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Sunday, December 31, 2006

It is Time to Have a Break.

Quite simply we need oxygen to survive. We breath air into our lungs. In the lungs the oxygen passes through the thin walls and dissolves in the blood. The blood is then pumped round the body. The heart acts as the pump. The oxygen in the blood is thus supplied to all the tissues of the body.

It is essential that the brain is kept full of oxygen. Eleven plus children, and their parents, need lots and lots of oxygen. It essential, therefore, that parents of eleven plus children think deeply about oxygen.

We all know that it seems likely that a wide range of dinosaurs emerged when lots of oxygen was released by the oceans. Divers and the mammals of the sea need oxygen.

The final eleven plus advice of the year is that as the eleven plus examinations grow closer parents should find reliable babysitters. They should then take themselves off on a diving holiday in Fiji. It will be very difficult to worry about the eleven plus examinations while you are preparing to dive, diving and then relaxing in the warm sun after a dive. (Especially if your children are safely thousands of miles away.)

You have done all you can for your child. What will be will be. Go for it, enjoy yourselves. Get a bit of oxygen into your blood.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Altering The Plot

We can all remember being taught different methods of writing stories. Some eleven plus children may be writing a descriptive or an imaginative account in the next few days. Confirm that there are many different ways of writing plans but ensure that your child understands that it is vitally important that a plan is prepared.

Your children will have been taught at school about the plot, the setting and the theme. The words `plot’, `setting’ and `theme’ should be deep in their memories. Suggest that if they can not think of what to write they could always revert to the simple method given to them when they were seven or eight years old.

(think about the characters involved)
(where does the story take place?)
(when does the story take place i.e. past, present, future?)
(why are these characters there or involved in the story?)
(what is the beginning?)
(how did the characters get there?)

(They could use a spider diagram or equivalent to finish the plan.)

We may need to remind our very bright eleven plus children that is it essential that they do not write as an eight year old. They must think about the plot. Try to make the point that a successful plot is where the characters, the setting and the theme all work together. Explain that if one character changes then the whole story will need to be transformed.

Read some pages of a book together, look at a character, then discuss how the whole book would change if the character suddenly took on a new appearance or manner of speaking. Use a character from a popular soap. Talk about how the episode would need to alter if the setting or theme changed.

Enjoy some heated discussions!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pure Chance

Multiple choice tests offer us the opportunity to `have a guess’. T.V. shows demonstrate clearly the need to think before arriving at an answer. The shows also show grown people in agony over making a decision or choice.

In an eleven plus examination children are not given the opportunity to `phone a friend’ or `ask the audience’. Parents, teachers and tutors will naturally have instructed their children to eliminate questions that just can not be correct – leaving just two options. This is where parents can be really useful on the day of the examination. They can slip their child a lucky coin.

The lucky coin can be blessed. It can be found or even handed down from generation to generation. I, for example, have the coin first carried by my grandfather and passed to my father.

Picture the examination hall. A hundred children solemnly flipping coins to find the right answer.

But what happens on a question like this?

Heavy rains had been forecast. There was a drainage culvert very close to the school where the eleven plus examinations were to take place. The culvert was just wide enough for one person to crawl through. A rare bird was nesting in the culvert. An excess of water could wash the nest away. The foreman sent two men to investigate.

Both men crawled into the culvert at opposite ends – and each came out from the other side from which he went in. They both reported on the state and the situation of the nest.

How did they mange to do this without widening the culvert?

The clue is probably in the answer. We think that the men may have flipped a coin to see who should go first. This has given the answer away. You will all be yelling: `The men went in at different times!”

So please supply your child with a lucky coin. You may want to reinforce the need to think and plan before answering a question. But on the day your child may also need a little luck and chance.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Escaping Chickens

At some time in the Christmas break we all get the feeling that, for just a few seconds, we need a break. It is the clutter that gets to us. We love the family, the food and the drink. The conversation is stimulating and pleasantly family orientated – peppered with lots of: `Do you remember?’ It is just the clutter that gets on our nerves.

Every Christmas we are offered our fair share of escape stories. We are all used to seeing grey figures crawl out of tunnels in the middle of the night. I think we even saw a film this Christamas where chickens were trying to escape from a prison camp. This was the sequel to the chicken escape.

In the prison on the Chicken Farm a group of chickens escaped from a tunnel they dug at the rate of four metres a week. The escape took a long time because they were nearly discovered by the dog. When they rushed their work three metres of the tunnel would cave in.

Finally one night they managed to escape.

