you buy the better the taste. Jamie was not writing about children and examinations – but he still makes a lot of sense!

We naturally also have a copy of Amanda Grant’s `Kids Kitchen’. She writes on baby and toddler nutrition. She suggests a wide range of menus for children learn to cook. Her ideas for melted chocolate include:

Dipping balls of ice cream into melted chocolate.
Half dipping flapjacks into melted chocolate.
Half dipping a mango into melted chocolate.

Chocolate makes us feel good. If your child has some chocolate just before the examination then your child may become distracted during the examination and have to try to deal with cravings as well as tricky questions.

Naturally you, as a parent, can buy and eat chocolate while your child is being tested. You need to be distracted. You need to eliminate your cravings. Jamie and Amanda won’t know. It is simply between you and your conscience. Just don’t leave any wrappings on the car seat for the kids to find.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What Career will you Follow?

It sometimes helps to clarify the reason why attending a grammar school is a good idea for some children. Parents can talk about the difference between jobs and careers.

A job exists when there is a definite arrangement for regular work every week, or every month, for pay or other compensation (eg, profits, anticipated profits, or pay in kind, such as room and board).

A career, however, is something a little different. A career is more of a lifelong process; it is unique to each person and involves a sequence of work and leisure activities. A career includes career development and participation in occupations. Ideally a career choice should be an informed decision.

Jackie, who is married to my son, chose to be a photo journalist. She likes deep sea diving and adventures. She reads a lot and enjoys travel. (This is a great help when one is a photo journalist.) The following is an extract from a recent trip to the jungle.

We hiked up and up, first to Cerro Zapote where there was a break in the canopy and we could see for miles across the rain forest. It is so lush with plants that you recognize from the vivero – but these are on steroids! Huge trees tower over head with vines as thick as tree trunks hanging down.

I have probably got this wrong. It seems to me that a photo journalist says: `I feel like some deep jungle activity.’ She then finds a magazine that wants an article about visiting the jungle. The magazine then pays the fare and expenses – and for the ensuing article.

Point out that many bright adults prefer a career to a job.

Suggest: `If things don’t work out you may land up with a job. If you choose a career then you will be able to make many more of your own decisions.’

Make the point that Jackie does many jobs – but she has just one career.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Spilt Milk

My grandfather was a farmer. The farm had tobacco, maize, fruit, cattle and a large dairy operation. Every day the milk had to be delivered to a town about twelve miles away. The roads were sandy with no tarmac. There were seven gates that had to be opened and closed between the farm and the nearest town.

One day my grandfather broke his leg.

My brother was sent by train to help out. He walked from the rail station to the police station. He was met by the policeman in charge. My brother, Michael, was invited to climb into the driving seat of the policeman’s car. The driving test followed. They went round the very short block – and Michael passed. There was no theory test and certainly no stop lights in the rather remote town. He did not have to navigate a crossing during the course of the test.

You see the policeman’s wife, and the rest of the town, had run out of milk. There was no one else on the farm who could drive. Late that night 16 year old Michael was dropped on the farm. Early next morning he drove the milk to town.

How we must wish that a head teacher would wake up one morning and say: `We need more children in our school.’

Certain children could be accepted into grammar school without having to go through the pressure of eleven plus examinations.

This could save a lot of spilt milk.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Vote for the 11 Plus

Everyone entitled to vote in an election is sent a poll card to indicate the time and date of the election and the location of their polling station.

People who have indicated their wish to vote by post are sent a voting pack.

The facility is known as absent voting and is available for registered voters who are unable to attend polling stations.

The reasons could be:
-living abroad
-a student at university

We would like to add the 11+ child who is worried about examinations. Think how easy it would be to fill in a card and ask for a postal 11+ paper.

I was in one of our centres this week and one cheerful ten year was chatting about how she would get flu on the day and then have the paper sent to her at home. She explained that she would be able to look up all the answers on the internet.

Some states in Americans, of course, have a few more categories when they are dealing with absent voters:

-age 60 years old or older
-unable to vote without assistance at the polls
-expecting to be out of town on election day
-in jail awaiting arraignment or trial
-unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons

We sincerely hope that our ten year olds writing 11+ examinations do not fit into too many of the above American categories. On the other hand we can all remember a President elected on a postal vote.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Golden Key

Children writing the Eleven Plus examinations can be expected to have knowledge and interests beyond the possible content of `11+ Syllabus’. Some chldren will be helped with a careful analysis of language - and and this will include help with how to approach questions. Other children will need to rely on good luck.

