Search This Blog

Monday, March 31, 2008

Eleven Plus Sensitivity

Parents spend a lot of time thinking about how to get the best out of their children.

One of the easiest ways to tackle a problem is to offer a lecture. This is where you stand and deliver. You offer your thoughts in a forthright manner. You assemble your thinking into a beginning, middle and end and then give vent to your feelings. At the end of the experience you will feel much better. Your child would, however, feel very different emotions.

A different way is to indulge in a group discussion. This could be no more than the family sitting around the table talking about an Eleven Plus problem. All concerned would be expected to participate and offer their opinion. You hope at the end of the discussion that your family would have made a joint decision for the good of the `Eleven Plus’ child. This may or may not have a lasting effect.

A third option could be brainstorming. All participants throw many different ideas around. There could be some repetition and some undue excitement. After the whole idea of brainstorming is to throw lots of balls into the air and hope that the correct answer evolves.

Some families may find that sensitivity training gets results. This is where the child is sensitive of the mother’s feelings. The child and the father learn to be sensitive of the mother’s feelings. Mother and child learn to sensitive about the father’s feelings. Both parents learn to be sensitive about their child. The whole family learn to be sensitive and caring about each other.

The problem is that a `touchy feely’ approach may not be quite a satisfying as letting out a blast of anger. Under the bravado and backchat of your ten to eleven year old could be a sweet gentle child just waiting for an opportunity to show his or her best side.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Driving and the Eleven Plus

When you drive your child to school for the Eleven Plus examination you will want to arrive safely and on time.

If you walk your child to school for the Eleven Plus examinations you will want to arrive safely and on time.

If you cycle with your child to school …..

If you go by bus or train to your child’s school …….

At one time it was thought that walking to school was the most dangerous and the most stressful. Imagine, however, the pleasure of being able to walk with your child along a quiet path in the middle of the countryside. Let your imagination fly as you visualise a safe `school walking bus’ organised and executed by some one else’s mother!

If you have to drive the journey may offer a mass of sensory and motor pressures. It is not only the position of your seat, and the noise in the car you may have to cope with, but also the other less able drivers. Even if you have found a worthy `rat run’, so can you travel on a trouble free and traffic free journey, you will still be subjected to pressures and strains.

Your driving performance on the day of the examination will be affected by your passengers. You will worry that your `candidate’ is feeling as relaxed as possible. You will worry that you are not offering even more last minutes advice. You will think about the contents of the school bag. You will suddenly remember to remind your child that to find ten percent you have to divide by ten. Your muscles will tense up. Your back ache will increase. Your headache will force its way forward. You will show all the symptoms of car sickness. Ringing through your head will be the sorry statistic that hypertension is seven times more likely to lead to a stroke.

You still have to talk pleasantly to your child. You have to wave thanks to the crossing person. You have to ignore the ringing of your mobile phone. You can’t take your eyes off the road to see who has texted you so early in the morning.

Before you slip into the driving seat on that all important morning take a few moments to do some `Pre Eleven Plus’ exercises.

Stand beside the car, hold onto the door, and work your way through some deep knee bends.

Breathe slowly through your nose to a slow count of five.

Run on the spot for fifteen seconds.

Stretch your neck in a controlled and relaxed manner.

What you are trying to achieve is for you to be relaxed and `loose’. When you have achieved this state of `karma’, call your child to the car. Take one last deep breath. Go forth to your child’s destiny.

By the way, I am slipping this in early so you can practice before the examination.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eleven Plus Dreams

I had a myth shattered today. The Sea Life Aquarium at Brighton had a tank of piranhas. The modestly lit notice explained, in rather too much detail, that the piranha had had a bad press and only occasionally ate humans.

I had grown up on Boys Own stories of intrepid explorers falling out of canoes into the Amazon. I can still picture today piranhas, in a feeding frenzy, tearing the flesh off the still living body.

We enjoyed the tunnel with a glass roof – and it was possible to watch sharks swimming over head. The other plaque that caught my eye was an explanation that sharks are really gentle fish – and very seldom eat humans. Bang goes another myth.

It becomes rather easy then to destroy a myth by the simple task of exhibiting a little notice.

On the entrance to `the bed room of the candidate’ you need a series of little notices.

  • Eleven plus examinations really are quite hard.

  • When we say, `Do your best’ what we really mean is that we really do WANT you to pass.

  • We don’t really mind which school you go to, so long as you are happy.

  • If you don’t do a reasoning paper every day a shark or a piranha will get you in your dreams.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Listening to the Eleven Plus Child

Parents working with their children towards the Eleven Plus will be aware that there is sometimes a great difference between the way a child learns a new topic and that taken by an adult.

A young child is willing to learn by imitation and memorising. An older child will be more willing to question. An adult will be more inclined to try to learn by synthesising and evaluating information – and may be more inclined to accept independent study.

A child learning a new Eleven Plus topic may want to be taught by a different teaching method that used by his mother or father. (In my day we did it like this.)