When the guards measured the tunnel, they found that it was sixteen metres long. For how many weeks did the chickens dig?

Like all questions of this nature we rally need to look at the intent. Are we expected to draw a little sketch in our minds and picture chickens scratching away at the earth night after night? Should we worry about how the chickens disposed of the sail? Was there a natural leader among the chickens? The answer, as you all have worked out immediately, was that it took them thirteen weeks. How do we explain that?

“Ask your mother. I have to deal with all this clutter.”

“Ask your father. I have to deal with all the clutter he left behind”

“Oh, I don’t know. After all it is just after Christmas.”

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ten Last Minute Words of Comfort:

“Do not worry about these eleven plus tests: remember that you are doing them voluntarily.”

“Do not stop in the middle of a test but work as quickly, and accurately, as you can.”

“Answer all the questions, but do not spend too long over any one question.”

“There are no catch questions.”

“A number of other children will not finish the whole test in the time allowed.”

“The eleven plus tests are designed to test your aptitude – the real you. Just do your best.”

“After you have the results you will be able to make decisions about what you want to do.”

“There will be questions that will not allow for learning and knowledge – so if you find them hard so will every one else.”

“The tests are trying to discover your potential. At your age you have not yet developed your true potential."

“The word `aptitude’ means your natural talent for succeeding in one area. If you do not succeed in these examinations it does not mean that you do not have any other talents. Remember that we love you whatever the results.”

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Regular Revision

Trying to remember if you have done all of your preparations for Christmas day uses your memory. No doubt some cooks will try to remember if all the ingredients for Christmas Lunch have been purchased by trying to visual the various recipes.

Some `Christmas Cooks’ will even make lists. If you are really well organised you will even be able to look again at the organisation of the various Christmas lists. The early lists will have a very different composition to the final memory aids. How do you ensure that you have left nothing off the final list? Quite simply it is called review. You revise and alter the lists to your current needs.

Over a hundred years ago Ebbinghaus, who was a German experimental psychologist, studied learning and memory experimentally. He used lists of nonsense syllables to examine how well we were able to remember.

His experiments demonstrated that most forgetting happens immediately after learning. If you have painstakingly spent fifteen minutes discussing how to do long division you may not be heartened to know that almost half of what you have said will be forgotten within twenty minutes. Seventy five percent of will lost within six days.

Ebbinhaus worked that `over learning’ helped. Regular review is also essential. When should you help your ten year old to revise?
First Review : Immediately
Second Review : Twenty Four Hours
Third Review : One week later
Fourth Review : One month later
Fifth Review : Three months later.

What you are trying to do is shift what your ten year old has learnt from his or her short term memory to long term memory. So as the last brussels sprout rolls across the carpet under the piano - only to be unearthed in the New Year - remember to help your loved one to revise on a regular basis.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Problem Solving

A weapon that is very occasionally used by parents is the word `because‘.

“Why do we have to go to visit Aunt Emerald this Christmas?” (Because)

“Why do we have to learn Equations?” (Because)

Sometimes we are able to work through a topic all the right reasons. For example:

Solve 3x + 5 = 11

One of your explanations:
Equations are sums where numbers are replaced with letters. Rearrange the equation to work out the value of the mystery letter. Remember that it is an equation: both sides are equal so whatever you do to one side must also be done to the other side of the equation! Write down all working to make sure you don’t make any silly mistakes.

Solve 3x + 5 = 11

3x = 11 – 5 ß taking 5 from both sides

3x = 6

x = 6 ¸ 3 ß dividing both sides by 3

x = 2

`Mum, why do I have to learn equations?
`Learning to solve an equation can help you to learn to pay attention to detail - and do the required steps of working out. Once you have the solution you can test the answer to see if you have worked the equation out correctly.’

`But Dad does it differently.’
`You can change the language. You dad will probably be able to show you different methods of arriving at the answer. You find the method that suits you.’

`What benefit will I get from solving an equation?’
`You will be solving problems all your life. Solving equations also encourages you to be able to cope with the four rules of number (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). Solving equations forces you to order the steps to be carried out.

`Do I really have to do it now?’
`Yes! Because!’

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Question of Balance

Many bright ten year olds have this rather deceptive self contained air. It is sometimes hard for a parent to maintain that rather delicate balance between wanting to keep offering rules and precepts and on the other hand allowing full voice to an emerging personality and intellect.

We all pray for advancing maturity and greater emotional balance. Your child, however, continues to need praise, reward, criticism and a good dose of warmth and understanding.

