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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eleven Plus Advice

I had a fascinating conversation with a mother today. She has a very bright ten year old child. She explained that her daughter wanted to be an accountant. I am sure there are accountants in the family.

As the conversation ranged over the Eleven Plus, school, entrance examinations and `A’ level choices it was clear that ’ level choices it was clear that careers guidance was a mere formality. I am sure that this mum could have written the book. What a pleasure!

When the phone went down I started thinking about what kind of questions would be asked in Accountancy examinations.

“A director is in a fiduciary relationship with his company. Explain the meaning and effect of this statement with reference to decided cases.” (This question came from the Institute of Company Accountants.) I did `Dog Latin’ at school for many years. The word `fides’ means faith. I suppose it means that a director has to be faithful to his company. I wonder if the relation is the same as a dog to his master or that of a cat? They are both animals but have a very different approach to their masters.

So thinking about this led to another question:

Explain by reference to statutory and common law examples what is meant by `lifting the veil of incorporation’. (Chartered Institute of management Accountants) Now I know of some ten year old who would love to debate the topic if they knew what the terms meant. To some people there must be real excitement when there is a seminar on `lifting the veil of incorporation’.

So over the years some of our ten year old will learn more about relationships and decisions. They will also learn about the difference between statutory and common law. We hope they will grow up to be both wealthy and wise. Who knows – perhaps one day one of these ten year old will be advising you on your pension! Oh happy days!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Sunday Before

The Sunday before the Eleven Plus examinations is approaching. The last thing you want to do is to mention the examination. By now you will have done your best. Your child will have done his or her best. The work is done, the talking is over. So how on earth are you going to fill your day?


8.00 Take the pre examination candidate a glass of warm water with a little lemon. This will flush the kidneys.

8.20 Run the bath for the pre examination candidate. Lay out the clothes just like you used to do in the old days.

8.30 Supply favourite breakfast. Try to avoid serving the meal as if it was the last meal of a condemned man.

8.45 Insist that you will do the washing up and that you do not require any help from any spouse or child. (Martyr?)

9.00 Depart for the swimming pool.

11.30 Supply further sustenance.

By now you are feeling the strain. Leave the children with the grand parents. Retire to the pub for a liquid lunch. Sleep lunch off. Ask to have the kids delivered. Allow the rest of the day to dissolve into a gental daze.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Stretching Eleven Plus Children

Eleven plus children sometimes need stretching. We urge them to read a wide range of books. We want our children to be able to absorb an exuberant vocabulary. After all the children will rely on their vocabulary, at times, while they doing some verbal reasoning exercises.

So if we tell the children to read the classics, are we being reactionary? In The Three Musketeers we read language developed in a rather spectacular setting:

‘Whilst they were within the precincts of the camp, the four friends did not exchange a word: they were, besides, followed by the curious, who, having heard of the wager, wished to know how they would extricate themselves from the affair.’

So the story of The Three Musketeers is all about friends fighting with each other, the people are simply sorted by nationality (French or English), where they live, work and fight is important (Gascon or Norman) as is their social class (master or servant.). But when Athos stands on the parapet immune to the bullets we hope the children will identify with him.

We want our children to stand on the parapet, in the Eleven Plus room, immune to questions that may phase them. We want our children to feel that they are heroes and heroines as they tackle adversity. We want our children to feel that they can conquer all that lies before them.

Books that children read today are often full of characters with imperfections and problems. But we hope that as the story grips them and takes them on a journey of exploration they will react positively in a similar manner in the examination. Then our children will show that they have absorbed the `hard’ words and the complex concepts. They may also learn a little about punctuation! Just look with awe at the punctuation in the passage above. We hope that our children will replicate the confident use of commas in the examination.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Eleven Plus Letter

Every now and then every set of parents need to issue a rallying call to their children.

Our thoughts and inspiration can swing widely over a range of famous speeches that begin with familiar words:

“Once more into the breech dear friends.”

“We will fight them on the beaches.”

“Come on England.”

“You can only do your best.”

“What ever happens we will still love you.”

So long as the message is heartfelt I am sure that parents are allowed a little poetic licence – they don’t have to be word perfect.

With some Eleven Plus examinations only days away it is time for the `Annual Eleven Plus Letter’.

My dear son / daughter

In a few days time you will be writing your Eleven Plus examinations.

Naturally we all wish you the best of luck.

Read questions carefully.

Think before you write.

Do the best you can.

Lots of love

Your Mum and Dad.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Right Eleven Plus Environment

As teachers and parents working towards the eleven plus examinations we tend to work on the assumption that home background plays a large part in determining educational progress.

It is very likely that economic level and social class are not as important in helping a child towards the eleven plus as the parents’ attitude to education. Some parents are content to leave the tuition the school and a `tutor’ while other parents want a close `hands on’ approach. Both methods must be equally effective – because no two children are the same and no two families are the same. Just because some parents may be earning lots of money does not automatically guarantee that their child will pass the eleven plus.