It is easy to explain: `Punch hit Judy‘ and `Judy was hit by Punch‘. This fits together very easily.

`The daughter broke the glass.’ and `The glass was broken by the daughter’ also both work.

What is the problem with: `Uncle weighs 85 kilos’ and `85 kilos is weighed by Uncle’?

The story of Punch and Judy goes back a long way. Punch was a jealous man and he murdered his baby daughter. Judy collected a bludgeon and tried to hit Punch.

Punch beat her to death with another bludgeon and then threw the two bodies into the street.

A policeman saw the bodies and came to arrest Punch. Punch ran away - but was arrested. He was thrown into prison but escaped because of a golden key.

How useful it would be for all of us to be able to overcome disaster and escape with the help of a golden key.

Why not make sure your child wears a golden key on the day of the 11+ examination?

When the brain slows down on a question instead of getting upset and trying to bludgeon his or her way through the answer, your child could simply touch the key and all would be right in the world.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Go Bananas!

Many years ago my son worked, for short time, in a banana factory in Kent. The company were major importers of bananas from all over the word. He was involved with a labelling program and with bar codes. It was a wonderful place to work - the people were so pleasant and so helpful.

As the bananas came onto the conveyor belt one person had the unenviable task of looking out for `things’. Occasionally a tarantula would be hiding in a bunch of bananas. Identification was necessary - as was disposing of the creature.

This brings to mind the strange sickness that stuck the southern Italian port of Taranto. It was said to be caused by the bite of the tarantula spider, and the only cure was to dance wildly and sweat out the spider’s poison. (It has to be held in mind that this was before the days of `step’ and `running machines’ in gyms. Otherwise the spider may have been called a Reebok or a Puma. Who knows?)

The special dance was called the tarantella - and composers developed special music to celebrate the death defying nature of the dance.

It is sad to think that in the pre Christian era that Taranto was a cult centre for the rites of the Greek God Dionysus and the Roman Bacchus. It is possible, therefore, that the rites included drunken and frenzied dancing.

On receiving the results please do not let your 11+ child know these last facts about the dance. We would much prefer the modest eleven year old to think that the celebratory dance around the kitchen table was due more to defying death by a spider than to mum’s extra glass of wine.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How not to be a Soppy Mum.

As your child disappears into the class room on the morning of the first eleven plus examination you may feel you just have to shout a last minute piece of advice.

There will have been lots of other mothers and fathers, all willing their children on to greater things.

You don’t want to appear too soppy in front of all the other parents - but you do want to do something special. Why not shout:

`Sturdy Oboe!’

No one but you and your child will know that the words are an anagram of `Do your best!’.

You could follow with a loud: `Bona fortuna!’ - which we all know is good luck in Latin. This will impress all the other parents and make them envious of your child. They will be saying: `What a lucky child to have parents as educated as that.’ They will drive away in their lovely big cars muttering:

`Sturdy Oboe, Bona fortuna.’

`That was not in any of the 11+ papers. I told you we should have bought that extra set.’

When they pick their child up after the examination they will not be saying:

`Hello dear, was it all right?’

They will ask anxiously:

`Did sturdy oboe, bona fortuna come up?'

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shades of Light

One of the earliest scanners was made of a machine which allowed three dimensional pictures of the human brain. The scanner allowed doctors to see the living brain in action for the first time.

The machine scanned the brain with X-rays and linked to a computer and a Polaroid camera. The photographs could look at the effects of a stroke, a tumour or a skull injury in just a few minutes.

The scanner took only four minutes to rotate around a person’s head in 180 steps of one degree.

We know that here are much more up to date scanners around today.

It would a wonderful sight, however, to see the results of a room full of 11+ children, all wearing light weight scanners, working on the same paper under the stress of a competitive selection test. Just think of the nervous energy that could be captured. Think of what value it would be to examiners to see a grey mist coming over children’s eyes on question 14.

Remember that Question 14 was the question that asked: `The number of bacteria in a large sealed jar doubles every minute. An hour after the first bacterium was put into the jar and sealed in, the jar is full. When was the jar half full?’