There are, however, two sides to the coin. One of the basic tenets that children need to understand is that parents too need praise, reward, criticism and a good dose of warmth and understanding. Sometimes children do need to be reminded of their obligations to their parents.

Some parents have found that the words: `After all I have done for you……’ do not go down too well in the middle of a heated discussion. What you want is to try to find words that will increase motivation and a desire for dialogue.

If you and your child have worked happily together then it is very unlikely that the stress and strain of eleven plus examinations will amount to much. Both of you should be able to take it all in your stride.

As a parent you naturally want to try to continue to develop the will to learn. However much you work together your child may still not pass the examination. Whatever the result of the eleven plus examination the `self contained air’ may slip at times. Then you will feel that you have earned your right to be parent.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advice on How to Act

I once played the part of `A Ghost of Christmas Past’ in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This was not a great speaking part. In fact I recall quite vividly that I only had one word to say. The three ghosts were employed to change Scrooge’s attitude to Christmas.

A little later on in the play I walked around in the background and served as part of a `crowd scene’. It has been difficult to add this part to my acting C.V. as this was not a speaking part. My career never recovered from the crushing disappointment and I never auditioned again. It was obvious that the director saw through the lack of my talents. In the absence of an agent the awaited phone never came. I am sure that I received excellent direction – I probably needed more advice on how to act than others.

The wardrobe department fitted me out in a musty purple robe – replete with the makeup of past productions. My face was painted green. I had to hold a torch under my chin at key moments.

The part of the ghost is over quite early in the play. The director, however, insisted on the three ghosts appearing at the final curtain – in full makeup. There was a lot of waiting around to do. I was a young school master at the time so there were always books to mark and lessons to prepare. There are only so many numbers of times that an actor can go over a one word line.

John Wayne gave some advice to prospective actors: `Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.’

Relax over Christmas. Let the family have a rest from the eleven plus grind. If you have to talk about the eleven plus then: `Talk low, talk slow and don’t talk too much.’

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Touch of Spice

There will be millions watching the final of `Strictly Come Dancing’.

It has been fascinating watching the candidates absorbing the decisions and comments of the judges. Very few people in the world can actually enjoy being told they are pigeon toed or have immobile upper bodies.

On most of the occasions the professionals have got away without comment – unless it has been to hear that they have made the routine too easy or too hard. It has been the celebrities who have borne the brunt of the judge’s opinions.

Very few routines have been awarded a perfect ten. Equally, especially as the show has developed, there have been very few marks around the two or three. I am sure we all gasped with horror when we heard: “As this is the semi-final we expect something better.” The judges then frustrated us by awarding a string or eights and nines.

It is simply extraordinary how much preparation and effort has gone into the routines. The accumulation of so much emphasis on perfect lines, and carefully choreographed steps and gestures, has obviously had an impact. The value of the words: “`Practice makes perfect!’ is certainly evident.

There is much for our eleven plus children to learn. I am sure they have all watched the hugging and kissing with great interest. I bet there is no flicker of emotion at all that unbridled despair and elation. The hours of rehearsal and the insistence on faults being corrected must make an impact. The praise and the adulation must also be heart-warming and encouraging for our children.

We can all applaud the graciousness and demeanour of the losing contestants. In the end it is the public who have the last word. This makes the show exciting and unpredictable.

In the eleven plus examinations our children will be judged on how well they can apply themselves on paper. It would certainly add a touch of spice if each child had to pass the scrutiny of a panel of judges and then the votes of millions before being awarded a place in grammar school.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Foggy Dew

We woke up to a foggy morning today. We know that fog occurs when cloud hits the ground. One of the main problems with fog is that it reduces visibility. We can be living our lives quite smoothly and then suddenly be hit by a blanket of fog.

A type of fog that causes problems is called localised fog. This is especially dangerous when we are driving as a little wisp can obscure our vision. We need to be especially careful and pay attention.

What happens in the eleven plus examination when a fog comes over the mind? Here we could meet a child who is bright, sunny and confident. In the examination everything is moving ahead smoothly. Suddenly the child is hit by a ground fog. The brain stops working. The answer to a question is hard to find. We can just pray that at the crucial moment the fog lights will come on and guide the candidate through.

We know that most types of fog are created when relative humidity reaches 100% at ground-level. Sometimes fog is accompanied by dew. What we can be fairly certain of is that remarkably few eleven plus children will be hit by the sort of problem facing the participants in these few lines:

When I was a bachelor, I lived by myself
And I worked at the weaver’s trade;
The only, only, thing that I ever did wrong
Was to woo a fair young maid.
I wooed her in the winter time,
And in the summer too;
And the only, only thing that I ever did wrong
Was to keep her from the foggy, foggy dew.