Where some bright children are able to accept a rule or definition, the adult (or parent) may want to pitch in with far too much explanation and detail.

Grand parents, however, will tend to work their way through the same problem in yet another manner. The grand parent will possibly be most concerned with selecting the correct teaching strategy.

Thus three generations may have different approached to an Eleven Plus problem.

A number of Eleven Plus children will accept being told how to work on a new topic.

Parents (some) may be inclined to go on and on just a bit too much for their child to stomach.

Grand mother or grand father could spend a bit too long working out how to tackle and then explain the problem.

The Eleven Plus child should listen to the parents, the parents should listen to their parents. The parent of the parent will need to listen to the Eleven Plus child – because in their day there was no such thing as an Eleven Plus examination.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Eleven Plus Motivation

When we are trying to motivate a child to do well in the Eleven Plus examinations we may, at times, need to encourage our child to participate fully in the learning environment.

It may be easier, in the long run, to simply ignore any great motivational speeches and pleas for co-operation and simply try help your child engage in the Eleven Plus activity.

The young men and women engaged in the Apprentice last night were all trying to win. A major motivation must have been the idea of being able to hold down a job with a six figure salary.

A very different motivation must be the idea of winning. “I am the winner. I beat everyone. I am the chosen one. Anything you can do I can do better.”

In the very first episode of this new series the women were pitted again the men. A new kind of motivation came into effect. The men, I am sure, were thinking: “They are only girls. We can beat them.”

The girls clearly were not prepared to be beaten by mere men. Many of the young women would have been little `Spice Girls’ – and so had had strong role models driving them forward.

Then we need to look at the task. The task was selling fish. The women focused on finding the best site – and then getting on with the task. The men argued and beat their chests. The women wanted to win. The men wanted to sort out a `top dog’ hierarchy.

Our Eleven Plus children will be motivated to the task of passing the Eleven Plus. Some will find the motivation within themselves. Others will need to be led and managed.

It would make fantastic gladiatorial television if a number of eleven year old had to fight off competition to win a place in a grammar school. I am not sure, however, that I would really want to watch eleven year olds adopting such a winner take all mentality.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eleven Plus Inheritance

It takes a special kind of intelligence to be able to work out relationships.

Brothers and sisters have I none,
but this man's father is my father's son.

The answer, of course, is that `this man’ is the son.

Some types of Eleven Plus papers still contain gems like:

What relation is Mrs. Wilson to her daughter’s brother?

What relation is Uncle Jack to his father’s father?

What relation is Wendy Lomax to her father’s sister?

The answers are easy to some types of brain:

Mrs. Wilson is the mother.

Uncle Jack is the brother

Wendy is the niece.

Gegor Mendel would have been able to work out the answers to the questions very quickly.

Fist of all he was a monk – and later on he become the abbot.

Secondly he researched inheritance laws in peas. He was involved the laws of genetics. He used peas to work out a law of alternate generations.

This means that if Granddad or Grand mum are very bright it is likely that grandson or granddaughter are also going to be bright and able.

We know that children are made up of genes from mother and father – and so the genes of the grandparents are passed on too. If your child is likely to pass the Eleven Plus it is likely that either grand mum or granddad – or both – could also have passed the Eleven Plus if they had had the opportunity.

So as you turn to your parents to pay the Eleven Plus fees you could also turn to them with some of the `more complex’ Eleven Plus questions that simply require a little common sense.

After all:

Brothers and sisters have I none,
but this man's mother is my daughter.

"This Man’s mother" must be her granddaughter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Eleven Plus Chains

Every now and then we encourage our Eleven Plus children to learn in chains. Picture the scene rows and rows of poor children all chained together learning and studying. (Little slaves to the Eleven Plus!)

It is relatively easy to learn to ride a bicycle with the stabilisers on – but it is more complex for the child when there are just two wheels. (As easy as learning to ride a bike.)

A chain is carrying out a set of instructions in a particular order. Before your child can carry out the steps of the chain you have to make sure that he or she is confident of each of the links. You could run into difficulty if one of the links was loose or poorly taught.

One type of training is called `Progressive Training’. This is where you teach a series of steps. You start with the first step and then the next and then the next.

A more familiar type of learning to most parents and adults is `Rote Learning’. This is where tables are learnt `by heart’. The child works though a number of examples and commits the method of approaching the problem to memory.

The third type is `Retrogressive Training’. This is where the chain is acquired working backwards. Anyone treading this who has worked through some Eleven Plus problems will have suggested the need to start at the end of the problem and work backwards.

Four times a number is four less than a number which is ten more than thirty. What is the number?

The advantage of solving a problem by the retrogressive method is that you can keep motivation high. It will remain a novel and interesting method of solving problems.

So when you were teaching your Eleven Plus hope to ride a bike – you may have reduced the out riggers very gradually until he or she was cycling on his or her own. The other method was simply to remove the outriggers and provide lots and lots of verbal and physical support.