We tend to take support by the mother of the eleven plus child for granted. The father’s interest in school work and extra study can, however, sometimes prove to be an invigorating spur to the child.

So it is entirely possible that factors in the home may possibly be more likely to promote a good `eleven plus’ environment than those of the local neighbourhood.

Eleven Plus Vocabulary (Blog26/10)

One of the things that children have to think about as the eleven plus examinations grow closer is the need for a wide vocabulary while tackling eleven plus verbal reasoning papers.

“You really must read a wider range of books.”

“Aunt Mary’s daughter enjoyed this book. I am sure you will love it.”

Now any self respecting ten year old will naturally feel a real sense of resistance to weak points made like this. No, don’t be soft. Tell your ten year old to learn three new words every day. Today’s three words include:

Matriculate.

The `matricular’ is the list of people belonging to an order or society. So, rather loosely, if your child passes the Eleven Plus examination he or she will matriculate.

Adlibbing

Today we think of adlibbing as making jokes or employing quick fire repartee. So if your ten year old is inclined to cover up nerves by a sting of weak and spontaneous jokes you could think that you have an adlibbing genius on your hands.

Stentorian

The origin of this word goes back to a man called `Stentor’ who was a form of town crier or even a drill sergeant. (In other words a man with a loud voice.) This is the sort of voice that will echo in your thoughts as you drive away from leaving your poor eleven plus child to attempt the examination.

So now comes the Eleven Plus challenge to your child.

“Use all three words in a sentence.”

(Any advance on: “The adlibbing boy called out in a stentorian voice that he was about to matriculate with a full eleven plus pass”?)

Passing The Eleven Plus (Blog25/10)

Many youngsters take their driving test at the same time as they are studying for their `A’ levels. In theory the great majority of seventeen year olds are mature enough to be entrusted with a car.

So a number of driving instructors tend to emphasise the need for a driving plan. A basic driving plan would include:

What can be seen?

What can not be seen?

What may reasonably be expected to happen?


What can be seen is reasonably straight forward. The problem comes with what can not be seen. This is where driving defensively begins to make sense. What could lie around the bend? Will a high sided vehicle obstruct your view? Will two of your children break out into a pitched battle just as you are trying to over take a weaving bus? What happens when the third child in car unexpectedly turns round and screams at the battling two in the back seat?

I started thinking of this because there was a lot of traffic on the M25 while I was driving back from Salisbury this afternoon. I was in the slow lane when a large black MPV drove up beside me. We were only doing around fifteen miles an hour – so to be overtaken was no great feat on my part. The man driving the big black MPV was reading his newspaper. He took his eyes off the page to check why the traffic ahead was slowing down. He was reading a broad sheet so he needed to fold the page on the steering wheel while he was driving.

Now any good eleven year old will be able to run through some of the rules of the road with you while you are driving to the eleven plus examination.

It is no good looking at the map while you are driving to the Eleven Plus test centre.

Ensure that you always over take safely.

Try to avoid cutting in sharply at all stages of an overtaking manoeuvre.

Look, signal, manoeuvre. Look, signal, manoeuvre. Look, signal, manoeuvre.

So now we have some things to remember.

Make a plan of how to drive.

If you have to read while you are driving, try reading one of the papers with small pages.

Be thankful that your Eleven Plus child is not driving yet – so don’t promise a car if he or she passes. (You may be moved to offer one in just six years time!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Content of the Eleven Plus (Blog of 24/10/07)

I wandered around the city of Salisbury this afternoon looking at the incredible diversity in the shops. Naturally the high street was dominated by the large chains and banks. But Salisbury is also equipped to cope with tourists. There seems to be an incredible number of tea shops.

I drifted through a number of antique shops. I was not really looking for anything – but marvelled at the range of items on sale. I didn’t see a moth eaten tiger – but did see a three foot high bronze pig. The pig was sitting on a chair reading a book. The content was to do with `Best Recipes for Pork’.

With this in mind what will happen if one day one of the Eleven Plus examiners decides to test children on their ability to recognise allusions? We know that an allusion is a figure of speech that compares aspects or counterparts in history, mythology, the scriptures or even contemporary culture.

If it did come about that some eleven plus questions were devoted to understanding allusions then we would need to educate our eleven plus children far more broadly.

To pass the Eleven Pus you will need to cross the Rubicon.

Well today, to cross the Rubicon, means to go beyond the point of no return. A long time ago in the days of Ancient Rome the Rubicon was a river. If an army crossed the river they were committing themselves to war.

He was really evasive about his Eleven Plus homework when he told yet another porker.

So if you tell a lie you tell a porker. Does that mean that Eleven Plus children can be reincarnated as little pigs if they fail to `come clean’ about their work?