Good examination preparation and counselling will help. Remind your child to keep focused – to keep the fog lights on and think about `other things’ at other times.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top Table

One of the problems facing some our eleven plus children is the pressure they feel that they sometimes come under from their peers at school. The great majority of strong eleven plus children, however, will enjoy the increased intellectual challenge of preparing for a competitive examination.

Some bright children will no doubt become frustrated by any activity where they have to work slowly. Another strong gripe, at times, is constant repetition. The children want to feel that their education is being accelerated. They enjoy feeling stimulated and having their brains exercised.

What some may not enjoy is the envy or disdain of other less fortunate children. We work with around five hundred eleven plus children every year. We sometimes see very bright children sitting on the `second table’. Some children feel that if they are on the second table they are subjected to less peer pressure.

We have to help some of our bright children to understand that it is their behaviour and performance than matters. I should imagine that there are very few teachers who would move a child from second table to top table on account of a child achieving nearly full marks on a selection paper.

Your child needs to understand that that he or she will need to demonstrate commitment to the teacher. Your child will need to show academic and social maturity. You, as a parents, will need to provide sound counselling to prepare for a change of habits. Somehow you will need to make the point, as gracefully as you can, that your child will continue to associate with others of less ability for the rest of his or her life. The softly spoken reminder: `Just do your best,’ should help through many difficult situations.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Acronyms and Memory

We have all be told, at one time or another, to use acronyms as memory aids. An acronym is a word formed from the first, or the first few letters of several words. The acronym is spoken as a word rather than as a series of letters.

“Richard of York gave battle in vain” is an acronym of the colours of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

We can use this aid to memory in mathematics. Suppose we want to revise words relating to angles.

Acute Right Straight Adjacent

We can see the early acronym as `All Right Stop Arguing’

It will take a little more effort to complete the series.

Obtuse Vertical Complementary Supplementary

Once we are able to remember the various types of angles all we have to do is remember something about each of the key or trigger words.

Acute - an angle less than 90°
Right - an angle of 90°

Don’t forget that there are a wide variety of games to excite and stimulate the memory. We have all played the game: `When I went to the supermarket I put an apple in the trolley.’ `This is followed by: `When I went to the supermarket I put an apple and a radish in my trolley.” You can progress like this until you have covered all eight of the initial letters of the angles mentioned above.

The only problem with games and exercises lie these is that you may find your ten year old has a different kind of memory to yours. But think of all the different things you have to remember in a day.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Our Challege

A hundred years ago most professions needed no more than a mastery of the four rules of number. A bookkeeper, for example, needed to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Naturally a bridge builder needed to be able to understand stresses and angles – but did not have access to the comprehensive tools available today.

We only have to see our doctor in action. After you have been greeted, and you are sitting comfortably, the doctor does not look down at your card – but scrolls back through your last few visits on the screen. Your prescription comes from a pull down list and is printed out there and then. The doctor only needs to put a signature.

But think of the host of variables involved in the logistics of the approaching Olympics. Clearing the ground, burying the cables, building the various sites, developing housing, improving the transport systems all require complex calculations.

Behind every one of the aspects of this truly massive project is a team of programmers. Does any one care if they can add, subtract, multiply and divide? Their computers can do the calculations. The programmers, however, do need to be able to think.

It may be that the mathematics we are expecting our eleven plus children to master is antiquated. We know that key elements of mathematics need to be taught. What we are not sure of is what mathematics needs to be taught to cater for the new generations of leaders and thinkers. Logarithms, for example, were introduced over three hundred years. They were taught as an important tool for calculation. Logs certainly play no part in maths syllabuses today.

When we ask our children to analyse and solve a problem, on an eleven plus mathematics paper, we are demanding that they use mathematics knowledge that they have learnt. But we are not insisting that our children are required to apply original thought.

Future generations setting eleven plus papers may need to think again about the type of children who they want to pass eleven plus examinations. We may need to develop children who can think. This could be a real challenge.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Value for Money

We run 11+ courses in Gravesend after Christmas. This is not an advertisement but a statement of fact. We look forward to the courses because we get to see the latest range of mobile phones. This way we get to see the phones in action – without having to listen to a salesperson. I bought my last one in January on the recommendation of a group of ten year olds.