If you are expecting your child to do well in the Eleven Plus examinations, and you are relying on Progressive Training, then you are setting your child up for a fall. After all if you remove one link, then you may have provided a recipe for disaster.

The problem with learning chains by rote is that chains can easily be forgotten.

In fact you are probably going to be teaching your child using a combination of all three methods.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eleven Plus Questions

Bright children enjoy solving problems.

Some bright children enjoy solving some problems.

Do you know of any bright children who enjoy solving problems?

If at least one of the above statements is true we can set a little Eleven Plus question.

The Great Pyramid is supposed consist of 6 000 000 tons of stone. Each block weighed 2.5 tons and was cut to shape with very careful exactitude of angle and surface. Herodotus thought that it took 100 000 men around twenty years to build.

This was a tremendous feat as the blocks had to be brought down the River Nile by boat. Building the Great Pyramid must have taken a lot organisation.

The Eleven Plus questions are:

If there had been 200 000 men working on the pyramid would the task have been finished in 10 years?

If all the 100 000 men were going to work on an egg, how many eggs would be eaten each week?

Some Eleven Plus questions are a little far fetched aren’t they?

Eleven Plus Reading

Reading an Eleven Plus question requires a number of different skills. After all, reading is more simply interpreting a series of letters into sounds to make a word. We use the alphabet to write words down – and to read words – but reading is more than simply manipulating letters. To be able read effectively a child needs to be able to think and reason.

The visual analysis of patterns of letters can be done very rapidly and accurately. Some children will be able to look at the words in a sentence very quickly. Other children will read a verbal reasoning question using a word by word method.

Once the letters making up the words have been mastered and assimilated then the reader will need to be able to associate sounds with the words. This in turn will lead to comprehension of the word or words. So we look at a word, hear the sounds in the word and then understand the meaning.

A child could be faced with a question like: Which two words in the brackets make the same kind of pair as the two words at the beginning of the group?

ONE, FIRST (seven, seventeenth, seventieth, seventh)

Here the child had to read the words, understand the individual words and then work out what the question was asking. Last of all the words had to be analysed and sorted. Finally the correct solution to the question needs to be selected. After all it is no good knowing the right answer if the correct response is not selected.

A parent will ask their child to read the sentence aloud.

The words: “Slow down and read it again,” will be used by many parents.

Slowing down and reading the question aloud will be important – if the child is also reading for meaning and mastery of the question.

We can make a test more difficult by using harder and less familiar words. Parts of a test can be made demanding by choosing words from topics where the child can not be expected to have specialist knowledge.

So if Eleven Plus tests are trying to select children who are able and well read, then you really do need to try to encourage your child to read and read and read.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Eleven Plus Food

As the Eleven Plus examinations grow nearer thoughts of parents must naturally turn towards food and immunity from any last minute problems. An attempt to change a child’s diet a few days before an examination will probably erupt into a mini battle of wills.

Very occasionally a mother or father may wake up feeling tired and irritable. If their child wakes up the same way the concerned parent would possibly first of all look at food. We know that an eleven plus child needs good food to provide energy. Parents, however, have the privilege of being able to add alcohol, sugary drinks and chocolate to the diet. It would, however, be a very sad day if parents had to give up late nights, snacks and all junk food for the duration of the Eleven Plus run in to the examination.

If a child is looking run down, a concerned parent will immediately deliver a lecture on ‘blood sugar management’. They will tell their child to eat a good blend of food – with carbohydrates being the key as they are most easily converted into glucose. A parent will then go on to confirm the need for their child to eat a balanced diet that includes proteins and fats - as these have the necessary vital nutrients. If a child is feeling stressed then he or she will need extra energy – but sweets, chocolates and canned goods will only give a temporary sugar surge. In theory nibbling on raw vegetables and fruit is an equally quick method of boosting energy – but try telling that to your stressed and hungry child.

Children attending lessons straight after school often bring food to their lessons with us. It is fascinating to see the range of foods that some children prefer. Some children will arrive with a plastic bag or bowl full of healthy `nibbles’. Other children arrive munching on chocolate bars, crisps and fizzy drinks.

When we run holiday courses that last from nine to one, we do ban chocolates and fizzy drinks. Some children appear to have problems coping with the dreaded sugar surge.

Some children may become conditioned to studying and doing Eleven Plus papers with the aid of the dreaded `junk’ food. I wonder if they do as well in the examination?

Friday, March 21, 2008

An Eleven Plus Tribute

The National Cycle Pathway Route 1 runs beside the canal that flows between Gravesend and Higham in Kent. As the crow flies this is a distance of around six miles. By bicycle, along the cycle route, the journey is possibly nearer to eight miles.

In mid summer hundreds of people cycle and walk along the path. Today I met just one intrepid cyclist. The wind was very cold.

Some volunteers have obviously been working on the route. There was no rubbish lying beside the path. (Thank you to them for their hard work.) Reeds, branches and trees had been cleared in key places.

An obelisk stood proudly in a clearing. I have been down the path many times and have never seen it before - so it was an exciting find.