What about the Eleven Plus child who day dreams so much that he or she could turn in a Lotus eater? So this goes back to Odysseus who came to the land of the Lotus Eaters. His men ate the lotus fruit and did not want to return home. So the men were pulled `kicking and screaming’ back to the boat. So we use the term lotus eater to describe a person who is oblivious to the world around him.

Don’t you agree that that having to explain allusions would shake the Eleven Plus world up?

(I still could not access the internet through the Travel Lodge connection.)

Planning for Change Blog23/10/07



Salisbury, Zimbabwe 1983

I was born in a town called Salisbury. The town, in Rhodesia – now named Zimbabwe, was named after the Lord Salisbury the Prime Minister. Salisbury was an influential figure on the British side of the Boer war. This was a war fought in South Africa with the British against South Africans.

Salisbury in Wiltshire is a most beautiful place to visit. The Cathedral is stunning. There is so much of the history of England in Salisbury – an original copy of the Magna Carta is housed in the library.

By chance old friends of ours, Paul and Wendy Wright, had just emailed us photographs of a shop scene in Harare, the present name for Salisbury.

Our ten year old Eleven Plus children will find it difficult to look into the future. Who could have thought the changes that have taken place in Zimbabwe? All we can do is try to explain to the children that great changes will take place during their lifetimes. The changes won’t all be about newer flat screen televisions and more powerful mobile phones. The better the education that we can offer the children in our care the better they will be able to cope with changes – be they peaceful or violent.

So if the children are ready for change they won’t be thrown quite so easily if they are faced with an unexpected question in the Eleven Plus examination.

Salisbury, Zimbabwe today. No food. Empty shelves. Terrible change.



I drove to Salisbury today to teach on a course. The Travel Lodge connection was remarkably difficult to access. Hence this blog was saved until today.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Doing Well in the Eleven Plus

Transport yourself into a school hall with parents chatting over a cup of tea at the school fete. There will be wide ranging discussions. The talk will cut across feelings on schools, teachers, children and the world in general. During the general dialogue a number of reasons will emerge as to why parents want their children to go to grammar schools.

“I hope that the standard of education will be better and that our children will learn more than at other schools.”

“I think you are right, but I hope that attending a grammar school will lead to better career prospects.”

“I have heard that a good grammar school curriculum will lend itself to valuable range of subjects.”

“The reason why I want my child to go to grammar school is to have a better chance of going to university.”

“Well our family likes the tradition and reputation of our grammar school.”

So to reach grammar school we know that children have to have a certain degree of intellectual and academic ability. Parents, however, want the ability to be able to make a choice. So good luck to all those parents who are trying to create a list of schools they would like their children to attend.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oh Dear, Oh Dear!

Oh dear.

Not in the script.

I know I keep saying that parents must prepare themselves and their children for not passing the Eleven Plus. But the feeling of dispair as teh clock ticked down.

Thank gooodness for ITV and their adverts - so that we did not have to see the faces of the vanquished.

The words: "Never mind, next time," somehow just seem to leave a bad feeling. Sorry England.

What will you say to children?

Half Time

It is half time. The score is 9 - 3.

What a first half!

What do the coaches say?

Eleven Plus Immortality

There is a saying: “Football is a game of two halves.”

If this is so then this blog must be the first half.

As a coach you can not afford to wind your players up too much. Somewhere along the way you have to remind them that they are playing a game – and at time they have to enjoy themselves.

As parents, with your eleven plus preparations, you have to remind yourself that the eleven plus is not the beginning or the end of education. It is simply one step on your child’s journey in life. If you have been working with your child over a sensible period then you and your child can afford to take a little pressure off.

I understand that the rugby players have not spent the week in a hard slog – but have been spending time on the mental side of their game.

So instead of forcing papers on your child spend time talking about timing and confidence. Discuss too how you will conduct yourself when you hear the results. Explain to your child what will happen if the desired results do not arrive in the post. If you are going to talk rewards try to make them realistic.

“If you pass the whole family will go to Disney Land. We have already bought the tickets. If you do not pass I will throw the tickets away – and no one will go.” (You may think that this is a little over the top but it has happened to one of our children.)

So tonight the reigning world champions are about to defend their crown. The lead up has started. I am sure we will have wonderful game. Our players are eighty minutes away from sporting immortality.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Two Way Conversation

Tomorrow we will be watching South Africa play England in the final of the Rugby World Cup.

The commentators from England will be yelling excitedly at times. The commentators from South Africa will be speaking in a number of languages.

Let us suppose that there is an argument about a try. The English speaking commentator will say most authoritatively:

A player who is on side scores a try when he carries the ball into his opponents’ ingoal or:
The ball is in his opponents’ ingoal and he first grounds it there.

In Afrikaans it is:

`n Speler wat speelkant is, teken `n drie aan waneer:

He die bal tot in sy teenstanders se doelgebied dra, of die bal in sy teenstanders de doelgebied is, en he eerste dir bal daar druk.

We really are lucky that the eleven plus examination is all in English. Imagine if we had to take into account the nationalities of all the children sitting the examination. That would give a lot of work to translators!