As well as the phones we see our ten / eleven year olds in their best Christmas clothing. The clothing will range from the very smart to the smartly casual. Boys and girls will be preening in clothing from tight to loose and baggy. The trainers too will come in an extraordinary selection of styles. We do wonder at the prices because we seldom see a pair of trainers that appears to be more than three weeks old. An exciting and unusual variety will be displayed in the boots. We expect to see some high heels too!

We know too that we will see accessorised mobile phones. The ring tones will be expansive and varied. We know that one or two girls will text their mums to `check on things’. The boys will be engaged in taking the battery and sim cards out and comparing them. I had no idea, until last year, that the size and strength of a battery could keep a group of ten year old boys enthralled for just on ten minutes. (Potential geeks?)

Every owner will have their phones on `silent mode’ or switched off. Last year we had no `phone abuse’ at all. It must very tempting for our children to pre-arrange an important `conference’ call designed to impress and irritate.

The speed of texting will be another factor to be marveled over. We know about predictive spelling – but those little fingers will tap out important messages!

Naturally every `new’ phone will be camera or video ready. There will be some serious photography of clothes and each other.

By now you are asking – when does this take place? I suppose you thought that the children were there to work not play on phones.

All I can say is that it is extraordinary what can be achieved in a ten minute break. If your child displays as much energy and vivacious behavior in the examination then you will know that all the money you have spent on clothes and phones will pay a rich dividend in the examination.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Setting Objectives

One of ways to approach the eleven plus examinations is by setting objectives. Objectives set out what you are trying to achieve. Eleven plus objectives are set at two levels:

The first is the Corporate level. These are the objectives that concern the whole Eleven Plus examination.

We aim for our child to pass the examination and go to grammar school.

A Functional Eleven Plus objective could be:

We aim to do five different eleven plus verbal reasoning papers before the examinations.

It may be easier to set straight forward functional objectives rather than sweeping corporate ones.

“We aim to complete this exercise before the tide washes the foot print away,” is more achievable than: “We aim to get 10% better on every paper before the examinations.”

A good thing about the beach is that when the tide comes in all marks and signs are washed away. This gives a fresh start twice a day.

“We aim to take the whole family on holiday – if you pass your eleven plus.” This is a statement and, in a way, an objective. What ever name is given it is still bequeaths a lot of pressure on a child – even when the words are accompanied by a little smile. The presence of a smile does not reduce the implications of pressure.

Enjoy your child. Walk on the beach together. Try to avoid unobtainable objectives.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Nice Cup of Tea

The great Tea Clipper Race passed Gravesend back in September of 1866. (This was long before the 11+ examinations had been thought of.)

The Taeping discharged the cargo of tea in the London Docks while the Ariel unloaded in the East India Docks. The two ships shared the first prize.

There was only three days difference between the arrival of the first and the fifth vessel. Other ships had entered the race – but there were but two winners. (A bit like the eleven plus.)

It was a big effort to bring the tea - the ships had to be handled well, they had to use every available breeze and sail.

It may be worthwhile to parents of eleven plus children to research the history of tea with their children. Remind your children that, on occasions, there is more to making tea than simply dipping a tea bag in a cup of hot water.

Ask for a new tea cosy and three carefully selected blends of tea for Christmas. Drop heavy hints about the need for new china set.

On Christmas morning wake up to the sight of your child carrying a tray of lovingly prepared tea to your bed side. Enjoy the sweet smile of your child saying: “Good morning. Happy Christmas. I have already done two verbal reasoning papers this morning and I achieved 100% on each paper.”

As you thank your child for the tea and the papers, and ask to have the door closed, lean back on your pillows and think gratefully that you had foresight and planning. It is not every parent who will enjoy a personally delivered cup of fresh tea.

After all, the next time you have tea brought to you in bed, will probably be as a thank you on the morning after the eleven plus results.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Aids to Memory

One of the great advantages of working with windows is the ability to display multiple applications or multiple documents relating to a single application. Each of the window applications, or documents, displays on the screen in its own window, which can be full screen size, part screen size or even reduced to an icon.

It is also very useful to be able to tile or cascade document the windows of a single application. Think how cascading information could help your child to be organised and methodical. It would just take a few clicks of a mouse.

To conserve memory all you need to do is to close some of the unwanted files or documents. (A bit like turning off the T.V.)

If you get carried away and want faster and faster speed all you need is more memory. Memory, at the moment, is becoming cheaper and cheaper for more and more power.

Just think how easy it would be for our eleven plus child if we could close or open some windows at the right time. Think too what it would be like if all you had to do was to drive down to your nearest 11+ memory store and purchase an extra bit of memory.