Thank too of the colours on the screen on Question 23.

A horse was tied to a 30 foot rope. How did the horse manage to eat a pile of hay 50 feet away without biting through the rope?

(Answers at the bottom of the blog of the 18th.)

Monday, September 18, 2006


An 11+ child will meet ratios during lessons and doing papers. Ratios are usually expressed in Lowest Terms. A Ratio of 16:8 is usually written as 2:1.

Ratios express a relationship between one set of figures and another. It is also rather important that the relationship between the ratios is real - otherwise the result would be meaningless.

In real life we look at one crucial ratio very often. This is our `Quick’ or `Acid’ test. We look at our current assets and our current liabilities. For ten year old children current assets might include: savings, money dad owes and the money big sister owes. Current liabilities could possibly include the loan from mum because dad had not paid back the money he had borrowed.

The assets of your ten year old could be £75. The liabilities could be £25. The current ratio is 75:25 or 3:1. This means that your ten year old is liquid! Long may that last!

A simple 11+ question could be: `You have a ratio in a classroom of two adults to 18 children. How many children does each adult have to look after?’

A more complex question could be: The ratio of computers to children in one class is 15:20. Is this a better ratio than 40:20?

Anyway, forget the ratio, how do I write a fraction in lowest terms?

Answers to the blog of the 19th: One minute to the hour and it was not tethered.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

England played rugby in Chicago in the 1982 tour of America. The team were astonished when the referee blew for supposed infringement during an open passage of play.

The England team queried the decision. The referee explained that the match was sponsored by the local television company - so a suitable intervals they had to stop for commercial breaks. He showed the team his bleeper. When he heard three bleeps he had to stop the game for one minute.

Some mums and dads could influence key segments of the 11+ examination through the use of technology.

Take the verbal reasoning test. We know that in some areas there will be 75 questions and there are 50 minutes. We know that you will suggest to your child that he or she should be around Question 35 after 25 minutes. (Should half way be one beep or two?)

We know too that you warned your child not to take too long over the first ten questions. (I can’t remember … was that two beeps or one beep?)

We know too that you will have reminded your child to go back over key questions - if there was time at the end. Now this is where it gets tricky. `Remember’ in Morse Code is:

.-. . -- . -- -... . .-.

But half way is:

.... .- .-.. ..-. / .-- .- -.--

Why not simply make sure that your child knows how to use a watch?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Day Dream

Some books on `How To Study’ suggest methods of trying to cut out day dreaming. In a test situation a child may become stuck on a problem and lose focus while he or she is trying to develop an answer. This is when the day dream can strike.

You may have suggested that your child reads over and over some notes the two of you have developed on percentages. Perhaps a day dream might creep in because the work may have been too easy or too repetitious.

The problem is that we need day dreamers. In every profession we need some one who can create. In some people the act of creation must be very close to a day dream.

Rupert Brook, when talking about `The Soldier’ gave us:

If I should die think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

The poem goes on to remind us that `her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;’.Would Rupert Brook have had to have been a day dreamer to be able to create this poem? Did he write wonderful poetry because he did not have access to a book called: `The Poets’ Guide to Stopping Day Dreaming’.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Making Time for Everything

Able children studying for examinations often have full and varied lives. Their activities can range from music lessons to sport.

How on earth do you and your child budget time to do a little extra study and work?

Some parents find a formal weekly meeting is very useful. Write down the times of the activities, the possible amount of homework and how much studying is going to be done. Work out too time for reading, relaxing, TV. and family time. Think too about time for your child and one or two of his or her friends to get together to `chat and chill’.

Discuss the need to keep work in one place.

Set mini goals – that are achievable.

Be very specific about when additional work is to done – and exactly what is to be done.

On Wednesday evening at, 6.30, do Non Verbal Reasoning Test 5, from questions 16 – 32.

This means that time is allocated in everyone’s mind.

You know that you too have a commitment on a Wednesday evening at 6.30 to help, advise, answer, cajole and simply be there.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

We had a teacher at primary school who urged us to learn parts of: `The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. His name was Mr. Green. He once threw a blackboard ruler at me. I did not like Mr. Green.

I can still remember his scathing tongue when I put the word `Not’ instead of: `Nor’ in the line `Nor any drop to drink’.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

At the time I could not understand why he wanted us to learn chunks from a wide variety of poems. I did not connect learning poetry with studying mathematics.