As it is referees referee in English.

Good luck to both teams tomorrow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good Luck on the Courses

We are about to start our Eleven Plus courses. We have tried to make sure that every child has the right course for the "Grammar School of Dreams".

I look forward to the courses because they give me the opportunity to teach. I left teaching when I was twenty six to start helping children with extra lessons. I still miss the class room.

Good luck to all the children on the courses.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eleven Plus Dreams

At one time or another most of us will have played a game called: “Who do you most admire?”

I really admired Madam Curie when I was growing up. The story of Madam Curie and her struggles with radioactivity really did have an impact on my adolescent thinking.

I think it was to do with her struggles to establish herself – and her relish for fights with authority that stood out in my mind.

I can also remember too one of those rather pointless and informed discussions at school when we were urged to debate: “Should the house admire students who work so hard that they ignore meals?” Naturally Madam Curie was used as an example in the debate because it was well known that she was prepared to work though the night and skip important meals while she was still at school studying.

In today’s world if a school allowed a pupil to stay up and miss meals some very important person would think of prosecution. Imagine the out cry if was known that parents condoned their fifteen year’s studious and ambitious behaviour.

I once heard of some parents who had their daughter out every night of the week in different activities. Their daughter explained that she really wanted to pass the eleven plus but did not have time to do any reading or work through any papers.

Madam Curie was driven to succeed. She was clearly gifted and made an incredible contribution to the world. She won two Nobel prizes – one for Physics and the other for Chemistry.

So if you are realistic enough to accept that their might be a slight possibility that your child will not earn a Nobel prize then you will be able to sleep comfortably at night. You will be able to help your child develop a balance of work and play. You may present a balanced outlook to the public but as a parent are still allowed to dream! Please let me know in a few years time how well your daughter did after university.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Predicting Eleven Plus Success

One of the uses of eleven plus examination is to act as a tool to predict future academic success. Some educators believe that the higher the scores in eleven plus examination the more likely the child will achieve good `A’ level and university grades.

But why do we have to wait until the child is in the `eleven’ years? Why can’t we start at five years? I know that some five year olds will not be ready for a competitive examination – but so then are some eleven year olds. But if we think that an examination at eleven will produce the grammar school children of the future I am sure we can solve lots of heartache if we sort it all out at five years old.

We may need to conduct some form of an interview. Naturally the interviewers would need to be properly trained and equipped with a broad range of skills – but our eleven plus teachers also need good training and broad range of skills.

So look at the scenario. Mother, father and prospective eleven plus candidate arrive at the `Pre Grammar Selection Centre’.

Parents show birth certificate and produce some form of identification of their child. They are then taken though a series of key questions:

Motor Development:

Age the child walked.
Method the child used to climb stairs.
Mastery of tricycle


Language Behaviour

Joins two words
Gives full name
Fetches an object from another room

Play behaviour

Favourite activity
Likes story read
Imaginary playmates

Domestic behaviour

Feeds self
Helps mother or father at home

Emotional behaviour

Attitude to strangers
Play with other children

Health history

General health
Unusual experiences

So what results do we expect to emerge? It is easy. We want a child of the right age with appropriate motor development, able to put some words together, with a range of interests, able to help parents at home, reasonably stable and hopefully healthy.

If your five year old fits these rather loose criteria then you know that your dreams of eleven plus success are reasonably achievable. You just can’t start too young!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Eleven Plus Vocabulary

We often tell our children not to stray from the straight and narrow path. We expect all of our children to follow a largely similar path towards the eleven plus.

Parents learn about the examination. (Usually well before their child is born.)
Some years later the reality of the proximity of the examination prompts action.
Parents move home to get onto a bus route to the favoured grammar school.
First child enters nursery.
Parents ask the Nursery Teacher if their child will pass the eleven plus.
Parents ask the Reception Teacher if their child will pass the eleven plus.
Parents ask the First Year Teacher if their child will pass the eleven plus.
Parents adopt a philosophical approach to the question: “Do you think that your child will pass the eleven plus?”
Parents adopt a philosophical approach to the question: “What will you do if your child does not pass the eleven plus?”

At some stage parents start talking in some form of a code. They throw words like `standardised’ around. They talk about their experiences with verbal reasoning papers. They complain about some of the vocabulary in eleven plus verbal reasoning papers. Picture the play ground conversation:

“We found some strange words in the latest verbal reasoning paper. There was one word `groma’ that neither my husband nor I recognised.”

“Was that Question Fourteen in Paper Four?”

“Yes, we knew the question had something to do with angles but we could not work out why groma was not the odd one out.”

“How did you explain the answer?”

“We had to telephone the mother-in-law. She was a teacher, if you remember and she could recall teaching her class about the groma when she was a student teacher. She did say that she does not often use the word.”

“Well, what doe sit mean?”