I was too far away to read any inscriptions. I did wonder whose names were recorded.

Many parents would probably think it very fitting to erect a monument to the person who first thought of the Eleven Plus.

We could then applaud the opportunities that have been offered to so many children.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Eleven Plus Boredom

The only way to stop your bright and able child telling you that he or she is bored is to try to offer an activity that will not be boring.

This is not so easy.

"I have already read a book about that."

"I have seen it on T.V."

"We have got it on DVD."

"I went there with my friend."

"I am really too old for that now, It was all right when I was six but I am eleven now. No thank you."

"Remember? We researched that on the internet last holiday."

So if you are going to survive without offering the alternative of extra Eleven Plus work then you will need to negotiate. Try to find something that will interest him or her. After all it is your Easter holiday too. All you want to do is avoid any emotional problems. Don't you?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eleven Plus Help

My name is William.

My mother and father want me to pass the Eleven Plus examinations.

They keep talking about how important it is to go to Grammar School. They tell me that if I go to grammar I will probably be able to win a place at a good university. They have said that if I choose the right degree I will probably earn a lot more money. I would like to earn lots of money.

One of my friends does not want to go to grammar. He is better than me at mathematics. We are both in the top mathematics group. He says that if he goes to grammar he will have to work hard for years and years. He says that it would be much better to go to our local comprehensive, grow our hair long and make lots of money playing music.

I have another friend. His brother does go to grammar and he says that grammar is really good. He says that there are lots of sports and hundreds of different after school activities. He says that the work is all right as long as you organise your homework time.

I don’t really know what I want to do. We have an Eleven Plus group at our school – but I don’t want to go because it is on the same afternoon as football. I am a member of the academy where I am a goal keeper. I play for the district and for the county. A talent scout told my dad that he wanted to sign me last year. My mum says that going to the school’s Eleven Plus classes is very important. She likes me to play football but she wants me to go to grammar. She says that they will be more opportunities later in life.

My older sister goes to grammar and she comes home and does her homework. She never talks to us about what she does – she just goes to her bedroom and comes down for her meals. She does not have a TV in her room so I don’t know what she does. I know I don’t want to have to work as hard as that.

The trouble is that I like doing verbal and non verbal papers when I do settle down to do them. I can do the codes exercises very quickly. I find the Eleven Plus mathematics questions on paper very easy. I get stuck sometimes but I can usually work them out myself. My mother asks my sister to help me but she says: “I passed without any help, so why should I help you.” She does help sometimes but only when she is in a good mood with me.

I know that I should go but I just don’t like to work every single moment of my life.

Please help.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Eleven Plus Appeal

I heard a story yesterday. I am not quite sure where it will end – but it looks as if it could turn out to be an on going saga.

A young mother had a kidney transplant in early January of this year. She had been ill for some years. Luckily she was offered a new kidney from a suitable donor. You will have guessed it by now – the donor was her sixty year old mother.

Both women are not very well at the moment. The new kidney has worked but not quite as well as could be hoped.

There are two children in the family. The boy is aged four and the girl has just turned ten. The girl has been doing very well at school. She is not doing any extra work towards the Eleven Plus examinations, at the moment, because of all the turmoil in the family. It can not be easy for the children to have their mother so ill.

The dad walked out on his family towards the end of January. He explained, I understand, that he could not take the pressure any more and needed some space.

He has the children one day a week – and had them as usual on Wednesday of last week. Last Friday the mother telephoned him to say that she was not feeling well and would have to go back into hospital for some checks over the weekend. She told him that her mother was also `not too good’ at the moment and simply could not manage to look after the children. He was asked if he could help.

Dad explained that he was off to Ireland for the weekend with his mates and could not change his arrangements. He would be letting his friends down.

So when is the ten year old girl going to find time to do her Eleven Plus preparation? How will an appeal panel react to the mother if the little girl does not pass her Eleven Plus examination? Will the appeal panel take any of the `circumstances’ into account?

How will the little boy ever learn to read with all the upset in his family?

Is it really fair to ask both children to be `brave and understanding’?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Eleven Plus Discussions

I had a chat with a mother over the weekend. One of the topics that came up was about relationships between eleven year old boys and girls.

The mother had an eleven year old daughter who wanted to date an eleven year old boy. Simple things like visits to the cinema, going to a swimming pool and going shopping. (It is clear who the `strong’ figure was in this budding relationship. I can’t imagine many eleven plus boys actually choosing to go shopping without some considerable inducement.)

It is obviously impossible to generalise about a particular set of circumstances because we know so little about the personalities and relative maturity of the two youngsters. One thing for certain is we can not underestimate the emotions that had been unleashed once they recognised the mutual attraction.

They only thing I could think of was to suggest some form of a plan that could serve for the moment – and for the years ahead.

1. Acknowledge the depth of feeling. It will be no good trying to say: “You are just too young.” After all you just need to remember back to when you were in your teens or approaching your teens.