Take the learning involved in learning how to divide fractions:

When dividing fractions, turn the second fraction upside down, and multiply.

Do you think there is any carry over between learning verses of poetry and learning mathematics rules?

Can you think of elements of key poems for your child to learn before the 11+ examinations?

We don't want rulers thrown around. We want words and ideas to stretch and develop. We want uplifting words. We want words that could pass through their minds when they hit a problem in the examination.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

We Just Want The Best

Our headquarters building looks over the River Thames. We landed up in an Industrial Park because we needed room for our children, the testing department and our administration. Above all we needed parking.

In front of us lies some open ground – and we were visited by a group of travellers. The large family was from Ireland. There was some degree of suspicion on both sides as the travellers became more settled. Cars arriving to drop children off for lessons sometimes had to weave between toys and vehicles. The traveller children sometimes had to move their games and activities to accommodate the cars arriving and driving away.

The council and the police were tireless and endlessly correct. The travellers were polite and determined. Both sides knew their rights.

The Human Rights Act
Travellers’ rights in the Human Rights Act also have to be considered when councils take action. These include rights to:

• Respect for private and family life
• Protection of property
• Education
• Freedom from discrimination

The travellers had landed up in Gravesend because it was the school holidays – and the family had had holidays in Gravesend for many years. The vans had to move on within 28 days.

Towards the end of the stay the traveller children began walking up to the cars and talking to our families and children. Some of our mothers were simply magnificent in the manner in which they communicated with children from very different backgrounds and aspirations.

The traveller children asked me on a number of occasions about what our children were doing, what they were learning and why they were working in the holidays. One articulate little girl took the time to explain why she simply did not like mathematics.

Some of our children will go on to grammar school. They, like the travelers, will have protection under the Human Right Act. All we can hope is that the education offered to both sets of children is the best education possible.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Hairy Problem

One of the great advantages of the11+ examination is that parents can say – with a correct and solemn face: `You know you really do have to read to develop your vocabulary.’ What sort of book would your child need to read if the word `Trichology’ appeared as part of the plot? As adults we know that the word is to do with the study of hair.

My Microsoft Word immediately underlined `Trichology’ with a serrated red line – indicating that the word is not in this version of Microsoft’s dictionary. Naturally a number of the old fashioned book dictionaries were able to define and explain the meaning of the word. The word did not, however, appear in a well known children’s dictionary.

This then is the problem. Sometimes when our children are learning they are children and they are expected to use children’s words. At other times they have to cross the thin red line and use words and concepts like much older people. It is perfectly correct for child to be able describe a person as being `bald’. It may not be very good taste to describe someone as being `follically challenged’.

If, however, we had used the word `tresses’ we may have thought of a woman’s hair – but `pelt’ could have brought a man’s head to mind.

To be perfectly honest it is extremely unlikely that a word like `Trichology’ will appear in an 11+ paper. If the word did sneak onto the paper it would only be in a question like: `Which letter appears in the first word but not in the second?’

What a waste of a perfectly valuable word.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mum, I think I ate it!

The newsreader today was obviously using an autocue. Television has a lot to answer for – but the introduction of a device where words flow over a screen must have saved many embarrassing moments. The news reader can read without looking down or fidgeting with papers.

We know of some actors who have prompts pinned to various bits of furniture. It must take great skill to remember to be in the correct position to be able to remember to read the next cue.

Generations of children have used words, or reminders, written in indelible ink onto wooden rulers. It must have been a very sad day for some children when wooden rulers were replaced by plastic rulers – because then the evidence could not be eaten so easily.

Just imagine the riches some inventor could accrue if he or she could invent an edible 11+ autocue.

Think of the frustration if your child ate the wrong cue! Who would be to blame?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Just A Big Drip

A bathroom tap went today. A drip appeared and became a little flood. Action was needed.

It started with a trip to the loft. There were six taps to control the outer workings of the cold water tanks. The Reader’s Digest 1001 DIY Hints suggested a carrot could be stuck in the relevant outlet pipe and then the pipe could be drained. I ate the carrot while I was looking for the correct tank tap.