“Well Grandmother Enid said that a groma is an instrument used by a Roman surveyor to establish straight lines and right angles. As you can imagine it would be almost impossible to build a completely straight road but the Romans used the groma to set the road builders off on the straight path.”

“Oh, so when we are working towards the eleven plus we are really trying to make sure that our children are on the right path?”

“Even so, Grandmother Enid reminded me to try not to deviate too much from the eleven plus syllabus. She told me to keep her grandchild on the straight and narrow. Above all Grandmother Enid exhorted me avoid taking any short cuts.”

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Re-Sitting the Eleven Plus

One major criticism of the eleven plus examinations is that the children only have one chance. This is very hard on the children who are referred to as the `We just hope they come right on the day’ group.


At the `A’ level stage children can take an examination a year early and then repeat the examination in an effort to gain a higher grade. So a bright pupil can raise a `B’ grade to an `A’ or `A*’. In one sense this is very fair. Illness, falling in love, the acquisition of a new car can all affect `A’ level results.


So for some poor eleven plus children, who younger and less mature, it does not seem right to have a `One strike and you are out’ policy.


There must be some workable solutions to the problem.


Holding a lottery would not be a fait solution.

Banning coaching would be difficult to achieve.

Taking the examination a year early would allow for some re-sits.

If you do think of a solution please let me know.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good Luck!

“We never give up.”

“We always had belief in ourselves.”

“Every time he is on the pitch he makes a difference.”

“He brings confidence to players.”

“We know that we can play.”

“We are back in the final.”

I had to wait until after the semi final for this blog. What an exciting game.

I just hope that your children take the same “bull dog” spirit of never giving up into their examinations.

Good luck to all eleven plus children. Good luck to England too.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reading Eleven Plus Questions

My wife’s father worked on radar during the Second World War. He was a tool maker. Tool makers are given the drawings and instructions – and their role is to fashion the components – from moulds implements.

The word `radar’ is an abbreviated form of the name `radio detecting and ranging’. Radio waves are sent out by a powerful transmitter. When the waves collide with a solid object they bounce back and can be collected by a receiving set. The set and the transmitter are usually in the same place.

You can tell how far away the obstacle is by the calculating how long it takes for a signal to come back.

We use radar everywhere – airports, tracking satellites and even by the police to detect speeding cars.

So when you child misses an easy question and you remark, `You must be as blind as bat!’ you need to think about the poor maligned bat. All the bat has done is to send a little sound – and then receive the signal back on two little antennae – rather like ears. So to compare your poor eleven plus child to a little furry creature is really unfair.

A bat send out between ten and a hundred bursts of sound a second. Your eleven plus child may read the question only once! Some eleven plus children may not even read the question before they start to develop an answer.

Think of the poor bat. It has been hanging upside down all day. It is flying in darkness. It is sending out hundreds of little squeaks very few seconds. Your eleven plus child has it easy. You have not made your love one hang upside down. (Even though you may feel like it at times.) You allow your child to work in the best possible light. You do not force you child to make hundreds of little noises.

So the very next time you are minded to remark about reading questions carefully: “Oh you really as blind as a bat!” please take a little pause and allow yourself and your child to be very, very grateful!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Changing the Elleven Plus

I am very keen on the idea of a total rethink of the eleven plus examination. I know that on the day of the examination the child will be sitting at a desk working through a series of papers. This is how examinations have been taken for many, many years.

The world, however, is changing – and possibly the eleven plus examination also needs to change. We have seen how applications like Facebook have changed the manner in which we can communicate. We know that people are inclined to use a wiki to add knowledge and develop fresh ways of looking at information. `You Tube’ is also an invaluable source of information and entertainment. We also need to look at the tools that children use on the internet to chat to each other.

So why does the eleven plus examination continue to need to be approached in very much the same way as the eleven plus examination were written fifty years ago? Why can’t children be tested on their ability to communicate with each other? Why can’t children be tested on their ability to solve problems using the internet and cyberspace? Why can’t children be challenged with reasoning problems where they have to roam the internet to find the answers? Probing the internet is not the whole answer – but it is the learning tool of the future and examiners should be aware of this.

We are opening up a new digital world at an incredible pace. Perhaps we need to look into the future and simply abandon some of the old fashioned methods of examining children.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Relaxing before the Eleven Plus

I grew up in Zimbabwe. I went on a school trip when I was fourteen to Botswana. The school children traveled on the back of an open five ton lorry. Teachers traveled in land rovers and the cook, possibly the most important person on the whole trip, was driven in his smaller high sided lorry.

We could opt for different interests. Some boys selected ornithology, other the fauna and flora – and I wanted to look at ethnology. (The study of people and practices.) Botswana was, as is, the home to bushmen and women.

Camping out under the stars was a magical experience. We were camped on the side of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Great flocks of flamingoes flew over the pans in the evening looking for resting places and food. The remarkably ugly wildebeest came in hundreds to drink near us.