You would need to buy the right memory – it would be no use buying a non verbal reasoning memory if non verbal reasoning was not tested at your school. A maths memory could be very useful at times.

The salesperson would like you to complete your wish list with a large `Memory’ memory. This would ensure everything that your child was told would be remembered in the examination. You would probably need to back the memory up because it would be terrible for your child to experience unexpected memory loss. This would need to be an additional purchase of the well known `Memory Back Up’ stick. Cheap at the price madam!

The Christmas shopping list is becoming clearer. Top of the list would need to be a new mouse to open and close windows (especially windows of opportunity) as well as the normal 11+ memory and 11+ memory back up sticks. You could do an entire 11+ revision course in the time it takes to cook the turkey – if you spent enough money on the right size of course. Remember too that that all memory sticks are up to 20% cheaper in the duty free shops.

Monday, December 11, 2006

11+ Perspective

"Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate."

These instructions are pretty straight forward. The only problem is that the man who was carrying the order was killed. We do not know if there were further oral instructions so can only wonder why Cardigan made such a hash of the whole affair.

The charge is often quoted as an example of an order that has been misunderstood.

Lord Tennyson wrote about the Charge of the Light Brigade und used the lines:

Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

So if you feel sometimes that that your child has not understood what you have meant - and you wish you could make yourself a little clearer - think about the listening skills of the 600 as they rode towards the Russian cannons.

At least your child will not have to face `cannons to the left and cannons to the right'. Your leadership as a parent will never be questioned as was the judgment of Lord Lucan and the Earl of Cardigan.

It is simply matter of perspective.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Eleven Plus Stress

I was asked recently about how to help a child maintain a calm perspective before the 11+ examinations. Naturally my mind turned to dolphins.

As far as we know we think that dolphins are probably the most intelligent mammal living in the sea. Dolphins also have the ability to be developed and trained. Imagine the impact on your children if you take them swimming with dolphins. We have a lot to learn from dolphins too.

Dolphins love, for example, to leap out of the water. We have all seen pictures of this exciting event. There are some scientists who think dolphins jump out of the water to look for fish. Our eleven plus child could learn to leap out of a chair to look for inspiration. Imagine the scene in the examination room where a selected child suddenly leaps onto a chair to find the answer.

Dolphins also speak with small and delicate sounds. They seem to smile a lot too. Our eleven plus children could learn from them too by only speaking quietly in soft respectful tones.

Dolphins have an acute sense of hearing. Our eleven plus child could learn to listen even when he or she is hearing something that is not palatable.

Dolphins love to play and have been observed surfing. Take any ten year to a beach with waves and you will see surfing too. Our ten year olds can even be taught to surf the net to look for eleven plus solutions.

There is one final and conclusive link for our ten year olds to explore. Dolphins have never been involved, as far as we know, in acts of cannibalism. It looks, therefore, as if it would be quite safe to let our stressed out child swim with the dolphins.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Enhanced 11+.

We have just had some tea on the patio of a richly appointed restaurant. The service was good and the waiter was articulate and knowledgeable. We all agreed, as the waiter walked away with our order, that the service charge deserved to be more than a mere fifteen percent.

Some of the tables were close together. The warm sunlight shone on the friendly face that was obviously under reconstruction. We were feet away - not inches. To the un-tutored eye 1 could only guess at the extent of the cosmetic surgery and did wonder about the starting point.

We have all heard of the lengths some parents have been prepared to go to while preparing for the 11+. We are not just talking about papers, tutors and pressure - but what about the interview!

The interview must follow a reasonably predictable formula covering questions to relax the family and moving on to : “What makes you think you will be happy here?”

Suppose that Question 12 was: “We really do admire your nip and tuck. Where did you get that done?”

Question 13 could be: “Have you, or any one in your family, felt any long term mental health benefits?”

Question 14 would naturally follow: “Did your cosmetic surgery improve your self esteem and body image?”

The interview could then continue with remarks to the parents about how well their child had done on the previous three questions.

The family would leave with these words on endorsement ringing in their ears: “Well Mr. and Mrs Wilson, this is certainly the best prepared and most masterfully created 11+ child we have seen so far. Do you mind if we use your testimonial to your surgeon in our prospectus? We naturally have a place for your super enhanced child.”

(Names have been altered to maintain privacy.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

11 Plus Scoring

One of the advantages of approach of Christmas is the opportunity to play games and have fun. With many games we need to have a score to work out who are winners and losers. It is also a time for making things.

I must confess that I do not, on a regular basis, make paper reindeer. The steps are straightforward, if you follow the instructions in the right order.