Here follows a little mathematics exercise. The drip took just on a minute to fill a half litre jug. If the basin was able to accommodate four litres of dripped water – how long would it take to fill the basin? But – it took just on thirty minutes to drive to the nearest DIY store to buy a new tap. The old tap was not in good condition. How much water flowed away while I was on the round trip? Answers by email please.

(Actually none flowed while I was away because the water had been turned off.)

A more useful 11+ examination tip to recall would be contained in the following question:

If one litre of water has a mass of one kilogram, what would be the mass of 500 litres?
Please remind your child that one litre of water has a mass of one kilogram.

P.S. Did you know that?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Simply The Best

The decision to transfer a child to a particular type of secondary school will, to a certain extent, determine the kind of curriculum he or she will follow.

Attending grammar school may also affect chances of proceeding to higher education.

All parents will hope that the words `Grammar School’ on an application form will also help to open up a wider range of vocational opportunities.

It would be so much easier for some children if the transfer to secondary school was simply one phase in a continuous process of education. Would it work if all marks from school were rolled into one big ball? Could the results from Standard Assessment Tests, produced by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in May of each year, play a part?

Should the fact that a boy plays cricket for his country be considered as recognition of prowess and ability?

Is there any way that a wonderfully proficient girl, on Grade 5 on the piano, could be considered to be a suitable candidate?

We all simply want the best for our children. The best teachers. The best schools. The best education. The best university. The best possible future. A good grammar school may give some of our children the best possible opportunity.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Essays and Assessment

Some authorities use English essays as a method of assessment. We suppose one of the reasons for this is to encourage children who may be faced with objective tests to think creatively.

Learning to plan stories and essays, and preparing to write, plays a large part in today’s schools.

We all know of teachers who are able to make a sound appraisal of levels of ability and attainment. Some teachers are remarkably accurate in predicting chances of success at grammar school. The problem comes when the proportion of candidates in one school is not necessarily the same in another.

What happens to the 11+ children when the teacher at one school is a gifted teacher of English and at another school the teacher is simply wonderful at teaching mathematics? If we rely completely on teachers’ assessment it remains a difficult task to try to ensure the `fairness’ of the system.

It would be interesting to hear about up to date evidence of the fairness a system that uses a combination of the assessment by the teacher and the examination results of a battery of tests. If you do hear of an essay on the subject please let us know.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It Has Only Taken 50 Years!

On the news today the government announced that phonics would be the primary approach to teaching reading. This will be great news for some children with reading problems when they are approaching the 11+ examinations.

So many verbal reasoning exercises depend on the ability to look at words closely and see differences between words and parts of words.

A few weeks ago, in a second hand bookshop, I found a first edition copy by `Gagg’ on the teaching of reading. The book dates back over 50 years. Gagg explained the difference between learning to read by whole word methods and learning by phonics. This is how Mr Gagg, fifty years ago, explained the two approaches:

`We have in these two pictures, described the two common extremes in the early teaching of reading nowadays. There is the school of thought which thinks that `modern methods' mean `no phonics'; and there is the school of thought which still sticks painfully to the ridiculous building of three letter words'.

In Etc we have just had our twenty nine thousandth pupil. We have seen some children who have been taught `look and say’ and others phonics. Some children have even been taught by a combination of methods!

It would be make an interesting study to see which group of readers could cope with finding hidden words. (Find a four letter word that is hidden between two words that are next to each other.)

I wish I could introduce the person or persons in the government who made the decision about phonics to Mr Gagg so they could benefit from his insight and early research.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Mathematics Problem to Solve

We had a girl in a few weeks ago and her results have been preying on my mind. We tested her using Standardised Tests. On the reasoning test she achieved a Standardised Score of 138 – which is 99%. She struggled on the mathematics test and achieved a Standardised Score of 83 or 13%.

Children have difficulty leaning mathematics for a variety of reasons. Her mother explained that the girl had difficulty with telling the time and working out change in shops. We noticed that she used her fingers when she was doing a subtraction exercise.

She attends a very good school where the majority of children constantly achieve well above average SATs results. Her parents are professionals and she is an only child.

What can be done? The 11+ examinations are only a few months away. The first objective must be to try to build her confidence and improve her self esteem. It would help her to revise and possibly learn some arithmetic facts – her tables and number bonds.

Perhaps too we simply need to think about a little touch of mathematics anxiety. Perhaps even test worry?