I was kindly taken to meet a family of bushmen. They were a fascinating experience – these proud little people with their bulging stomachs and buttocks. The term `steatopygia’ is used to describe the accumulation of fat on the buttocks. Quite simply the bush people eat an incredible amount of food in a very short time. They have no fridges to keep meat cool!

The head man kept looking at my trainers. Through a translator it seems that he coveted them! I exchanged my trainers for his mbira. This is a musical instrument with a range of tuned metal strips. The strips are wound onto a wooden base and the music is made inside a gourd.

To play the mbira you pluck the strips of metal with your thumbs. I brought my mbira with me when we moved to England. There are good examples of the mbira in the Horniman Museum in South London.

The songs that are played and sung are about everyday events. There are songs about the need for food and shelter. There are prayers for safekeeping. Some songs are to do with ceremonies and other to do with birth and death.

So if our eleven plus children were encouraged to learn to play a musical instrument – to help them to express themselves – I wonder what they would choose.

I assume that a few boys, and possibly some girls, would select the big kettle drums to make as much noise as possible.

Others may select little flutes or even piccolos.

I am sure at least one person would want to push a large grand piano into the hall.

So picture the scene. There are ten minutes to the examination. Every child would be playing an instrument – and the children would be working on relieving tension and feeling creative.

The noise would be so disjointed that it would become harmonious. The eleven plus children would laugh and smile with pleasure. They would feel part of a large community. The examination would start with the children feeling happy and relaxed.

Oh, by the way, if any one can think of a better way of relaxing the children please let me know.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Eleven Plus Exercises

We do explain in detail to children why sport is good from them while they are studying for Eleven Plus examinations. We know that a sumo wrestler needs a very different of body shape to a high board diver. The wrestler must be able to move very quickly, at times, in spite of his or her bulk. The diver needs a very different kind of couragealong with extraordinary agility and suppleness.

The wrestler would need to bulk up with special foods to help muscles grow strong. I believe to achieve this they also eat late in the day. Divers also need special food. I should imagine, however, that a deep sea diver eats very different food to a high board diver. I hope the deep sea diver eats lots fish. The high board diver would not see very many fish in the local swimming pool!

So while our children are writing their examinations, at the very least they need the muscles in their eyes, the big muscle of their brains and their ability to move their arms and hands.

As the examination progresses some children may find their necks becoming stiffer and stiffer. Other children may find the muscles in their abdomen in need of a little stretch. The spine is another key area that may become fatigued. Each vertebra can only make a slight movement because gross movement is prevented by hard ligaments.

So we now need to develop a set of eleven plus muscles:

Eleven Plus hands and fingers need loose and supple joints. A few daily shakes may do the trick.

The Eleven Plus eyes need to be able to read and digest information, words and ideas. The children could practice rolling their eyes, crossing them as well as opening and closing them very quickly.

Eleven Plus backs needs to be strong enough to be able to last through out a test. Rolling on the floor and doing sit ups may help.

So if we practice these exercises enough we will build muscle memory. Just think how off putting it will be to the other children in the examination if your specially trained child enters the examination room in a trance like state. Can’t you just see the hands and arms shaking, the eye balls swivelling and your child rolling along in a protective ball?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Hot Eleven Plus Topics

I was teaching this afternoon in a local leisure centre. I walked through the changing room and saw a people dryer. It is quite simple. You put a pound into the slot, walk in and hot air dries the whole body in no time at all. This relieves the necessity for having to cope with wet towels. It seems that there are a number of infra red lamps that warm the body as fans blow warm air.
This naturally brought to mind the advantages of developing a mobile eleven plus unit. This would be a large bus. The children would stand on an escalator holding onto straps set out the height of an average ten year old.

There would be a number of eleven plus zones. Your child would be able to select the zone appropriate to the eleven plus examination of their choice.

Bronze Zone (Three minutes)

Verbal and Non Verbal reasoning.

Silver Zone (Four and a half minutes)

Verbal and Non Verbal reasoning along with mathematics and English.
Gold Zone (Six minutes)

Verbal and Non Verbal reasoning along with mathematics and English.

Additional help with study methods.

Help with timing.

The bus would arrive in a central car park. Children would pass through the hot air. (We would leave out the need for infra red lamps.) Just three minutes of hot verbal and non verbal reasoning would be enough for most children. Your child would emerge feeling invigorated and pumped.

Just think. There would be no need for the whole family to be involved in working through eleven plus papers at home. You would save on tutors and other eleven plus aids. You would not need to worry about the quality and quantity as the hot air would be `Top Quality’.


Even if you are too late for this examination there may be a chance of having the `Eleven Plus Hot Air Blower’ ready for next year. (By the way children would need to remove their headphones and ipods before entering the blower. This would give you just three minutes to be able to load a good educational exercise onto the ipod. You can do a lot in three minutes!)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Eleven Plus Fitness

We all know the rewards that follow winning at golf. The days are long gone when a winner can rely on maintaining a high standard with out some regular weight training. We can see how increased strength supports the body’s ability to turn. A golfer, at times, needs to be able to hit the ball hard. A strong body allows increased speed at the end of the club. The ball goes further. So what are the advantages of doing some extra exercise?