2. Work out a method of explaining that boys and girls can be friends before they `go steady’.

3. Welcome the other child into your home – and include both children in family outings.

4. Talk to the other set of parents – communication is the key here.

The very last thing you want to do is to fight with your children before an Eleven Plus examination.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Eleven Plus and Languages

Children learn about the Egyptians at home.

Children also learn about the Egyptians at school.

Some children travel to Egypt and learn all about the Ancient Egyptians through seeing the real pyramids and artefacts.

Other children read about the Egyptians in books.

Some have the opportunity of being able to visit the British Museum.

We went there today. It was a wet and cold day. It was crowded. I have been through the Egypt sections on days when there were many fewer people.

On every exhibit families from all over the world were discussing the Egyptians. I have no idea of how many tongues were spoken. Naturally some parents were reading and translating for their children – but many children seemed to be able to read English. They held animated discussions with their parents in a mixture of their home languages and English. I was struck again and again by the rapt attention and the laughter.

What a tremendous fillip it would offer to language teaching if children writing Eleven Plus examinations had to offer a language. Think of the effort and attention that parents would put into ensuring that their children could read and speak another language.

We have heard that there are fewer children choosing to `do languages’ at school. Think of the impact on the language department of a grammar school if each intake had children reading and writing a second language.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Managing the Eleven Plus

I was asked today the perennial question: “What can I do to help my child?”

Now mothers are traditionally the real managers of the family. It is mum who makes the decisions about children, food, dogs, walks, school, drinks and the Eleven Plus. Mothers have to work in a dual function. They have to be able to manage – but they also have to be able to do the actual work as well.

Mangers perform the functions of planning, organising, leading and controlling.


When a mother plans an attack on the `Eleven Plus’ she brings into play the ability to call on a vast sisterhood. Planning includes the key tasks of communication and collecting information. When all the facts have been gathered `mother’ sets out the objectives.


This is where the mother organises and `sorts out’ all the family’s resources. She has to take into account such diverse functions as transport, food, relationships and control.


This is the work a mother does to motivate, encourage and inspire not only her Eleven Plus child – but also the rest of the family. After all it is `mother’ who has to have full confidence in her child.


This is where a mother sets out to make key decisions about the course of the Eleven Plus saga. She alters, adjusts and plots the events leading up to the examination. On an hour by hour basis she reassesses and alters her plans.

When the results are out she will be able to take quiet pride in the fact that a grammar school place has been secured.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eleven Plus Assumptions

We need to make some assumptions about children writing Eleven Plus examinations.

Assumption One

A true Eleven Plus child probably does not really need to be taught how to work through much of a verbal reasoning paper. The good Eleven Plus child can probably work out the answer given enough time. As teachers and parents we tend to jump in and supply the answer instead of drawing the answer out.

Assumption Two

That children will be motivated to learn in their own way and in their own time. Exhorting your child to work hard may be counter productive.

Assumption Three

Your child will always believe that he or she is behaving logically and sensibly. He or she will think that YOU are away with the fairies.

So remember the words of the famous proverb:

When the child tackles the verbal reasoning paper, reason flies out of the window.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eleven Plus Speeches

You are out with family and friends celebrating your son or daughter passing the Eleven Plus. At some stage of the evening you decide that you would like to make a little speech.

Your brother, however, reminds you of the little speech you made when you were his best man. As you are rising to your feel he reminds everyone how you nearly pulled off a speech to the bride and groom – and how you landed up a little mixed up.

This is a family occasion. You need the speech to say good things about your son or daughter. You need to be able to make a few jokes – that take into account the children that are present. You need to be able to speak up and sit down.

It is essential that you do not speak too long about any one topic. A long and involved story about a largely forgotten `funny’ incident involving your child may only make your audience crumple with embarrassment. You child too could be scarred for life by the unfunny revelations.

If you are going to make a very short joke take into account the range of people who will be listening. If you forget to mention the contribution of grand dad who actually paid the Eleven Plus fees you could offend him. You will need to mention your sister who once had to collect your child from an extra lesson because you were stuck in traffic. You will need to recall the moment when you realised that you could not do a question set in a mere Eleven Plus paper – and that you needed help.

And finally you need to pay tribute to the work that your child has put into the examination. After all if it wasn’t for him or her you would not be on your feet at all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eleven Plus English

In one sense the word `got’ is the past tense of the word get.

If we say that a child has got nice eyes we don’t really mean that the child has somehow acquired good looking eyes.

It is obviously school teachers who try to stop school children using the word `got’. Some parents also hate the idea of seeing the word `got’ on the page.

So if your child used `got’ in an Eleven Plus examination would he or she need to be penalised?

Edward Lear has entertained adults and children alike for many years. He introduced new words and some of these have become part of our daily life.

“On the Coast of Coromandel
Where the early pumpkins blow,
In the middle of the woods
Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

So if your child alluded to the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo in an Eleven Plus essay, your average English examiner would immediately recognise the source – and be able to identify the poet.