How many 11+ papers has she done? What are her scores at school?

What a worry for her parents!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

We Need a Good Walk

In 1979 the `Women’s Squash Rackets Association’ published a Revised Edition of `A Guide to Group Coaching’.

`Children need constant activity, variety and encouragement from the coach, but at the same time can not absorb a mass of new material.’

`Young players become bored with practising shots, yet respond very well to competitive practices and game-like situations.’

`Spend as little time talking as possible – use a good demonstration with verbal explanation drawing attention to the main points to be observed. Too much talking is not only an inefficient waste of time but very boring for the players.’

These comments, observation and precepts from the world of Squash would work very well for parents helping their children with 11+ tuition. Try to develop a balance between work and physical activity.

We all know the value of a good walk the night before an examination. The walk takes the mind off the exam and gives the basis of a good sleep. It also allows the family to talk about other things than the examination. Perhaps most importantly of all the ritual of a pre examination walk stops any last minute cramming.

Remember that the study habits your child is gaining will be used for tests and examinations at school – even during GCSE and `A’ level years.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Card Games

The eleven plus examination cover a wide range of topics. As the dates of the examinations grow closer it becomes more important to think about what needs to be done.

One way is to develop a bank of cards with detailed explanations designed to improve understanding of key topics.

Purchase a set of 5 by 3 cards.

Take the Verbal Reasoning topic of Compound Words. On the front of one card write the topic: `Compound Words’. On the reverse write examples and key facts to remember:

The word on the left usually come first.

Look for a connection between words.

Look for common beginnings and endings.

A Non Verbal Reasoning Topic could be `Shaded Fractions’. The reverse of the card could have:

Check the size and shape of the parts.
Use diagonals when necessary.
Above all – remember lowest terms.

The cards will allow you to focus on the topics that need most attention. You may find that you need to colour code the topics as the number of cards builds up.

You are aiming at trying to reinforce good study habits.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Hug in Time

Babies just love to be touched and rubbed. Many parents will remember with pleasure the little rubs and pats to the back after food. There was that great feeling of triumph when, a last, a musical sound was willed from the little body.

It seems to become more difficult for some parents to offer a little hug as their child becomes older.

When your ten year leaves you on the day of the Eleven Plus examination, why not deliver the following lines with great love and meaning:

“Remember to check your work over.”

“No, you can not take chocolates into the examination.”

“Read the questions carefully – and don't be afraid to read some questions again.”

“Good luck.”

“Of course we will go to …… to night.”

“Come here – I just want to give you a hug.”

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Mum - I think I have strained myself

I have a 1967 copy of a book on `Accidents to Children’. There is a section on injuries caused by the washing machine. There are graphic descriptions of children whose fingers, forearms and arms have been caught between the rollers of the automatic wringers supplied by many washing machines.

We are very grateful that our children are spared these horrors. We must all be grateful for the invention of the spin dryer.

We presume that common sense and common observation led us to expect that a child’s school achievement will be determined, to some extent, by the attitudes of the parents. It does seem likely that the attitudes will depend on material circumstances.

We no longer need to worry too much about a child suffering injury from a washing machine. The `material circumstances’ of parents may, however, supply more modern tools for little fingers to dabble in.

Repetitive Strain Injury from a keyboard is also to be feared – especially as the Eleven Plus examinations grow closer.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Good Old Days

`I am going to read you some sentences. Listen carefully and you will notice that some of them say things that are always new and sensible, while others say things which are always false and foolish. I shall read a third kind of sentence also, a kind which says a thing sometimes true and sometimes false.

If the sentence is always true and sensible, put a tick. When I read one that is always false and foolish, put a cross. If you do not know, put a tick and a cross. I will read each item twice and give you ten seconds to write your answer.’

If a caller comes to your house, whom you do not want to see, it is best to go out and tell him you are out.

As a boy gets taller his height becomes greater.

Every man is his father’s son.

It is wrong for a dog to keep barking.

My cousin’s mother is my mother’s sister.

Some 11+ children would love to have test of this nature. They would enjoy the rhythmic and orderly presentation of the test. Oral presentation would certainly relieve the time constraints some children feel pressured over.

Dr J Cornwell, back in 1952, devised such a system for testing children. That was over fifty years ago. I wonder if it is time for the `good old days’ to return.