• A better athletic posture.

• Increased reflexes and a more sympathetic feeling for the ball.

• Feeling good about your self.

• A body in better condition.

• An improved ability to concentrate.

So let us see if there could be any benefit in trying to help our eleven plus children to better at school and in examinations.

If our children are fitter we should find:

• They are able to concentrate for longer periods.

• They will be less likely to slump in a chair.

• They will feel better about themselves.

So how are we going to help our eleven plus children?

• Promote a variety of physical exercises.

• Try to help your child to be really good at least one physical activity.

• Encourage your child to watch winners in action.

P.S. We do a lot of our teaching in leisure centres. Without pushing it down anyone’s throat we are trying to show that some children learn better in the right environment. We are trying to promote the idea that children learn better in leisure centres. It is also fascinating to see how parents build a gym session or a swim into the time their child is attending a lesson. After all fit mums and dads are probably more likely to have fit children.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An Eleven Plus Chorus

Four years ago England beat Australia in the final of the Rugby World Cup.

The Australians, we understand, have been plotting revenge for the full four years.

Today’s rugby match has just finished with England beating Australia by just two points. It was a wonderful game.

The Australians have always been very proud of their heritage. They will be the only country in the world who would consider adopting a song about a worker making tea and stealing a sheep.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
"Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me?"

The swagman tried to evade the police and drowned himself in a lake. The swagman then became a ghost.

The Australians are great fighters and give stern pledges that they will never give up. In this game, as in the previous world cup, the Australians kept fighting to the end. Today the England team simply wanted to win and played to win. Two great teams – both with a never say die attitude.

We hope our children keep fighting too as the Eleven Plus examinations grow closer. We need to give our girls confidence to tackle mathematics papers. They must answer questions that they know how to answer. Our boys must just stop being `cool’ and get on with their work.

Here is verse one sung to the tune of Waltzing Mathilda:

Once a happy pupil tried to pass a big test,
Wanting to pass into grammar school.
And she sag as she watched and waited till her TV stopped,
“Who'll do papers with poor old me?”

I would be grateful for the chorus.

Many thanks…..

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Eleven Plus Journey

I started thinking today about final journeys. The eleven plus examinations are approaching One day parents – and their children - will be walking or driving to school for the all important test. What do you say on the way to a test?

Do you spend your time reminding your child of all the problem areas that have come up over the past months? (Don’t forget to read each question twice. Look for the key words.)

Are you determinedly cheerful and say: “Of course you will pass. You know you will pass.”

Do you complain if your poor child suddenly vomits over the upholstery of your brand new car?

Do you even mention the examination?

Do you avoid mentioning the examination?

However you and your loved one will feel on the day of the examination must be better than Marie Antoinette’s emotions on the day of her execution. I wonder if she stopped to look closely at the weave of the basket that was to receive her head after the guillotine had fallen.

We know that while Dick Turpin was sitting beside the gibbet waiting to be hung he chatted to his executioners and the crowd that had come to watch him die.

Someone else who springs to mind is poor Red Riding Hood. Imagine how she felt as the big bad wolf blasted hot smelly breath all over her. What went though her mind as the large teeth came closer and closer? Was she fearful? Did she meet her anticipated fate with some degree of equanimity?

So somehow you want your eleven plus child to walk into the examination feeling reasonably relaxed. You do want some degree of excitement and anticipation – but not too much! You certainly don’t want a feeling of dread and fear.

You will probably find that you will need much more calming down than your child. So give yourself a hearty breakfast – if you can. Take that last big box of chocolates out of the refrigerator and prepare to stuff yourself silly. Give that last hug. Turn your face aside and walk bravely away.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Eleven Plus Information

We need to start with some useful information you can pass on to your eleven plus child. You never know when your child may need to know this little piece of etiquette. It is to do with placing guests at a dinner party.

The guest of honour, if a man, is placed on the hostess’s right, if a woman on the host’s right. When there is no `guest of honour’ the senior man sits on the hostesses right and the senior married woman on the host’s right, the next senior on the left and so on – alternating men and women of course. Women take their seniority from their husbands – never seat husband and wife together.

We are indebted to Lady Enid Cumings for this information.

Now there may be some mums and dads today who would take issue with these nuggets of information. I wonder how some women would approach taking their seniority from their husbands!

What brought this to mind was that I wanted to ask someone whether they thought that garlic would be a useful addition to the eleven plus tool kit.

We know that garlic has been used in cooking and for medicine since the times of the ancient Egyptians. Even today some families use the remedy of honey and garlic mixed together for chest infections.

Now we all know that any medicinal benefit is lost by cooking. So we have to take the garlic raw. Naturally the breath will smell a little – but you get used to this. A trick that will make your children very happy is when you rub the soles their feet with garlic then you will eventually be able to smell garlic on their breath.