We may know a lot about words and how they are used but would find it very difficult to be able to write words that many people can identify with. Even worse for some children is that they could pass an English examination by mastering a set of skills yet fail the same examination because they have not absorbed and understood a body of information.

We tell children to read to extend their vocabulary and their ability to think and to reason. We hope that our children will become absorbed in the book and become involved in the characters and the plot. We hope that some stories will evoke an emotional response. Some child will argue that reading simply provokes boredom. So we need to encourage the Eleven Plus child to read as widely as possible – including magazines, newspapers, magazines, novels, reference books and poetry.

We hope that by wide reading our children will be stimulated to write a wide range of English. Some writing could be in the form of a story, while others may choose to write poetry.

But encourage your child to discuss the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo and explain that the word got can be used when nothing else is available or relevant.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eleven Plus Logic

We think that it was Napoleon who stated that: “An army marches on its stomach.” He was referring to the simply logistics of getting the supplies and the food to the right place at the right time.

Every single mother in the world does not need to be told that a family operates on its stomach. Every mother has to make a trip to the supermarket – or even the local grocer -on a regular basis. The staple items of a shop include food – bread (some) and all the dairy products like butter, milk and cheese.

The Nomads of yesteryear knew that if a food was dried it was easier to carry. Milk could be partially dried by being left in a shallow container to evaporate in the sun. Cheese was possibly made when milk was carried in the bags made out of the stomach of animals. The milk slowly turned into curds and then to what we call cheese today.

Back in Ancient Greece the wrestlers had to include cheese in their diet.

The Roman legions used to carry cheese when they went on their long marches.

Monks in the Middle Ages ate cheese – presumably to help to keep themselves healthy.

Most children will eat cheese at one time or another in their lives. Sometimes the cheese has to be disguised!

In Bluewater in Kent, last Christmas, there is an account of a conversation that went:

“One hamburger, with cheese please.”

“Do you mean a cheeseburger?”

“No, I want a hamburger with cheese.”

“That’s a cheeseburger.”

“No, I want a hamburger with cheese.”

This conversation was stencilled in letters a foot high on the boarding around an unoccupied shop.

So parents looking for a balanced diet for their children need look no further than cheese.

If your child eats cheese he or she will be able to wrestle with problems.

If your child eats cheese he or she will be able to demonstrate great endurance.

If your child eats cheese he or she will become pure in their intentions towards the examination.

Finally, if your child eats cheese you may be less prone to some of the silly conversations that some Eleven Plus children are want to engross themselves in.

“I will start on my Eleven Plus paper as soon as I have finished this.”

“No you agreed that you would start as soon as you arrived home from school.”

“Yes I know, but, I will start on my Eleven Plus paper as soon as I have finished this.”

“That is not fair. You can wipe that cheesy grin off your face. You said that you would start as soon you got home from school.”

What ever valid reasons you can offer to your child for eating the right food and working on time the logic of a bright ten year old is sometimes baffling.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Inspiring the Eleven Plus Child

The great writer Jack Kerouac helped to inspire the beat generation over fifty years ago. He wrote a book called `On The Road’ about a trip across America. I must confess this book inspired me to hitch hike from London to my home back in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

There is a passage in `On The Road’ that covers what every parent must wish for their child – the ability to get focused, excited and stimulated about the approaching Eleven Plus examinations.

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn.”

If only you could find some way of helping your child adopt a burning passion to concentrate while he or she is working through an Eleven Plus paper with you at home.

You must dream of a child who never feels tired or yawns while he or she is working on a paper.

You must pray for a child who desires the pass the examination with the same fervor that consumes you.

You must want a child who will give evidence of passion when the topic of the Eleven Plus and grammar schools comes up.

But if your child is laid back and relaxed about the whole experience then you too can try not to be too obsessed. After all if you let the Eleven Plus wind you up too much you will simply become rather mad, mad mad! (To paraphrase Jack Kerouac.)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Eleven Plus Levels

From the 18th century up to the 1920s privately owned British provincial banks circulated their own notes. This meant that if you owned a bank you could design and print your own bank notes. In today’s world many of us would like to own a bank. The only problem is that Britain is subject to periodic financial crises.

The ability to print your own money must, however, still be very appealing. You simply need a good design package, a computer and a versatile printer. You could have your own likeness on one side, your own numbering system and your own batch of security measures. If you ran short of money all you would have to do is print a few more notes.

I don’t think that it would take very long for some enterprising parents to start designing their own Eleven Plus papers. If your child was very good at mathematics you could weight papers to work on the type of examples your child was good at. Suppose that he or she was good at Shape and Space – then you could add rotations and tessellations to your heart’s content.

Just think of the different non verbal reasoning papers you could build with all sorts of bendy lines and challenging examples.

It would be even easier to develop a range of verbal reasoning questions that suited you and your child. Easy money!

There could be a slight problem in having your papers ratified by the authorities. The pass mark you chose for your child may not be the same pass mark required by the authorities. Nothing much has changed has it?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Eleven Plus English

We have a boy who is working with us at the moment.