Start with paper, scissors, glue and paints.

Fold the paper and draw out the reindeer with his back to the fold.

Score or cut out the shape. Be very careful with the horns.

Fold back the head and neck, and crease.

Push the fold down and push the neck back.

Stand the reindeer up. Contemplate making another seven.

You will recall the voice of your art teacher – from some years ago - explaining how to score.

To score a straight line, run the tip of your scissors along the paper against a ruler. Score curved lines without a ruler. Fold the paper firmly.

So the next time you hear a stories about a child managing to do a whole eleven plus paper in twenty five minutes. Ask yourself, quietly - and do not share your thoughts with anyone else – did the child achieve the score on eleven plus questions or making paper reindeer?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thank You Lucas

I’ve decided to become a chemist through a study of very high standard of level of achievement. My family in general has become used to receiving very high standards in school from my sister and myself, this being because we have been very inspired or pushed as far as possible in an educational way.

My father is very pushing but over all it has been my sisters side of the family.

My grandparents are teachers and that naturally helps raise the educational level of achievement.

My grandparents have an extra tuition centre in Kent, which I have visited several times and have had some extra tuition for myself. My grandparents, Shaun and Susan, are very expectant of me and have tried to standards by testing me on higher tests than my age.

As I am fluent in four languages at a very young age they think, and are correct at thinking this, that everything is maybe slightly easier for me than for some of my school mates.

Thank You Lucas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Listening Skills

One of the most documented stories of someone being told something that he does not want to hear is that of Macbeth and the three witches. The witched prepared a brew, singing "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble."

They told Macbeth three key things.
First, beware of Macduff.
Second, "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth."
Third, Macbeth will not be conquered until Birnam wood comes to the hill of Dunsinane.

They also told Macbeth that Banquo’s descendents will become kings.

Imagine what Macbeth must have felt as he walked back to the castle. I wonder if he actually listened to exactly what he was told or if he just heard what he wanted to hear.

We have all wondered at times if our child is actually listening to what we say. The witches spoke in scary voices – and what they said was not very pleasant.

Good listening skills require:

Attention to what someone is saying.
A willingness to understand and comprehend what has been said.
Giving the `other’ person time to finish what they are saying.

Not bursting into tears if you do not like what is being said.
Using good non-verbal signals.
Trying not to switch off when bored if you dislike what is being said.

In the end Macduff decapitated Macbeth – which is a severe punishment for not listening carefully.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Measuring Guilt

It is raining today. This is not an unusual occurrence for this time of year.

We all know that rainfall in England varies widely with the Lake District being the wettest part and parts of the south east receiving almost a third less rain. We can all recall fondly how to make a rain gauge.

To estimate the point at which a rain gauge becomes too small to accurately represent rain fall.

Two different plastic containers with different heights and diameters.
Waterproof marker
Plastic Ruler

Put the rain gauges outside on a level surface, away from any overhanging eaves or trees. Leave the gauges outside all week.
Measure the rainfall every day at about the same time of day.
Record readings.

Results (Or Eleven Plus Question)
How much does the diameter of the container affect the amount of rain being gathered?
If we have a large diameter gauge we expect more rain drops to be caught. The wide base however will spread the rain over a greater area in the container.

A narrower diameter gauge will catch less rain - but the drops will be at an equivalent depth.

I wonder how many eleven plus questions this topic covers? At first glance it seems we are looking at circles, volume, area, graphs, comprehension, metric system, problem solving - the list just goes on and on. We all know that we are more likely to retain information if we have thought about and discussed it.

Of course you do not have to do this experiment practically. We all remember: Rain, rain go away, come again another day. But if your child had needed just one more mark to pass - would you not feel guilty for ever?

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Ratio Question

I went for a ride on my bicycle yesterday on a gravelled path beside the new `fast track’ line leading towards the Channel Tunnel. On the way back I passed the point where the `Lady in White’ has sometimes glided out onto the road. The point is near the lovely village of Cobham. Many years ago Mr. Pickwick was moved to exclaim that this was 'one of the prettiest and desirable places of residence' he had ever met.

The `Lady in White’, or so the story goes appears just as cars round a bend. As she is, apparently, dressed in a diaphanous white outfit it is no wonder that she is regarded favorably by the locals.

If I had been riding a horse I wonder if the horse would have shied at the sight of her. As it was my bicycle became much heavier. It is possible that my heart beat went up because I was riding up a steep little hill. I do know that I suddenly thought of how the gears on a bicycle would make a wonderful 11+ question.