To convince children, however, of the benefit of taking garlic is to remind them that garlic has the ability to ward off vampires!

So now we know. If you invite your child’s teacher home for a meal you know where to seat the teacher. If you want your child to be popular at school make sure that you include some garlic in the lunch box – after all your loved one can spend break time rubbing the soles of the classmates with garlic! And finally, if you want your child to banish fearful thoughts at night, and keep the you know whats at bay, then wrap a piece of garlic into the pillow.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eleven Plus Funk

It would be really wonderful if break dancing could be added to the eleven plus syllabus. Instead of rather boring eleven plus work we could be teaching children how to rap and to dance. This would be much healthier for our children – the poor mites would not have to sit in front of an eleven plus paper – they could be dancing and singing.

I am sure that it simply coincidence that a `rap’ has something to do with criminal facing terms in prison. I like to think of children rapping by singing, making up songs and indulging in social commentary. I can’t really see eleven plus children in today’s world being all that enamored of Frank Sinatra crooning away. I am sure our children would prefer something more funky. (Funkier?)

The whole Eleven Plus Event would be very easy to administer. The children would apply for an interview at the grammar school of their choice. They would go on stage in groups of ten. The eleven plus candidates would then dance and sing. A panel of judges would whittle the children down to three from each group of ten. This would give a thirty percent chance of a place! There would be some parents who would jump at odds like that!

To get down to the final one hundred and twenty children the ones who had `won their group’ would be called upon again for a further audition. (In some counties children are allowed to try verbal reasoning papers twice!)

The children would need to sing the first half of a song without accompaniment and then dance to the second half of the same tune.

Children would be marked on:

Deportment
Ability to smile under pressure
Remembering to thank the judges after the performance
Remembering the words
Remembering the dance routine
The amount of glitter.

Children would need to write their own rap words.

“I dig verbal but don’t like non
Better than education is sitting in the sun. (Pronounced son.)
Grammar School is the place for me
Swim like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Eleven Plus Tracking

I know this has to be taken from granted but some parents do seem to spend a lot of time in the car. So what happens if we can develop a special `Eleven Plus Sat Nav’ system?

This would take your child to school.

Drop child number two off.

Go to your normal morning endeavour – work, curtains, coffee, shopping, phone calls and general multitasking.

Lunch

More `busy’ events.

Collect child 2. Collect `Eleven Plus Child’.

Drop Eleven Plus child at lesson. Take Child 2 to lesson. (Different lesson, different place.)

Quick shop.

Collect Child 2. Collect Eleven Plus Child. Hear and respond to normal sibling rivalry. Ask about lesson. Offer kindness and support. Say it will be all right on the night.

Help homework. Help eleven plus work. Comment on both.

Prepare evening meal. Cope with three phone calls. (Two calls on your landline and a much better call on your mobile.

Pour food down children. Take the dog for a walk. Talk through homework. Do some too. Kiss them all good night – including the dog.

Settle down to your studies. Learn about pacifying crowds. Wish you had the same tools at your disposal. Hear that you can have that new car. Offer a little prayer.

Ask for a car with a built in Sat Nav.

The route would be: home, school, work, school, home, lesson, home – and `night out’. Average daily distance = 58 miles. Hear that petrol is going up by two pence a litre. Work out that this will cost more over a year. Offer a little prayer.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thank You

I went to the park yesterday. At each of the entrances were the `forbidden signs’. In our park we are offered a picture of the `crime’ with a large red circle with a red line cutting the circle diagonally.

The second sign was `No Skateboarding’. A group of nine or ten twelve year olds arrived to walk through the park. Two were carrying skateboards. They gathered around the large board and discussed the signs in some detail. They thought that the no skating sign was a waste of time. They also did not like the `No Cycling’ sign. They reacted to the two signs about dogs with typical twelve year old forthrightness. The two skateboarders carried their boards into the park.

A boy of around four tried to push his bike through a gate in the park. He struggled to open the gate. My four year old grandson ran over and held the gate open. The bike rider did not acknowledge him. My grandson held the gate open for the mother who was holding a baby and a carry bag. She did not look down at the little body holding the gate open – yet she had seen the gate being held open for her own son.

The young sixteen year old behind the ice cream counter smiled and chatted to my grandson as he made his choice. She made an effort to be helpful – far beyond was required of her. We landed up with double headers – vanilla and strawberry. We ate them solemnly on the grass watching ants crawling around, rowers out on the water and large container ships drifting by.

I wonder how the little four year old with a bike was going to grow up. I wonder if he was going to be resentful of society. I wonder if his mother had ever said thank you for any thing in her life.

I wonder too at the pleasant ice cream seller and hope that nothing ever happens to dull her pleasure in serving others.

I am sure that your children turn to you and thank you at the end of a session. After all you would expect grammar school children to have good manners!