He did remarkably well on the initial non verbal reasoning test. (We test all children before starting any lessons.) His reading and spelling are well below his actual (chronological) age. He has difficulty in interpreting what he has to when he is reading questions. He becomes confused when he is trying to read some verbal reasoning questions. If the question is read to him he is usually able to give the answer without pausing.

As part of the Kent Eleven Plus tests children are asked to write a story. This is not marked but is kept in reserve just in case evidence of the ability to communicate in writing is needed.

His written plan for the story covers key points – but he does not follow the plan when he comes to do the writing. It is painfully obvious that he is altering the structure of his sentences to accommodate his spelling. He works on the principle of not wanting to use a hard word he can’t spell if he could use an easier word.

We seem to have fallen in the routine of him writing a planned story in one lesson – while he dictates the plan and the story in the next lesson. When he enjoys a scribe writing down his thoughts we can see his obvious grasp of the English language as well as the richness of his ideas and words.

Buried deep in his mind there seems to be a fear of communicating in writing. When he is writing he often leaves out basic punctuation – but he knows all the terms around punctuation. In his written work he will make mistakes on a wide range of words – even some rather simple words.

He loves the idea of multiple choice tests because he does not have to do so much working out. The Kent tests are multiple choice.

There is a good chance that he will pass the Eleven Plus tests – especially if all concerned can help him to understand the different types of questions that could be asked. He may not need the written part of his work to gain a coveted place in a grammar school.

At school he is the middle mathematics group. With us he is stimulated by the challenge of Level 5 mathematics. He is on the bottom table at school for English. We expect him to obtain full marks on the Kent non verbal reasoning test. He is working through non verbal reasoning papers at the rate of around 14 seconds a question.

If he reaches grammar school he will love the sciences. He will certainly struggle with any of the romance languages. He won’t enjoy doing the reading for the literature GCSE.

Wherever he lands up at senior school we hope that he is happy.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wearing Special Eleven Plus Gloves

There may be a slim chance that a development by an American called Craig Heller can be of use to children writing Eleven Plus examinations.

He invented `the glove’. The glove is a vacuum cooling device used to cool body temperature.

Parents of children writing their Eleven Plus examinations fifty years ago would have made little sense of telling their overheated child to `cool it’.

We also know that muscles get hot when they are used and need to cool down. (In the same way you need to warm the brain up before an examination.) All top athletes need to warm up and then cool down.

So as the Eleven Plus brain is a muscle it also needs to worm up and then cool down – hence Mr Heller.

He worked on the blood cells in the palm of the hand. Heating or cooling the palm of the hand is much faster method of controlling heat in the body. (Some people put on gloves to drive their cars – possibly to warn up very quickly!) Craig Heller developed a glove to enable the body to shed lots of heat very quickly.

People who wore the glove, when the glove was cooling them down, were able to endure between fifty and a hundred per cent longer. Imagine your child being able to concentrate for 50 to 100% longer.

A child wearing the glove would be able to get into grammar school where other children would be penalised.

Think of your appeal letter.

Dear Sirs

My child did not get into your school.

The vacuum pump in his special “Eleven Plus Glove” (EPG) broke down and I could not get a spare to him in time for the examination.

I let him use mine in the examination but my monitor is set to raise my endurance on the treadmill.

I know I should have ordered another `EPG’ from the manufacturers but they are very expensive. My one cost just over £20 000.

Please help him to write the examination again when he is wearing his glove.

Thank You.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Eleven Plus Interviews

I wonder why admission to grammar school is based so heavily on scores on tests. Why can’t children who on the waiting list or the border line be offered an interview.

After all an interview is one of the most popular methods of obtaining information. Surely a mature and thoughtful ten year old child will be able to demonstrate those virtues in an interview situation?

Naturally the school will argue that Eleven Plus interviews are very time consuming – then so too is the whole process of appeals. In an appeal situation parents have the opportunity of being able to put a case. In an interview the child would be able to make a case.

Of course the schools would need to prepare carefully for the interview. It would be little use asking a ten year old to argue why botox should be banned. A bright ten year old should be able to discuss the merits of the social networking site `bebo’.

You would not ask a ten year: “How often do you get into trouble for using your mobile phone?”

A more likely question would be: “How do you think we should cope with problems associated to mobile phones?”

Am interviewer would need to be very flexible when dealing with children. The interviewer would actually have to listen to the child’s answers. Work through a preset list of questions would probably be really unfruitful in a large number of cases.

One more thing that interviewers would need to remember is that some children will hate for notes to be taken. It is likely that the child will stop talking while the interviewer is writing.

It may not be too good an idea to ask too many patronising questions. A question like: “Why do you think this school should accept you?” may not be received as favourably as one phrased: “If you were to be offered a place – what would you bring to the school?”

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bullying and the Eleven Plus

Parents worry about their child being bullied.

Before you do anything about it you must make a written record of what you know are the facts. Leave the interpretations until you have heard the other side.