I have bicycle wheels that are 26 inches in diameter. When I changed to the lowest gear, because the hill was steep, and I wanted to see the `Lady’, I went much slower. There are 22 teeth on the lowest front chain wheel and 30 teeth on the rear gear. This means that I was traveling at about three miles an hour. (For each time the pedal goes round the rear wheel turned about 0.7 times.) I know that at three miles an hour I should have jumped off and walked but I thought that a moving object would have been harder for the `Lady’ to catch.

If we raise the number of teeth on the front chain wheel and reduce the number of teeth on the rear wheel to have a new gear ratio of 3:1 how fast will I be going downhill?

I am sorry that questions like this do not come up in the practice papers from reputable 11+ sources. Questions on gear ratios and speed certainly have some relevance to all cyclists.

An ancillary 11+ question could have been around the number of times my heart beat would have risen if I had increased my speed going up the hill – and if I had seen the `Lady in White’.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Keeping Your Child Focused

The idea of the whole family coming round for Christmas lunch is highly appealing. But how will there be a quiet moment in the day to allow time to do a full Eleven Plus paper in the appointed time?

The answer is crackers.

None of the family will mind settling down to a rip roaring discussion on examination technique just before the arrival of the turkey. All will be enthralled by hearing that scores have reached over 70 on a range of eleven plus papers. The entire family will love to hear how `our’ eleven plus candidate knew something that no one in the rest of the class knew. By skilful persuasion I think that you could keep the family focused on the topic of the eleven plus for a full fifty minutes - just the time it takes to do a paper.

What will be on the famous `Eleven Plus’ cracker strips? Well warm the proceedings up with jokes as tasteless as these:

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Frostbite.

What dog keeps the best time. A watch dog.

Now add in your eleven plus questions:

Cattle is to l….. as s……… is to bleat.

What is the missing number? 2 5 9 14 29 …..

And finally …. What did the turkey say on the 23rd of December?

Oh, give it a break over Christmas.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Story Telling

Stories are told in many different ways. The art of story telling is not confined to one culture - but traditionally stories have been passed on through the generations. An author will tell a story using words to draw pictures in our minds. We sometimes do not need an illustrator’s interpretation. We can allow our individual experience and imagination to personalise a word picture.

We can cope quite easily with a question asking us to find the best ending for a sentence:

A river always has:

(tributary : rocks : a waterfall : water : bridge)

We can imagine the rivers we know and try to get a picture in our mind of a river. By definition a river does not have to have rocks, waterfall or bridges. So that leaves us with the words `tributary’ and `water‘.

To complete this sentence in a similar manner may be a little more difficult.

A tributary always has:

(a branch : delta : army : weeds)

The answer is branch - because by definition is a tributary is branch that flows into the main stream. If we think immediately of a branch as being part of a tree - we may miss a different interpretation of the word.

So if you child does not want to read story books - why not try to encourage them to listen to the spoken word? Try reading selections of books, try taped books or even radio stories. We have to stimulate and develop the use the words.

Why not tell the story of the family? After all generations of families have passed on the oral history of their families through the use of stories.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Listening to Mother

Sometime when we are tackling 11+ questions we may feel we really do need to be creative.
Let us take the scenario where you are working with your child. You are trying to build new associations between existing ideas or concepts. Nothing is appears to be working.

You may be on a rather simple section where you are trying to find a word that can be put in front of a number of words to make new compound words. What ever the clues you offer you are confronted with a blank face. You begin to question your child’s reading age, vocabulary, attitude, previous education and your own ability as a teacher. You begin to pray that something will suddenly click.

When the two of you have achieved the answer you will feel so relieved and happy that you will be certain that your child’s intelligence has been inherited from you. You will feel good about yourself and very proud of your child.

At other times you will wonder whether creativity and divergent thinking can ever be taught. No matter how often you explain something, or whatever the words you use, it sometimes seems that there is simply no connection with the question – and certainly no assimilation of new ideas.

This may be the time to be a little divergent in your thinking. If something is not working it may be time to make a change. You may choose to attempt the same bank of questions on a different day. It may even be the time of day that is causing the problem.

You walk away from the situation and turn on the television – to catch the middle of an important newscast.

“Good afternoon. We have just heard about the introduction of a machine that will enable children to pass eleven plus examinations. Reliable sources have confirmed that any child can pass the eleven plus examinations after coming into contact with this so called `miracle’ machine.”

(Camera cuts to a close up of a smiling child holding a certificate.) The child speaks:

“Thank you mother for buying me the new eleven plus machine. I will always listen to you again.”