“He started it,” are going to be the most likely words of explanation that you will receive from your child.

You would obviously expect the other child, or children, to use exactly the same words. “It wasn’t me. He started it!”

Try to explain to your child that it not usually a good idea to fight back. Urge him or her to try to escape from the circumstances surrounding the bullying and report what is happening to an older child or the nearest adult.

I remember when I was bullied at school by Tys Grevenstein and Ignatius Ferreira that I was told not to be silly and say: “Sticks and stone may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me.” I remember the names of these two boys because they never let up on their verbal bullying. They went on and on about my name and the nicknames they chose for me. I was in a hostel at the time and my parents were thousands of miles away.

While you are making your record of the events try to include as many of the actual words your child has said. This will add weight to your record. If your child is being picked on for name calling – it is obvious that he or she may also have used unpopular words.

Take the written record to the head teacher. Often a few chosen words in assembly can bring the name calling to an end.

Often a head teacher will encourage an older pupil to monitor what is happening in the playground. After all the children chosen to be school prefects and monitors are very likely to be responsible and upright members of the school community.

There will always be a member of staff on duty in the play ground. It will be their job while they are on play ground duty to distinguish between a playground argument, a fight and sheer bullying.

Finally hand your written account to the class room teacher. There will always be two sides to the argument. It may be that your child may have initiated the events leading up to the fight or sustained bullying. The classroom teacher is in the perfect position to watch out for signs of a problem in the classroom.

Children at the Eleven Plus stage sometimes feel very vulnerable. They are expected to do well academically. They are expected to develop, grow and work without answering back. If they feel that they are being bullied you must hope that they share all their worries and concerns with you,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Eleven Plus Congratulations

When we look at the question of a reward we need to make a distinction between a reward and a bribe.

If we promise a child a reward for doing something that he does not want to do then we are looking at a bribe.

If we give a `treat’ or a `gift’ after a really good piece of work, then we are offering a reward. It remains a reward as long as there are not too many repetitions and thus become habitual. If the child expects rewards after doing well then we are not really offering a reward.

I should imagine that the best form of reward must be praise. Very few of us can fail to remember heartfelt praise.

So very well done to all our children who have tried so hard in their Eleven Plus preparations. Congratulations to all who have passed. Commiserations to all who did not manage to achieve a grammar school place. We hope that the lottery for places works out.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Eleven Plus Decisions

To be a good teacher you have to be good at making decisions. Teachers make decisions within and outside of the classroom.

Some decisions are made on the spur of the moment. "Should I separate the two fighting girls?"

Some of the decisions are a little more subtle. "I've never really taken to J.... so I think I will let it continue a little longer as K.... is really in command."

So some teachers will just go on and on about the pet topic and not simply allow the child to set his or her own pace. (At bit like some parents?)

There are sometimes strong feelings on both sides about a premise that can not be changed. (Should the extra work be done at all!)

A child will very often feel that he or she is right - no matter what. An Eleven Plus child may be able to ague without whine. When you as parent hear the discussion and there is remarkably little emotion, it may be time to make a decision.

Withdrawing from a a position where there are no winners and losers is a hard task for many parents. Teacher have to face the consequences of decisions day after day, lesson after lesson.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Eleven Plus Engineering

We were talking today about how parents could attempt to `engineer’ their children towards academic success.

There does not seem to be any particular order – but possibly first in line is inherited ability. The brighter the child the more likely will do well in academic situations.

Then I suppose the amount of input the parents can put in their children. This is where first born children seem to have an advantage.

Pretty high in the list must be the type of school. It must be very hard for a child from the third or fourth worst school in England to reach university. Children do get there – but the journey must be tortuous and long.

The child must want to do well. Drive and determination must be strong elements.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

11+ Mistakes

We all hear stories every now and then.

“Oh mum. I was doing really well and then the boy next to me began to feel sick. I could not concentrate so I ran out of time. I did not manage to finish the last two pages of the test.”

Adults make mistakes too. We know the story of man who was saving for a new car. He hid his money in a safe place – where no one would find the money. He did not tell his wife because he wanted the car to be a surprise.

He gathered together £500 and hid the money among his old clothes. One day his wife threw the old clothes out and they landed in the local dustcart.

When he arrived home he discovered the mistake and hired a mechanical digger to try to find the old clothes on the dump or recycling site. He looked for two days, then gave up and went home. He started saving again and this time he put his money in the bank.

I was not privy to the conversation between husband and wife – but I am sure the words must have come up: “Well, why didn’t you tell me?”

Of course everyone remembers the story about the advertising team at General Motors when they introduced their new Chevrolet Nova to Mexico. Sales were slow – and so was the name of the car. In Mexico No-va means `won’t go’.

When this was pointed out to the Head of Advertising I wonder if he, or she, said: “Well, why didn’t you tell me?”

So in the conversation between the child and his mother alluded to earlier I wonder if the words came up: “Well, why didn’t you tell me?”